Happening 2 Introduction:
On the evening of October 17, 2020 eight of us craftspeople met at 136 Seneca St for Happening 2: Show/Tell. Two of our past guests were unable to attend, but luckily, we had two last minute surprise guests join us and fill the vacant spots. The night began as always; with some drinks, discussion, and introductions while we waited for everyone to arrive. As everyone socialized, introduced the topic of research to our surprise guests who were not yet familiar with it. By the time the structured discussion began, everyone was somewhat familiar with the research topic.
The Show/Tell process took course over two or three hours. Each craftsperson presented their contribution through a description of their process and what ideas, thoughts, or memories were going through their mind while they were making them. After each presentation, questions would be asked about the process and ideas of inspiration would be proposed for debate. During this process some common themes among our work began to surface, and we began to question what defines a craftsperson. Is craftsperson even the best word to represent how we understand ourselves?
Happening 2 Summary:
The structured conversation began at the table. I lead with a very brief recap of Happening 1: Bringing Craftspeople to the Table. Some key ideas that arose from our previous discussion were presented; including value in the work of the craftsperson, the concept of intuitive skill and knowledge, guiding ideologies in the work of the craftsperson, the balance of work and life, and the consumer’s disconnect with the maker’s process.
The DIY-theorist/architectural-designer/woodworker-carpenter began by proposing an idea about a dichotomy of the craftsperson’s identity being either laborers and artisans. Then the textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter added the category of the at home hobbyist, and the conscious-nomad/architectural-designer defined the categories of craftsperson as a three-point spectrum moving between laborer, artisan, and hobbyist.
The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter read the invitation question aloud to the room and the presentations began.
I presented my contribution to the night’s show/tell format first:
The object stood slightly canted from vertical and was composed of two elongated pyramidal halves which were joined at their narrow ends to create an overall hourglass-like form. Each half was tapered from about six inches in diameter to about three inches in diameter. Both asymmetrically polygonal along the sections of their taper, but similar in their compositions. The bottom half was made from white oak, and the top from red oak. In order to call attention to their differences, in both species and form, the bottom half was cerused and the top was left natural. The cerusing process includes ebonizing and filling the open grain with a white liming wax, creating a contrast between black and white that is perceived as a deep blue. The wood grain reads as white vertical lines, and the spaces between as a deep black void. The top half was notched to accept its dark partner, both together created a contrast in color and a balance in form which allows them to stand upright without toppling over. Every edge was carefully chamfered to add to its faceted characteristics and every joint was chamfered to create additional lines of shadow. Directly relating the form to its finish through ideas of light and shadow.
As I questioned why I made it, I proposed possible ideas such as uniqueness (related to individual identity), naturalness (related to ecological sustainability), and repurpose (relating to our consumer centric society). The conscious-nomad/architectural-designer then expressed interest in the tapering techniques, he stated that because of a lack of resources I had to use a tool in way that it was normally not intended to be used. This use is only allowed by my own deep understanding of that tool and its required techniques. I then identified a juxtaposition; by presenting a sculpture piece instead of a functional object (such as furniture) I was calling attention to the form and function dichotomy which has plagued me throughout my academic and profession careers. The conscious-nomad/architectural-designer also added that what makes a craftsperson is their ingenuity and experimentation of techniques, tools, and materials. The people-painter/art-teacher/visual-communicator mentioned that less economic risk in material use allows for more freedom of experimentation. The metalworker/jewelry-maker added that found materials gives the work a parameter or restriction in the design/make process which allows decision making to be an easier task. The conscious-nomad/architectural-designer added that one mark of the craftsperson is the ability to use low quality material to produce high quality work.