Collective Smarts

Collective Smarts

Published on Monday, March 17, 2014. This article appears in the April/May 2014 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
Craftivism - 4

From mosaics in London – inspired by a death-row inmate in Texas – to yarn-bombed planes in Canada and experiments in machine-knit, digital fabrication in Europe, craftivism knows neither geographical nor creative limits. Photo: Courtesy Arsenal Pulp Press

Craftivism: The Art and Craft of Activism, edited by Betsy Greer; Arsenal Pulp Press, $25

In 2003, Betsy Greer launched craftivism.com. For the writer, researcher, and maker, it was the outcome of several years spent percolating on politically and socially motivated making. Years, it turned out, that would be the first of many: “People I didn’t know started to write to me about how craft and activism were related in their own lives,” she recalls in the introduction to this pleasing anthology.

Craftivism, at its best, reflects the broad field that materials-based activism has become more than a decade since the word was coined, with sections organized around personal narratives, fashion and self-expression, “craft as political mouthpiece,” and community-based activism. There are essays (which vary in length and style),  Q&As, and plenty of visuals; contributors include fresh faces and well-known names (Faythe Levine, Otto von Busch, and Gabriel Craig, among others).

Proceeding through this panoply, one gets the sense that craftivism is a big tent, where all are welcome – and that may be precisely the point. ~Julie K. Hanus


Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft, edited by Peter Held and Heather Sealy Lineberry; University of North Carolina Press, $45

Accompanying the touring exhibition of the same name, Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft is filled with spectacular examples of work from the Arizona State University Art Museum collection. Essays by curators Peter Held and Heather Sealy Lineberry address the collection’s strengths in ceramics, wood, and fiber, while scholars Jenni Sorkin and Synnøve Vik respectively examine the legacy of the residency educational model and the global reemergence of the object as central to current art discourse. The essays, along with the not-to-be-missed viewpoints on the state of the field by a dozen influential figures at the conclusion, connect the exhibition to the much larger dialogue on contemporary craft practices.  ~Perry A. Price


Chihuly on Paper, edited by Barry Rosen; Abrams, $125

How does a master of glass imagine his work? This stunning three-volume set, packaged in a handsome slipcase, answers the question. The master is Dale Chihuly, 2006 American Craft Council Gold Medalist, and Chihuly on Paper vividly documents his thought process. Drawings in graphite, charcoal, and acrylic cover almost 500 pages, with an essay by Nathan Kernan, illustrated chronology, and list of collections rounding out the content.

Drawing has been integral to Chihuly’s sculpture from the beginning. After the 1976 car accident that cost him sight in one eye, it became a critical tool for communicating when he decided to delegate glassblowing tasks. The drawings – gestural, organic, and energetic – are another way to understand Chihuly the sculptor. The volume of works in acrylic is particularly sumptuous. ~Monica Moses