Living life as a craftivist isn’t about being crafty all the time. It’s about listening and being open to making work about the causes you want to amplify, better understand, or further talk about.
It’s about being a witness to what’s happening instead of turning away, something that we have to continually practice given that it doesn’t always come naturally. And sometimes I make work because I’m shut down about something, because I need to explore it and my feelings, and figure others do as well.
Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get to share the world of craftivism with other people, which I love to do. In my talks, I use what other people are doing with their craft as a way to help other people begin to think about how they can use their own (craft) skills as a conduit for change.
One recent weekend, I was lucky enough to speak to a group of people in Houston at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. And even luckier, I was there for the last day of the Crafting A Continuum show, which if you can’t go to see, has an amazing companion book about these pieces from the Arizona State University’s Art Museum and Ceramics Research Center’s collection.
Among the pieces in the show, I was happy to see Mark Newport’s W-Man and Two-Gun Kid (detail). All those French knots in the Two Gun Kid made me simultaneously giddy and amazed. And it was incredible to see Carol Eckert’s And A Wolf Shall Devour The Sun up close, only part of which I was able to fit in the photograph below.
I also had time to check out the fabulous Menil Collection and bookstore. I was particularly amazed by the Witnesses room, which featured pieces from around the world. The collection website explains it best, “ritual and everyday objects, primarily from the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands and the Americas—which the Surrealists believed to be “witnesses” to the universality of their own visual and literary artistic practices—are exhibited with 19th-century European astrolabes, anamorphoscopes, and other devices that offer alternative ways to perceive and understand reality. Initially working with museum founder Dominique de Menil, Carpenter conceived of the permanent installation as a way to illustrate a “common intelligence” connecting the Surrealist artists to the peoples of Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas.”
In short, it was amazing. And I can’t decide if I’m annoyed that no photographs were allowed or happy that that crowded room now exists as just a snapshot in my head. In case you want to learn more, someone wrote their entire thesis on it.
When I got to the bookshop I was a bit bummed to be on foot, as they had an incredible collection of books. I ended up taking photographs of the ones I wanted most. I was most enthralled with Art and Activism: Projects of John and Dominique de Menil. Also of interest were books from three shows: Crafted: Objects in Flux, The Drawing Center: Threadlines (which you can read online for free!), and Richard Prince: Protest Paintings. Have you read any of them?
When I got back, I was well chuffed to see that Virka Dygnet Runt @virkadygnetrunt posted the following photo on Instagram, because, OMG.
All in all, the trip gave me a chance to step further into craftivism for a few days, instead of just part of a few days a week. And yes, I do wish that could change to more full time, a girl can dream, can’t she? Given that I want to do more research (and would even be up for teaching) as opposed to workshops (although I love giving them, too!), it’s a bit harder to find funding opportunities.
It’s important for me to delve further into the craftivist activities of those around the world, both in the past and presently, because not everyone one has a Twitter or Facebook account. And I want to share those stories, those causes, those talents, and hope that one day an opportunity will present itself to do just that.
But for now, I relish my trips to places, the ones that let me explore, dig in, open up, and further learn about the great craftivist-related work that is being done.