Tag Archives: Art v craft

Is selling ‘selling-out’

Art versus craft versus product……Where are the lines? Are they (or can they) all be the same? What matters for what market?

In the turmolic washing machine that is now life at Canny Maker HQ this is the current question of the moment. I am standing still but beginning to look forward and wonder which way to turn next. This summer will mark 4 years since I left my office job to look towards a new pasture. The various life changing events in between have somewhat delayed arriving at the new pasture I had in mind, but we must still move on and persevere, There is now no way back. But what next? After finishing my MA I was set on working in the art world, making works which reflected an inner poetic expression, seeking to offer a personal experience shared with the external onlooker. I moved away from the making of map string, a natural shift but one originating in a creeping feeling of something being too contrived. The poetry of my work I shifted back to the writing and calligraphy – its natural home – and one where there are still so many worlds left unexplored.

But again, a pause.

As time passes, idealism fades into reality, and the reality of life with a family is one where the family must come first. Ideals are all very well when all I’m wasting is my own time. So I am back asking myself what I want to do – do I want to go back push my art, making work for exhibitions (of which I have not been in any) or do I want to make work which can actually sell. For money.

Someone once told me that they would be really sad if I ended up “just selling stuff on Etsy”. Lately I have been wondering why? Is there something so wrong with making handmade products and selling them online? Is it some elitist thing which means I need to only be making and selling in Liberty, not in some other small scale way? This is the question isn’t it – why do so many people see selling work as selling out. I could be just as much a designer maker as being an artist. Or both, at the same time. Its all just a matter of labelling isn’t it?



Real world talk – crafting practices

Late night talk at the Whitechapel Gallery yesterday, from our own Shane Waltener and maker Helen Carnac. It was badged as a discussion on the Art v Craft debate – with both of the speakers straddling / crossing whatever boundaries exisit between fine art and crafts.

Key thoughts and questions I noted:

  • What is the relationship between the viewer an the object?  Does this make an impact on whether it is art or craft object?
  • Shane proposed: a CRAFT object needs to refer to its own making or the process of making; an ART object doesn’t, it prompts you to forget the making or look at it differently.
  • When an object is very well made – high craftsmanship – you can almost forget about the making and understand it in a different way
  • Technique can be an inhibitor to learning
  • How does the object interact with space?
  • What matters more – the object or its making?  Should we dispose of the objects and just leave the instructions?
  • It is not about the looking – it is about experiencing.  Does the value of art get reduced by not being able to interact with it?

Some of Shane’s work that he showed which I really liked: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA image05 59 Over Here - Shane Waltener

Helen, a maker and curator, talked about her most recent residency with dancer Laila Diallo.  She talked about having a fascination for edges – which I really resonated with.  She said  “edges were fertile places” which I thought was such a great way of thinking about it. She also described how she and Laila had collected as shared words during their time together which acted as a soundboard for thoughts and ideas. I rather liked this, and this was my collection of words I wrote down during her talk.


MA Project proposal v1.3.1

Tweaked again (and hopefully improved) from the paper version I shared with Maiko at my tutorial last week – including a research question now, general tightening and the first steps in a plan.


MA Project Proposal draft v1.3: Seen / Unseen

Research question

What can the interplay of light, shadow and space represent about reality: our visual perception of what we believe reality to be filtered through the inner world within our own minds?

Light is the fundamental information carrier in the universe.  It has an infinite reach – no information can travel faster.  Light has an immense spectrum far beyond the minute fraction of wavelengths which the human eye can observe.  It pervades our entire universe – it is both the flicker of the flame and the warmth of the fire. Modern physics suggests that the universe has more dimensions than we can observe – the rest are hidden, compactified, mysterious. Light however can only travel within our known four dimensional universe – it is bound onto the plane our own existence.  What if the theory is true, and there is something beyond this plan which light cannot penetrate – out into the void and these hidden dimensions of space or time – other universes, other realities?


Philosophical debate: How can objects help provide a lever for us to contemplate meaning in our lives and existence, and encourage us to question the nature of reality. How can society reconcile mankind’s search for meaning in the modern age through a journey of reflection, contemplation and revelation.

  • What visual cues or impressions can we use to connect our ‘inner selves’ with the wider universe around us?
  • What mindset change can occur for the user of an object / viewer of an image – what emotions can be invoked – a sense of transcendence or meditation?  of curiosity?

The objective of my research study is therefore to ask:

  • Can an object represent something of the things we cannot see or which exist at the boundary of our perception? The hidden meaning / worlds / realities we search for?
  • Can I create works which describe the unseen depths: appealing to the edges of our senses? (Is this a question about the phenomenology of perception?).  Visually obscuring / only partially seeing something?
  • What hidden understanding can only be revealed in the shadows (hidden spaces, hidden messages)? Add what becomes clear in the light?

I would like to make a series of contemporary objects which explore these properties which combine my traditional craft skills with functional art and with modern design (using my inspiration from modern Scandinavian aesthetics).

Relevant artists and collections (extract – full table is on written document):

James Turrell
Frank Lloyd Wright
Anthony Gormley (Another Place, Blind Light, Event Horizon 2007)
Fred Eerdekens (Shadows)
Ekkehard Altenburger (Mirrorhouse, 1996)
Leonid Tishkov


I am interested in looking at semi-transparent materials, or changing the nature of a material to be able to reveal something (e.g. holes, carvings etc).  I also plan to make use of natural and LED lighting to experiment with light and shadow within an object (making an “object space”) and seeing what alteration or embellishment of the object space can say or change about the user’s mind (the “inner space”).

1. Main project thread, initially starting off with a mini project: “Ghost candles”

Ghost candles: aim to complete by end of term 1

Ghost candles (or will o’ the wisp) are a swamp phenomenon often associated with seeing fairies or spirits (perhaps of the dead); these are observed as diffuse misty lights which disappear as you get closer to them. A string of fairy lights will represent the range of spirits which people may see as they observe the lights – everyone sees something different based on their own mind and experiences – but be careful not to follow the lights, else you get lost and make little candles of your own.


  • Taking a string of simple white LED fairy lights and using them to create light covers for each one using different materials including fabrics, papers, glass, paper clay.
  • Will need to design a simple construction method and use the same form for each cover to be able to compare
  • Reflect and select ideas to take forward and asses which materials I enjoyed working with

Objectives to test properties of different materials in a quick and simple way and see what effects the materials have on the way the light is diffused and filtered through the covers. What effect on the mood of the space does the light intensity and the pattern (light / shadow) have?

2. Research and literature study on historical and contemporary context including the art v craft debate; how non-fashion based textiles (and stitched textiles in particular) are viewed by the community; and looking into other connected artists works.

3. Experiments – current plans:

  • Photographic narrative – what is revealed through darkness, shadow and partial light
  • How is an object seen through distortion (reflection, water, moonlight) and does this change how we perceive the object?



First Seminar – designing and making

First context seminar with our tutor Maiko this morning, with a very interesting introduction and an overview of our tutor’s works so we know her background and thought process in what she is trying to get us to achieve through the course.

We had an extract of ‘The Sense of Sight’ by John Berger to consider, which was a discussion piece around the handmade object of a white bird.  My observations from the piece brought up the following questions for me:

  • How much more impact does an object have when the material is sympathetic to the purpose of the object?  Particularly if this poses some symbolic purpose to the user?
  • Is beauty more poignant when it is found from within bleakness (the flower among the ruins) than beauty lost among many other lovely things?
  • How much of what a given community finds beautiful is dependent on our culture, or are there any universal aethetics?

Maiko is trying to get us to consider both our making and our context for making at the same time – hands and mind working together as one perhaps.  There are however a thousand different contexts we could be contributing to and I think it will be our first challenge to try to fit our random unshapen proposal ideas into a true contextual framework.  Some BIG QUESTIONS are on the table for us to consider…..

  1. What is your context?
  2. What debate can your work contribute to or be part of?
  3. Where do you ideas belong?
  4. What is your question???

Hmm!  Can I answer any of these yet?

I am hovering around the question of mind/body duality v universality (the “ghost in the machine”) question; am I touching also on the questions of what is art and what is craft (am I making something which is useful and functional or artistic and beautiful? or both?  Is there something about what is really the purpose of making – how much is catharsis for the maker and  how much is for the user?  How much of this purpose comes out with the experience of using the object at the end?  Can you get the user to experience something of what you imbibed into the object as part of the making?

This reminds me of something a chef said to me once that he never makes food when angry, as the anger will come across in the food and you will taste it.  Eat food made with love.  This is true of food – as a part-time chocolatier I can attest to this being true – so is it true of making more generally?

ANT xx

Week 1 at Camberwell College

When I resigned from my management job back in May, I had hoped I wouldn’t need to work my full three months notice.  Maybe just a week or two off for a recovering break or even a quick holiday, hmm? No such luck!  I just had two days, which I spent on paperwork, enrollment and getting our flat in order – and not relaxing my poor head, still stressed and wound-up from work.  So, this was how I started my first week at art school.

first day!

Bad first day selfie!

Looking back at the end of my first week, I am very pleased that the stress (and terror) have started to abate and I am now getting rather excited about the journey ahead. We started off with two very positive welcome briefings – one for the whole MA Visual Arts Programme and another, more detailed briefing, from our subject leader for the Designer Maker course. These are the main points I took away:

1. Mindfulness & reflection 

Thinking about what we are doing and why we are doing it, and seeking to put that thought into our art practice. I’m not sure if I can call what I currently do a practice yet, although I am finally happy to label myself an ‘art quilter’, although I wouldn’t call myself an artist. After an interesting intro from our tutor on the ethos of the course – I wonder whether this is in part due to the divide between what is called “art” and what “craft”.  After all, I’ve never had an issue calling myself a crafter/craftswoman??  Bringing my thinking skills into making will be fascinating; adding layers of depth, considered thought and development to a work instead of just making something because I liked the colour of the fabric…

2. Collaboration and sharing knowledge 

One of my key reasons for signing up at Camberwell is so I can meet and collaborate with a wide range of exciting people across the University and make contacts across the industry. If I am going to professionalise my creativity in some way (as of yet unknown), then integrating into the community will be invaluable.

3. Get stuck in!

Experiment!  Innovate!  We were encouraged to be ‘hungry’ about learning and there is no issue with that from me. I have found that after only three days, I have already refound a passion for research and investigating new issues which I have not felt since I finished my PhD back in 2005. We are signed up to a vast array of material and tool inductions this month, that will be very exciting!  I can’t wait to learn ceramics – after playing with Polymer Clay over the summer, I think clay is such an expressive medium. Can you transfer any quilting skills into ceramics?  I’ll find out soon!

We finished the week with a visit to the Private Viewing of the Chelsea College of Arts MA show on Friday evening.  This covered their 2014 MA Fine Art, MA Interior & Spacial Design and MA Textile Design graduates among others.

I was amazed (and slightly scared) by the quality of much of the work. There is some considerable talent on display.  The spacial design and the textiles – as you might expect – caught my attention most of all.  I’m not sure I really understand Fine Art.  There are some pieces I can connect with instantly, and others (particularly some of the installations) which I just don’t get.

One particularly good piece which fascinated was this from Fine Art graduate Donghwa Lee:

DonghwaLeeThe other stand out displays of the night for me were textile artist Archana Pathak, who had some amazing pieces based on memories and weaver Kirsty Jean Brabin with beautiful delicate weaves, using Shetland Island wool.


Picture 4


Altogether quite a good week, here’s to week 2!