‘the world of small things’ @ Craft Vic

24 06 2009

Kevin Murray has curated the current exhibition ‘The World of Small Things: An Exhibition of Craft Diplomacy‘ at Craft Victoria. Pieces being exhibited have been made in a collaboration between artists/designers from predominantly ‘western’ economies, and artisans from ‘developing/industrializing’ economies.

Exhibition media states: “The world is turning inside out. The global financial crisis has set the world in flux, enabling new relations between rich and poor countries. The collapse of an over-leveraged financial market helps us appreciate the immediacy of hand-crafted objects. These ‘small things’ bypass the rarefied world of brands and the politics of trade restrictions. New craft-design collaborations herald an era of partnership between rich and poor countries…

I have been following some of the stories on Craft Unbound, so it was interesting to see them in person. I am sometimes truly taken by surprise by the scale of pieces, for I unconsciously create my own expectation of their size from photographs or images I see, and there are times the idea is not right. An example is the pendant in the below image, which I expected (for no good reason) to be much smaller. This jewellery is from a collaboration between Martina Dempf (Germany) and grass weavers in Rwanda. More of their story here.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

The below teapot is absolutely beautiful – I’ve mentioned a few times previously how much respect I have for artists succeeding with the teapot! This piece was designed by Karl Millard (Australia) and made by an Indian silverware company – the black insert is ebony, and the handle is layered metals. More of their story here. (Below photographs were taken with gallery permission.)

smallthings_3 smallthings_4

All of the works together creates an interesting multi-way dialogue, and the colours are beautiful. A particular highlight colourwise for me is the purple glass vessel below. These works are a collaboration between Jonathon Baskett (Australia) and Nouvel glass Studio in Mexico. More of there story here.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

More information and images can also be seen on the Craft Vic blog; and there are many other items available for purchase in enCounter (the retail section of Craft Victoria).

In all cases here the designer has engaged a maker in an ’emerging’ economy … what about the possibility of the flow in the opposite direction? While I do recognise that it is currently less likely, given ‘western’ designers have advantages not yet available to people in their collaborator communities, such as being able to research and locate such artisans via relatively simple access to the internet and being more open to international travel … but I do wonder what beautiful art would be created if an artist/designer in say Siberia designed a piece for a knitter or embroiderer in Fitzroy to make!

While I play with that idea, a question is raised for me: perhaps the flow of the idea-to-making is more viable in the exhibited direction because many of these special craft cultures have been continuously ‘alive’ in these ‘unindustrialised’ economies, whereas in our ‘industrialised’ economies craft has become fragmented (though passionately loved and defended in the pockets it is practiced) … I’m not sure I’ve expressed that well, it may need more time to think through …

In a search for other references, I came across The CraftsMatch Project website, and I like how they connect this movement with previous art movements:
In the nineteenth century, the Arts and Crafts Movement turned to traditional cultures in response to the perceived sterility of modern life. When this moved to studio practice in the twentieth century, a number of individual craft artists were inspired by non-Western craft traditions, such as the East Asian influence on ceramics. In the later twentieth-century, a number of craftspersons made individual pilgrimages to a wide range of traditional craft communities in order to absorb the more embedded lifestyle of making. For many, this entailed long-term commitment by craftspersons in assisting their host communities to sustain their craft practice in a globalising market.”

The World of Small Things‘ is at Craft Victoria until 25th July 2009.

Update (25th June): the Craft Vic blog (clog) has uploaded some photographs of the opening night

Update (6th July): the Craft Vic blog (clog) has a new story and images

Update (14th July): Kevin has written for Clog



2 responses

26 06 2009

Saw your reflection in the teapot. You have been busy.

28 06 2009
Kevin Murray

What a great response to the exhibition Karen. The exhibition was designed to raise the kind of questions that you are asking. There is definitely something in motion now to expect that collaborations should be reciprocal. Perhaps we do indeed have particular craft skills in Australia that could work with overseas designers. At the least, Australians seem good at working at the meeting point of craft and design (see Jonathan Baskett, Karl Millard, Sara Thorn and Janet deBoos).

A discussion is starting up on this subject here: http://crafttalk.ning.com/group/craftwithoutborders

Your blog is a great contribution to the Melbourne jewellery scene. Long may it continue.


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