In the Stacks with Sarah Fox: Etymologies and Source Materials

In the Stacks with Sarah Fox: Etymologies and Source Materials

Published on Friday, August 16, 2013.
Books from the ACC Library

Books selected by Sarah Fox, writer-in-residence, at the ACC Library.

Ed. note: Minneapolis-based writer and poet Sarah Fox is the second resident in Coffee House Press' Writers and Readers Library Residency Program. For the next several weeks we'll post dispatches here as Sarah responds to working inside the American Craft Council's Library. In the following, Fox describes her experience trying to define craft through etymology, something that struck her while in residency at the ACC Library. Fox also provides a bibliography of materials she's purused during her visits.   

On the first day of my residency at the American Craft Council Library, I know nothing. I had never heard of the American Craft Council before, and had no idea their library and offices were located just blocks away from my house.

What is craft? Is this about knitting, quilts, arts and crafts? Is there a useful distinction between craft and art? Useful to whom? Am I going to learn how to build a boat? Am I going to make puppets? Browsing the stacks, I feel both urgently inspired and overwhelmed about all the beautiful objects I could, but likely never will, make…


Craft (n.)
Old English cræft, originally “power, physical strength, might,” from Proto-Germanic

*krab-/*kraf- (cf. Old Frisian kreft, Old High German chraft, German Kraft “strength, skill;” Old Norse kraptr “strength, virtue”). Sense expanded in Old English to include “skill, art, science, talent” (via a notion of “mental power”), which led to the meaning “trade, handicraft, calling.” The word still was used for “might, power” in Middle English.

Use for “small boat” is first recorded 1670s, probably from a phrase resembling vessels of small craft and referring either to the trade they did or the seamanship they required, or perhaps it preserves the word in its original sense of “power.”

Craft (v.)
Old English cræftan “to exercise a craft, build,” from the same source as craft (n.). Meaning “to make skillfully” is from early 15c., obsolete from 16c., but revived c.1950s, largely in U.S. advertising and commercial senses. Related: Crafted; crafting.

Craft – (synonyms)
art – skill – trade – artifice – handicraft – vessel
Swedish “Konsthantverk”= Artcraft

poet (n.)
early 14c., “a poet, a singer” (c.1200 as a surname), from Old French poete (12c., Modern French poète) and directly from Latin poeta “a poet,” from Greek poetes maker, author, poet,” variant of poietes, frompoein, poiein “to make, create, compose,” from PIE *kwoiwo- “making,” from root *kwei- “to pile up, build, make” (cf. Sanskrit cinoti “heaping up, piling up,” Old Church Slavonic inu “act, deed, order”).

Replaced Old English scop (which survives in scoff). Used in 14c., as in classical languages, for all sorts of writers or composers of works of literature. Poète maudit, “a poet insufficiently appreciated by his contemporaries,” literally “cursed poet,” attested by 1930, from French (1884, Verlaine).

Old English had metergeweorc “verse,” metercræft “art of versification.” (Wiktionary)

Source Materials

Books, journals, and exhibition archives intuitively gathered, as listed in my notebook (7/1/13) —

Feminism & Contemporary Art, Jo Anna Isaak
Primitive Art, Edwin Christenson
High & Low: American Art & Popular Culture, MoMA
Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern U.S., Henry Glassie
Women, Art, and Power & Other Essays, Linda Nochlin (look up her essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists”)
Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art & Politics (Winter 1978, “Women’s Traditional Arts / The Politics of Aesthetics”)
The Power of Feminist Art, Broudel/Garrand
Puppetry: A World History, Eileen Blumenthal
Marionettes: How to Make & Work Them, Helen Fling
Creating & Presenting Hand Puppets, John Bodor
American Fabrics (bound journal, for 1966-1967)
Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay, Chirstopher Benfey
The Book As Art, Krystyna Wasserman
A Primer of Perception, Jennifer Wyman
Magdalena Abakonowicz (exhibition catalog)
Artists’ Books in the Modern Era: 1870-2000
Innovators & Legends: Generations in Textiles & Fiber Muskogon Museum of Art
From the Hands of a Weaver: Olympic Peninsula Basketry Through Time, Jacilee Wray
Executive Order 9066 (exhibition catalog—in a wooden box), Wendy Maruyama
Suzanna Golden Presents: Interviews with 36 Artists Who Innovate with Beads, Lark Crafts: NY 2013
Craft Today: Poetry of the Physical (exhibition catalog, 1986, American Craft Museum)
Archive M-77 (3 boxes): “Ideas Wanted,” Museum of Contemporary Craft Exhibition 1/7-1/12/1972
Archive M-65 (2 boxes): “Mind Extenders,” MCC Exhibit 4/19 – 6/15/1969
Aileen Osborn Webb Archives (selections)

Sarah Fox co-imagines the Center for Visionary Poetics, serves as a doula, and is a teacher of poetry and creative writing. She contributes posts on feminism, mysticism, astrology, and poetics to the blog Montevidayo and has won grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bush Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board, among others. Sarah is the author of The First Flag (Coffee House Press, 2013) and Because Why (2006).

Stay tuned for more from writer-in-residence Sarah Fox, and save the date for Fox's Salon Series show-and-tell on August 22 at 7 p.m. in the ACC Library!  

Stay tuned for more from writer-in-residence Sarah Fox, and save the date for Fox's Salon Series show-and-tell on August 22 at 7 p.m. in the ACC Library!  - See more at: