Happening 1 Introduction: 

Why are we here tonight? Essentially, it is because I am very interested in organizing a community of craftspeople with a set of shared values. 

We are in this very old once abandoned brick building because I have not been able to find an existing place in either my professional or academic worlds which encourages both an experimental interdisciplinary workflow and deep intellectual conversation about the meaning of our work.

Throughout society we can see that the craftsperson has been compartmentalized into specific professions such as artist, designer, or tradesperson. Many artists are restricted to the galleries. Many designers are restricted to their offices. Many tradespeople are restricted from creative thought. I see these restrictions that our society places on the different “disciplines” of craftspeople as a very serious issue. On top of the class issues which are imposed onto craftspeople by the professionalization of their passions, we can see clearly that their work has been devalued by mainstream ideologies of our society. The value in our work has been lost in value of the dollar. Money is the one shared value that our society has across the board, but I think we all can agree that it might not be the most important value which we hold most dear. We are here to try and understand what are our individual values, and what values do we share as a collective group of craftspeople?

I am using the structure of my Master’s Thesis to interrogate questions that I have had throughout my life about the issues I see in the world of the contemporary craftsperson. This research is driven by my desire to find a way of working in the world which represents my beliefs and fulfills my desires. Through these bi weekly happenings, and various weekly discussions, I will attempt to identify individual and collective values in order to confront the issues in the world of the craftsperson. I will then use the information gained here to write a manifesto which states this particular group of craftspeople’s views on the world and our decided way of working within it. 

This is the first step towards the very serious consideration of organizing a group of craftspeople that are in search for something more than the status quo

The deconstructive-sculptor/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter
The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter
The DIY-theorist/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter
The people-painter/art-teacher/visual-communicator
The multimedia-artist/social-interpreter/writer
The project-manager/electrical-engineer/systems-manager
The graphic-designer/music-producer
The architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter
Happening 2 Summary: 

On the evening of October 3, 2020 seven of us craftspeople met at 136 Seneca St for Happening 1. The night began with some drinks, discussion, and introductions while we waited for everyone to arrive. While everyone socialized, I began to introduce the topic of my research to some of the craftspeople who were not yet familiar with it. 

I began the structured conversation by once again reading and explaining my directed research abstract. This time putting emphasis on the ideas of diversity and value. Then I repeated the invitation question: “How can contemporary craftspeople organize their way of life to promote value in their work?”. I then defined the word craft, for the discussion, to be “skill and knowledge in technique and material”. 

I explained the reason why we were at 136 Seneca St and not the academic studio or a pre-existing professional workspace. The reason being that I had not found a place in either the professional or academic worlds which permits an interdisciplinary workflow while allowing for deep intellectual conversation about the work.

I then explained the schedule of the weekly meetings and bi weekly happenings and reiterated the goal of both of these events. Weekly meetings being to continue conversation among more dedicated members of the group, and biweekly happenings to talk about our work and introduce new craftspeople into the conversation.

Open discussion was then initiated with the —”how does the general public value craftspeople and their work?” The teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer began with an idea about how the designer will often not view themself as a craftsperson. He spoke about the divide between designers and business administrators in the office environment, the divide being one of intellect and labor. Also adding that designers do not view their digital skills as tools, which limits the idea of their own abilities and devalues their work. 

I then related the idea to the fact that often times tradespeople are seen as lower class and uneducated. The eco-builder/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter then made a point with the example of house painters, stating most people believe they themselves can paint. This “do-it-yourself” ideology which has developed in the world of trades has devalued the work of craftspeople with real skill and knowledge. The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter then related this issue to his experience in high school, stating that vocational schools like BOCES were viewed as a waste of time and not the right path to success in life. I then contributed with a statistic, that in five years 50% of the tradespeople workforce will be retired. The teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer then pointed out that often times the work of tradespeople can be considered “unskilled labor”. The DIY-theorist/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter added that tradespeople are typically the only workers in society whose work is described as “labor”. 

The eco-builder/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter then related the issues to an idea about the individual process, he explained how there are many different ways to achieve the same product in the world of craft and that the significance was in the process not in the product. The DIY-theorist/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter then reinforced the eco-builder/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter’s statement with an idea about craft being one of the only societal careers which cannot be explained with words.  The people-painter/art-teacher/visual-communicator then related this idea of intuitive knowledge to her training in art school, she spoke of how one can learn to use tools and materials but one cannot learn composition. It is an intuitive knowledge that can only be understood on an apriori level which is very difficult to describe with words. 

 The teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer then made a point about the Shakers, he explained how their work was for god and not for a living wage, relating this core value to the seriousness of their work and their economic success. The DIY-theorist/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter expressed wonders about other communities. Were these community members working for something other than themselves, and what level of value does that add to the work? The eco-builder/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter added to the question an expression of the complexities of self, society, and economic competition. He told a story about a man he met in Hawaii, this man was a poor farmer who was trying to acquire more land. Through this story he proved a point about making one’s values a priority over economic success, through this method the farmer achieved economic success without suffering its trials. They finished with saying if we instill our value into the products of our work, people will see the beauty.

I then asked “how do we balance work and life?” One extreme being to allow your core values to drive the work of your passion, and though that economic success will come. The other being working through the current economic driven system to achieve economic stability and then fund your passion though your labor. The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter then spoke about the anxiety which is induced by the economic demands of our society, he cannot focus on his passion while knowing that he needs to make money to survive. The people-painter/art-teacher/visual-communicator then again reinforced the idea of allowing our core values to drive the work, and not allowing society’s economic demands to distract one from their work. 

I then asked “what are the factors that affect each of our work individually, and how much do they affect each of us?” It was then that we moved the discussion to the table which I had been planning to present at this Happening. I began to tell the story of the table, using it as an example of how one can show others value in their work. This led to a discussion about the aesthetic of our time being one of reclaiming materials in this post-consumer world. Our declining access to natural resources is driving current trends toward using reclaimed materials, but this aesthetic is about much more than the current visual trend of rustic chic.

The teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer then redirected the conversation back to an idea imbued by the table. He stated that we are disconnected from the story of the creation of the objects in our daily life, then linking this fact to problems of consumerism. He explained that our society’s disconnect with the creation of objects devalues the work of the craftsperson and fuels the issues which result from consumerism. 

Does the continuation of the development of the space grow from the table? What do we want to do next? We all agreed that next time we would bring in a product of our own work, and agreed that collective making will expand the limits of our individual creative ability, and enable us to more deeply understand each other and their work. 

Excitement began to develop around the numerous possibilities of what we could do in the space together. People began talking about the tools they could share and what would we could do with them. We then began to talk about materials with meaning, reaction to materials, and the relationship of material informing idea and vice versa. The multimedia-artist/social-interpreter/writer, again, brought up the idea of a chair set to match the table. They said maybe everyone can help me make chairs for ourselves.  Another idea was we could all start switching tools and materials, to become experienced in each other’s trades. 

After all the storm of ideas settled we agreed that soon we would bring in tools and materials to have a collaborative making session where we could study each other’s individual making processes to learn about each other and ourselves. Through the process of making and communicating in a collective space continuity will begin to develop among our work.
These group meetings are becoming more about the understanding of ourselves and each other.
A true integration of labor and work, where one’s passion sustains them economically, is the most desirable way of life.
Economic pressures of society impede the craftsperson’s work, and dements their idea of work via the economic necessity of labor. 
The largest shared cultural value, or mainstream value, in our society is money.
Objects are artifacts of value. The maker creates value in the object, and the story of its creation is often not told and as a result the work becomes devalued.
Repurposing existing objects as new materials is a response to our society’s declining access to natural resources. This process is a response to our mass-produced consumer-based society, and it is creating a new aesthetic for our time. 
Are we anti-standardization? Or are we anti-gentrification? 
How does working for someone else (god, children, community, etc.) add value to the craftsperson’s work?
General Questions:

How can contemporary craftspeople achieve a balance of work and life?
What factors effect, and how much do they effect, our individual making processes?
How does the general public value craftspeople? 
How do we create value in our work?
What creates shared values?
What did the academic institution teach us?
What is the best path towards achieving a unification of work and life?
On what scale are we revolutionary? Local or Global?
How does a social space improve our work?
What does society need?
Back to Top