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Figuring a Way
Judith Leemann

Two nodes: sustainability and craft. Let them organize a thinking space as two magnets organize a field of iron filings. Bring in all manner of material: arborist and anti-war potters, indigo farmers, anthropologists who insist that forests think, sculptors tracking the origins of their materials back into the mines, plastic rubber band looms in landfills, Kurt Vonnegut writing time backwards, a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the magnificent gesture of clay slip thrown against a museum wall, and the clean up of that magnificent gesture by a someone else, the fiction of away we indulge every time we toss a thing in the trash.

Play word games to open up some of the habits language has of stiffening around each of our poles, craft and sustainability. Read each of those poles through the lens of the other. What previously unseen dynamics become evident when we examine sustainability through the lens of craft – its traditions, its concerns, its practices and practitioners? Turn the tables. Look at craft practices through the frame of sustainability and its complex, urgent imperatives – what do we still allow ourselves to ignore about our ways of working, about our relations to both material and audience, about the horizons of our attention?  Use all that we stir up to uncover those questions of sustainability that might need to be re-crafted, and to re-invest ourselves as makers in building our capacity to counter habit with sustained and sustaining attention.

Judith Leemann


Judith Leemann is an artist, writer, and educator. She is Assistant Professor in Fine Arts 3D/Fibers at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She holds an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2004) and served as Assistant Editor of the anthology The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production (School of the Art Institute of Chicago and MIT Press 2007). Her work has been published in the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy; Frakcija performing art journal; Textile: A Journal of Cloth and Culture; and LTTR. With Shannon Stratton she co-curated Gestures of Resistance at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon (2010) and co-authored a chapter in the book Collaboration Through Craft (Bloomsbury Press, 2013). From 2009-2012 she served as Artist in Residence at the Design Studio for Social Intervention, a Boston-based creativity lab for the social justice sector. Leemann’s distributed audio project reading aloud is produced every spring at the intersection of her studio, teaching, and research practices. Recent exhibitions include Resonating Bodies (The Soap Factory, Minneapolis, 2013), Imperfect Symmetry: A Compendium (A+D Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago, 2013), and Virtually Physically Speaking (A+D Gallery, 2014).












Who We Are

Formerly the Ontario Crafts Council, Craft Ontario is a not-for-profit service organization that works to have craft recognized as a valuable part of life. We promote and celebrate professional craft through providing member opportunities, and advocate for craft practice by educating and empowering diverse audiences.