A Symposium on Modern Making
Venue: Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT
Date: 24 September 2016
Click or tap on the poster below for the Symposium booklet (pdf).
Troubled by the sense of an economy running ‘on thin air’, and by a trade system that routinely divides the design of a product from its production, a new generation of thinkers and makers are turning their attention to the human and material value of craftsmanship. Recent books on this subject include Paul Greenhalgh’s The Persistence of Craft (2002), Glenn Adamson’s Thinking Through Craft (2007), Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman (2009), Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working With Your Hands, and Tanya Harrod’s The Real Thing: Essays on Making in the Modern World (2015). This symposium was designed to explore and extend such debates.
We discussed the big questions (What is ‘craftsmanship’, and what do craftspeople stand for? Is craftsmanship a matter of the hand and the eye, or can it work in partnership with machines and computers? Is craftsmanship a matter of nostalgia, or can it survive in the modern world?). But we reflected on these matters also in their practical dimension, as we heard modern craftspeople discuss the opportunities and challenges posed by different materials, and by different qualities of finish. In this way, the event combined the insights of theorists and thinkers with reports on the continuing experience of making.
The event was inspired by the ideas and ideals of John Ruskin, the Victorian art critic and social prophet, whose views on the ethical and human value of craftsmanship inspired William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Ruskin was interested not only in the past of the crafts, but in their present practice: his stirring personal motto, ‘To-Day’, was echoed in the title of this event.
Programme Organiser: Dr Marcus Waithe, Magdalene College, Cambridge