The Queue: Glenn Adamson

The Queue: Glenn Adamson

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, August 8, 2022.
blog post cover graphic for the queue featuring glenn adamson
cover of the fall 2022 issue of American Craft magazine

Welcome to the Gather series of The Queue.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in American Craft. Our Fall 2022 issue (cover pictured right) is centered on the theme "Gather" and will be hitting mailboxes later this month! Join now to reserve your copy. In The Queue, we invite the inspiring individuals featured in this issue to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

Glenn Adamson sees craft in the big picture.
Adamson’s interest in craft began while watching his grandfather carve wood. “But my real ‘lights on’ moment was as a student in museum storage, handling a Tang dynasty pot,” he says. “So old. So beautiful. You can spend your life living up to an object like that.” Now a prominent critic, historian, and curator of craft, he edits the new online publication Material Intelligence, featured in the New Releases section of the Fall 2022 issue of American Craft.

portrait of glenn adamson

Glenn Adamson. Portrait courtesy of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

The author of Craft: An American History and Fewer Better Things, Adamson is now at work on a new book about the history of the future. “It’s like writing about the opposite of craft. Instead of something solid and traditional, the art of prediction is elusive, speculative, fundamentally unreliable—but nonetheless extremely influential on human affairs.” | @glenn_adamson

How do you describe your work in 50 words or less?
I define craft as “skilled making at human scale” (which is only five words!) and I’m a historian, critic, and curator of that. Often I place craft in relation to other ideas, like art and design. In thinking about even a single object, it helps to see the big picture.

We briefly highlighted Material Intelligence, the online publication you’re editing, in the Fall 2022 issue of American Craft. Could you describe what is most compelling to you about this project?
Each issue of Material Intelligence takes a deep dive into one material (oak, linen, rubber, etc.). What I love about it is the many voices you can include with that simple focus, from all disciplines and walks of life. Materials are truly the great connectors of our world.

material intelligence oak graphic
material intelligence linen graphic
material intelligence rubber graphic

If today you could have any craft artists’ work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
I’m not an acquisitive type but ceramics were my first love. There is an amazing Momoyama-era Japanese tea ceremony vessel called the yabure-bukuro (“burst pouch”), a name that captures its explosive roughness. It’s held safely in the Gotoh Museum in Tokyo, but I’d love to look at it every day.

What are your go-to sources of information about craft?
American Craft, obviously—and as I’m a historian, especially its online archive, going back to the Craft Horizons days. Particularly during Rose Slivka’s editorship, which coincided with the studio craft movement’s glory days, it was an unsurpassed magazine of ideas.

What’s your favorite TV or movie depiction of craft?
Buster Keaton’s 1920 film One Week. He builds a prefabricated house from boxes of parts, which the bad guy maliciously relabels. Proto-Cubist hilarity ensues. Keaton’s The Blacksmith, from 1922, is also fascinating. It captures the transition from a traditional craft to the modern garage.

Which artists, craft exhibitions, or projects do you think the world should know about, and why?
Recently I’ve been writing for Art in America about artists of color who employ craft materials and techniques, including Diedrick Brackens, Hugh Hayden, Kapwani Kiwanga, and Woody De Othello. The biggest failing of the postwar craft movement was its lack of inclusivity—fortunately, we live in different times.

stack of four issues of american craft with the summer 2022 issue on top

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