Canadian Craft Biennial
August 19, 2017 to October 29, 2017

The Art Gallery of Burlington, in collaboration with Craft Ontario, is proud to present the first Canadian Craft Biennial from August 19, 2017 – October 29, 2017. The launch of this inaugural event during Canada’s 150th anniversary will serve as a spotlight to celebrate and educate on the importance of contemporary craft throughout Canada’s diverse history and future. Under the theme Can Craft? Craft Can! the Biennial will explore what and who is ‘Canadian Craft’?

Biennial Call for Entry Banner

Exhibitions: August 19 – October 29, 2017
International Ceramic Exhibition: Anton Reijnders

Biennial Opening Celebrations: Friday September 15, 2017, 6:00 pm-9:00 pm
Lee-Chin Family Gallery, Art Gallery of Burlington

Dutch ceramist Anton Reijnders will present his new work in a solo exhibition.

National Craft Exhibition: Can Craft? Craft Can!

Bringing together seventy makers from across Canada, Can Craft? Craft Can! will present works in glass, ceramics, wood, metal and fibre that address three subthemes exploring ideas of Identity, Sustainability and Materiality.

Craft Ontario Provincial Exhibition: Nothing is Newer than Tradition

Craft Ontario’s Nothing is Newer than Tradition will present the work of emerging Ontario makers that reflect a dedicated engagement with specialized skills and materials. The exhibition will explore how craft materials, tools and processes are creatively reiterated through the hands of a new generation of makers.

Craft Biennial Residencies

Six makers and six writers/scholars from a range of material disciplines will spend ten days discussing and making in a creative national incubator. Makers will provide innovative and exciting possibilities for moving the conversation outside academic discourse and encourage public engagement with issues of tradition and innovation, vernacular and global, hand-made and high-tech. Writers will engage in the discussion to explore new ideas and challenge current craft discourse.

Makers Residency
  • Teresa Burrows
  • Joon Hee Kim
  • Maja Padrov
  • Mia Riley
  • Anne Steves
  • Carolyn Young
Writers Residency
  • Mary Callahan Baumstark
  • Terri Fidelak
  • Julia Krueger
  • Andrew Rabyniuk
  • Sarah Swan
  • Katrina Tompkins
Can Craft? Craft Can! Craft Symposium
Friday September 15, Holiday Inn, Burlington
Saturday September 16, OCAD University, Toronto

Eleven sessions covering a variety of themes and approaches, will be presented by forty-four scholars and makers from around the world. Registration information is coming soon!

To read more about the featured speakers, please download the full schedule and brochure below.

Full Symposium Schedule



  8:30 to 9:15   

Registration and Welcome Remarks


9:30 - 11:15    


Session One


Making Education: The Changing Nature of Teaching Craft – Part 1

Convener: Dorie Millerson, Assistant Professor, Chair, Material Art & Design, OCAD University

Dr. Shelley Doolan & Catherine Brown (University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK): Incidental learning in art glass education.

As educators coming from a background of making, we understand the value and importance of incidental learning as a method of uncovering and conveying tacit knowledge. Current educational systems place huge emphasis on grades, assessment and league tables. This, in addition to pressures on contact time and resources, leaves little space for un-timetabled learning. Further changes include the emerging, and yet to be fully understood impact of technology on learning.

Our research responds to this changing educational landscape and seeks to develop strategies to encourage learning through ‘making’. The paper will outline an approach that includes setting up workshop-based scenarios (outside of the curriculum) to enable student participation and observation of academic-practitioner work. This reflects the perceived value of immersive action-learning in the transfer of tacit and incidental knowledge associated with a skilled craft process. We will discuss ways to encourage the development of student skills of self-motivation, independent learning and creative insight.

Through the informal workshops the sense of student educator hierarchy is challenged thus turning the tables on typical delivery. The contention is that informal learning within the workshop environment promotes and encourages reflection on action and learning and enhances the students’ move towards a self-directed mode of study having assimilated knowledge and experimented and applied this knowledge through practice.

Rachel Kelly (Manchester School of Arts, UK): Ikebana: A creative model for interdisciplinary pedagogy

This paper starts with a consideration of collaborative learning in Art and Design Higher Education as a dialogic paradigm. A Modernist Perspective (Childs, 2000) would interpret a dialogic paradigm as an undoing of traditions and rooted practices as an enabling of The New. There are many opportunities which collaborative learning generates because it puts practice cultures, learning styles, and ethical issues under scrutiny by students, making this unique context ripe for evaluation.

Collaborative craft learning can enable students to make better decisions together by reducing prejudice and enabling peer approval, two aspects which Bruffee, suggests can lead students to develop new critical perspectives in their own disciplines (Bruffee, K A., 1999). Evidence suggests that shadowing and contiguous practice, can support learning as much as constructed taught activities. Early evaluations from my Ikebana research project suggest that in a contiguous model of collaboration where students gently co-exist for a period of time that deep learning outcomes can be achieved.

Contiguous collaboration sits at the edge of constructionist learning (Papert, S., 1980) in that it involves social learning but does not involve the experiential learning which getting involved and being allowed to learn through mistake making, practically, can generate. Within skilled craft teaching core skill learning must be cherished and supported, but it is the rationale of this paper and the research underpinning it, to suggest that an approach of contiguity in teaching and learning which aligns more with Action Research that a deepening of practitioner knowledge is achieved via the process of sharing practice.

Dorie Millerson & Dr. Lynne Heller (OCAD U, Canada): Hands on the Tech: Craft, Pedagogy and the Digital Challenge

This paper investigates the relationship between craft making traditions and the advent of digital tools along with the pedagogical implications of that confluence. Craft has always been yoked to technology, indeed has been at the forefront of both mechanical and digital innovation (Adamson, G., 2013). When teaching craft, we encourage the development of skills that involve a spectrum of hand/eye/ear coordination with complex tools. The essentially embodied nature of craft engagement has implications for craft pedagogy ( Koskinen, A., Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, P., & Hakkarainen, K., 2015).

We ask what does it mean to have objects digitally produced by outside sources and do students need access to equipment to fully understand the potential of digital tools? Can we outsource offsite and/or out of sight? If so, then who is the maker and what is the value of the object? In our studios technicians set up, supervise and problem-solve digital production, resulting in mediated access for students. The student interaction with a front-end laptop is just the start of a chain of production. In this scenario, does the teaching/learning focus on design supersede traditional craft methodology of hands-on involvement?

The focus of this paper is twofold: to question how traditional studio methods interact with digital production to create innovation and intervention; and to look at how design processes are taught and assessed (Harrod, T., 2008 & Jönsson, L., 2008). By presenting a range of visual examples and teaching perspectives from faculty and technicians in the Material Art & Design program at OCAD University, we will unpack the pedagogical demands of working with digital tools that often increase the physical and psychological distance between maker and artefact.

Dr. Nithikul Nimkulrat (Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia): Research by Hand: Craft Making as Research Method

The resonance of a ternary between art, craft and design has been ongoing for over two decades. Attempts have been made to distinguish craft from art and design and to define craft as a discipline in its own right. This paper, instead of contributing to these, considers craft as “a means for logically thinking through senses” and suggests the role of craft making as a research method in a process of inquiry.

The paper will begin with recent discussions of craft in relation to art and design practice. It will then adopt the viewpoints on craft as “a way of thinking through practices of all kinds” (Adamson, G., 2007) and as “a dynamic process of learning and understanding” (Gray, C., & Burnett, G., 2009) to ground exploration into the role of craft making as a research method dealing with the research question to which literature alone may not yield an answer. Three examples of Ph.D. research completed in Sweden, Finland, and Estonia will be used to illuminate craft as a method that the practitioner-researcher may utilize to tackle research questions arisen from within his/her art and design practice.

These examples will demonstrate how craft in a research context has potential to not only generate new or enhance existing knowledge of the practice, but also transform characteristics of the creative artefact. The paper will conclude that without craft making, some practical and experiential knowledge embodied in the practitioner-researcher and embedded in a creative process would not have been made explicit.


9:30 - 11:15


Session Two

Craft and Wilderness: Combatting Territorial Amnesia

Convener: Amanda Shore

Jim Many Hats Adams (Canada)

Acimowin (stories) are our connection to all things earthly. Everything tells a story. When we place our hand on an object we are not assigning ownership rather we are beginning a process of engagement where we and the object can begin a dialogue as ancient as the earth itself. Here we and the object mingle our experiences and if we are open to the moment the object can help us to awaken our blood memory or as science calls it cellular memory.

From this point forward we are engaging in a ceremony. Words are seldom spoken unless we are engaged in something else. Think about it. When you talk on the phone are you not looking at something, touching something, standing on something? The act of speaking has always been connected to an action. A powerful story connects all seven senses. It awakens our blood memory and calls us to action. The acimowin is our creative map of discovery. For me as a kantiwenahawei, a carrier of words, I need my items to help me share the stories I have been gifted to share. The sights, smells, textures and tastes call up the senses and awaken the listeners. Words alone cannot entice the ears of the listeners to open. It is the multi-sensory experience that welcomes and supports the listeners in this ancient ceremony.

Anna Heywood-Jones (Canada): The Botanical Sphere: Plants, Textiles & Place

We live in a plant-dominated biosphere, and yet the relevance and meaning of vegetal life, beyond its contribution to human existence, is rarely considered. This way of thinking has led us to see ‘nature’ as external to ourselves, as ‘other’, as that mysterious realm beyond the human sphere of being. As in visual culture, plant life possesses signifiers and coded meanings in their contextual configurations.

Botanical literacy offers insight into environmental, sociocultural and historical narratives of place, as the forests and herbaceous margins of our communities speak of a complex past, a parallel history of survival and adaptation.Plants and textiles, the world over, tell complicated stories of colonization, migration, industrialization and the evolving nature of local and global systems. In my personal practice, working with plants becomes a point of entry in considering the complex meanings held within botanical life forms. The acts of harvesting, extracting and dyeing become a way of talking about place and the difficult histories that are etched into the vegetal and mineral layers of this land.

Denise Smith (Canada): Trails, Travel, and Tourism: Re‐imagining Wilderness Travel in Canada Through Craft

Touristic enterprises utilize mythology around Canadian wilderness in such a way that it becomes a consumable commodity; glossy postcard images of the Rockies promote picture perfect vistas, charming miniature illustrations of wildlife scenes on souvenir plates merchandise animals, interpretive trail guides and maps promote the collection of experiences.

Contemporary craft practices that counter the constructed idea of a pristine and untouched Canadian wilderness have the myth-busting potential to depict new ways of perceiving our relationship with nature. Through the presentation of the practices of Fiona Thompson, Katherine Boyer, Bettina Matzkuhn, and my own practice, I will relate how craft artists are re-imagining travel through, and connections with the Canadian wilderness.

Each of the craft practices that I will cover through this illustrated presentation, outline the importance of re-thinking travel through the Canadian landscape. I will question the ways through which wilderness tourism iscommodifying nature on a grand scale, and cultivating personal, individual, and traditional narratives. By peeling back the layers of mediation, we can develop more meaningful ways to connect to land.

Anna Sprague (NSCAD, Canada): In Tents: Art, Craft, and the Gore-Tex Classroom

The Keji Project is an innovative partnership between NSCAD University and Parks Canada aimed at cultivating a life-long appreciation for the wilderness and celebrating the intersection between the natural world and the visual arts. The Keji Project presents students with an opportunity to get outside of the city and investigate their relationship to the natural environment though an en plein air approach to transdisciplinary art production.

During the five-day immersive camping experience students direct their critical investigations and studio research towards topics such as ecology, national identity, colonialism, and site-specificity. This Gore-Tex classroom, with its focus on experiential participation and collaborative learning methodologies, encourages students to explore what it means to truly exchange, engage, and empathize. Within this open-air studio environment junior and senior students from all disciplines learn to skill-share and view creative production as a collaborative relational experience.


11:15 - 1:00


Session Three

Making Education: The Changing Nature of Teaching Craft – Part 2

Convener: Dorie Millerson, Assistant Professor, Chair, Material Art & Design, OCAD University

Elizabeth Roy (University of Manitoba School of Art, Canada): Unconditional Labour, You Have to Pick Up Every Stitch

The title of this paper, “Unconditional Labour, You Have to Pick Up Every Stitch”, delineates the present dilemma of teaching craft mediums in the contemporary art studio environment. Currently, there is a subversive aspect to the engagement with craft in today’s art school studio. Disparaged or invisible, today’s students, predominantly female, are interested in textiles and want to work with other alt-materials, such as papermaking, beading, gut, caning, knitting, embroidery, using armatures and simple delicate structures to create sculptures rather than metal and wood.

Labour and repetitive actions are important components in creating this work. Artifacts and objects that are culturally relevant are being re- interpreted. This may be about the overthrow of the de-skilled student of the previous decade in favour of the embrace of high material culture, but it is clear that craft material or craft processes are offering more interesting and engaging options to these students, who are choosing to ignore traditional materials of sculpture and methods of installation.

This new work is impossible to make in typical sculpture environments that have the stale dated modernist focus, they are being dumpstered and replaced with the sewing machine, iron and steamer. There is a distinct separation in the process of making in these two environments. Refreshingly, it is becoming an entirely new scene that bathes in pattern, time and reflection.

Dr. Qassim Saad (Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia) & Nourhan Hegazy (OCAD University, Canada): Adapting Design Education
to the Changing Role of Arts and Craft in Egypt

Egypt is a nation shaped by the region’s rich history and where civilisations have intersected to create a unique mixture of cultures. Therefore, ornamental arts have a long and rich tradition that draws influence and inspiration from its eclectic past. Building on this, Egypt offered a sustained incubator of rich and ancient traditions of craftsmanship and skilled artisans.

This foundation base welcomed and offered support to the ‘modern’ concept of Applied Arts (AA) introduced in the early 20th Century, which was represented through vocational education. The practices and methods of these craftsmen who are associated with traditional social preferences continue to dominate curriculum. Therefore, graduates from institutions classified as ‘Applied Artists’ qualify to demonstrate skills relating to traditional arts and crafts. Yet current and future needs in Egypt require more contemporary ‘design’ services.

This paper argues that there’s a need to transform design education in Egypt toward new arenas and spheres that acknowledge creative thinking, innovation practices, technology and the interdisciplinary nature of learning. It aims to offer insight relating to design education in Egypt and relies on both of the authors’ experiences in teaching and supervising a leading design school in Cairo between 2012 and 2015.

D Wood (Canada): Craft Education: Provocateur of Change

In today’s world handmade is a mark of distinction. It connotes a kind of authenticity and devotion that people, increasingly cast as passive consumers rather than active citizens, feel is otherwise missing from their lives. With citizenship comes moral responsibility yet how can we be responsible for a world that comes to us readymade? At the very same moment when the whole world is at our fingertips, it also seems completely out of our hands (Tim Ingold, 2013, 122).

Ingold’s statement points out the attraction of ownership of handcrafted objects yet also hints at one of the major reasons for the criticality of maintenance of craft skills: this method of manufacture represents an alternative economic paradigm to the planned obsolescence and instant gratification of mass production. In addition, knowledge of craft skills ensures that we can sustain ourselves whereas reliance on technology dictates that technologists, not our own hands and minds, control our lives.

Within this socio-cultural context, craft is a political agent that can contribute to an agenda of transformation. This presentation will begin with a brief case-study overview of the consequences of loss of craft education in New Zealand. It will then outline the reasons why craft practitioners, scholars and supporters have a moral responsibility to campaign for the teaching of craft skills beginning in pre- school and primary programs. Craft as a practice and product is imbued with care; care of planet earth is indivisible from the perpetuation of craft education.


11:15 - 1:00


Session Four

Intersections in Research and Practice

Convener: Julie Hollenbach PhD Candidate, Department of Art (Art History), Queen’s University.

This round table discussion invites craftspeople, makers, curators, historians, and critics to share the important ways in which their creative practices and research activities overlap and inform their work. Often, the products of our labour are presented as polished and complete achievements, divorced from other aspects of our work, our multifaceted research, or experiments that didn’t quite pan out.

Furthermore, professionalism teaches many of us to edit our narratives of messy development into smooth swan songs. Similarly, at times, crafted objects are approached as stand-alone pieces or considered as finite examples of a maker’s straight trajectory. This round table session shifts the emphasis away from linear and singular approaches to objects and practices, instead, highlighting ways of knowing that are taken for granted, relegated to a footnote, or erased.

The session will foster conversations about messiness, research as process, failure as a generative event, concurrent projects as inherently bound, creative practices as daily life, unorthodox methods of searching and teaching ourselves, piggy-backed approaches to sharing with others, and how these important practices today, inform our relationship with objects, practices, and people of the past, and structure the narratives about craft and scholarship tomorrow.

This round table discussion invites participants and attendees to share the multi-discursive and multi-disciplinary processes that undergird their own projects; and how these approaches can enrich connections withothers, create opportunities for new networks of exchange, and work to form creatively and critically engaged communities around craft.

Tamadher Alfahal (Birmingham City University, UK): Curating/Creating Dialogue: Practical Exploration of Philosophical Principles as Basis for Islamic Creative Expression

Sarah Alford (Queen’s University, Canada): Botanizing Chapter Two: Practicing Nineteenth-Century Natural Philosophy in the CouleeLisa Binkley (Queen’s University, Canada): Making Homespun Quilts: Imagining the Nineteenth-Century Canada

Carolyn Dowdell (Canada): Making History: Exploring Dress History Through Reproduction

Rebecca Hannon (NSCAD, Canada): Disassembling a Crown-of-Thorns

Arianna Richardson (NSCAD, Canada): The Hobbyist

1:00 - 2:00 



2:00 - 3:45


Session Five

The Openness of Craft: Complexity in Current Practices

Convener: Ruth Chambers, University of Regina

Seema Goel (Canada): Wool is 44% Carbon

Re-connecting craft to its political possibilities, the pieces Blood Sugar and Carbon Footprint work to explore how the movement, making, and consumption of craft materials are linked to the political discourse of both the producer and the consumer. In Blood Sugar, porcelain and physical precarity are the metaphors for historical and contemporary power gained through sugar, the ongoing slavery maintained in 3rd world societies to produce this “food,” and the current 1st world biochemical enslavement we endure.

Carbon Footprint, a public art project in which the public largely produced the work, exposes wool as a potent and compelling portrait of local Irish landscape and industry and works to rephrase wool as part of the climate change discussion by linking the handmade and single producer to positions of power through intention.

Both these works engage the global conundrum of distance between producer and consumer and seek to reconnect the viewer/participant to the narratives hidden in the materials. I will discuss my pieces Blood Sugar and Carbon Footprint in light of the panel topic.

Jeannie Mah (Canada): I am Blue Mikado

“I find it harder every day to live up to my blue china.”

— Oscar Wilde

While studying Chinese ceramics in European museums, a small but acrobatic side-step led me to a love of European porcelain, which then introduced me to the history of Chinese export ware and European Chinoiserie. Having never ‘returned’ to China, I travel towards the East by way of English bone china.

By isolating two figures in landscape on a Royal Crown Derby Blue Mikado dinner plate, I cheekily attempt to reverse the process of immigration. I usurp an Asian identity by inserting my Canadian-born southern Chinese face into a Japanese scene as imagined by 19th Century potters in Derby, England. By taking a British colonial detour, I study china without going to China. I play dress-up within English china to reclaim a (mistaken) Chinese identity, et voilà! I “am” Blue Mikado!

Since the Age of Discovery and the ensuing mania for Chinese porcelain, European and Chinese manufacturers have copied each other, often inaccurately, to satisfy a prestigious and lucrative world trade. The travelling of ideas, iconography and technology can be seen in the history of porcelain, making explicit the geographical meanderings of material culture, via trade routes of land and sea.

Carmela Laganse (McMaster University, Canada): Perspective by Incongruity: Jade Inukshuk Hockey Players and the Canada Goose Trivet

Visual rhetoric surrounding immigration, multiculturalism and Canadian identity is indicated by national census graphs, government propaganda, regional souvenirs and identifying regional markers. I propose to: critically re-consider objects such as Haida letter openers and moose formed salt and pepper shakers to examine the romance and humour of commercialized kitsch Canadiana, to further consider the location, politics and economy surrounding these objects, and to remind us of their agency and power.

My research is informed by Paul R. Mullins’ essay, “Race and Victiorian Bric-a-Brac,” in which he asks “How we can interpret such apparently mundane material goods as consequential mechanisms that reflected and shaped consumers’ understandings of quite significant social issues, including racial ideology, nationalism and affluence.” I am aware of my position as a Canadian born, female, visible minority in academia.

Influences of western middle class guilt and minority identity are in constant negotiation and a lens through which I teach, research and make. My past works tend to subvert tropes within our visual culture as a way of questioning underlying hierarchies, politics and ideologies. I will present visual/ conceptual sources and questions that contextualize my new works, which appropriate and re-frame the aesthetics of national visual rhetoric, particularly, the Canadian souvenir. These objects propose questions informed by the conflicted intersections of culture and my identity in Canada.

Heidi McKenzie (Canada): Paradox: Identity and Belonging

In March 2016, I moderated a panel at NCECA (National Ceramic Educators Council of America) in Kansas City entitled Paradox: Identity and Belonging. The presentations and ensuing discussion placed race, identity and belonging centre-stage. Audience response affirmed my convictions that these issues continue to be relevant and critical to all artists, reaching beyond the bourgeoning community of “others”.

I brought together American mixed-race conceptual artist Jennifer Datchuk, American figurative sculpture, Nathan Murray, and Canadian manga mash-up artist, Brendan Tang. Premise: The mixed-race artist inhabits two or more cultural identities. They position themselves at once inside and outside of their collective national narrative by virtue of their hybridity. In 1993, geographer Gillian Rose coined the phrase paradoxical space to define the inherent dualities at the crux of mixed-race identity. Paradoxical space moves beyond spaces of resistance and creates the possibility to shift the paradigm by mapping a future where the mixed-race individual is not positioned as out of place, but rather, constitutive of their own spatialities.

The complexity of race is necessarily heightened due to biracial and often bicultural lived experiences - inherently: passing, purity, caste, social justice, ambiguity, isolation, systemic and localized racism, ethnic heritage, familial dysfunction, alienation, support, personal and artistic nourishment.

The panel explored the dynamic between modes of expression, artistic practice, and lived mixed-race experience. Through their creative output, each artist shared their own narrative as it relates to meaning-making and their journey to unravel “the paradox.” Via summary of this panel I will respond to “The Openness of Craft” through the lens of hybridity.

Ying-Yueh Chuang (Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Canada): Recent Works

This talk will discuss my recent and current works. Of all the materials I have encountered, clay has proven to be the most forgiving and accessible material, allowing me to explore ideas through the making of objects. Certain ideas I learned while growing up in Taiwan have stayed with me, while others have been abandoned. In this same way, I am selective about how I adapt to Western philosophies and ways of living, leading me to live a hybrid existence with elements from both these cultures.

This way of thinking has in turn influenced my interest in hybridization, leading me to take elements from plants or sea anemones in order to combine and create forms that are symmetrical and asymmetrical. My new work focuses on bridging two major craft media, clay and textile. I like the juxtaposition of the two materials and I specifically chose these two to address social issues such as equality.

The inspiration for this body of work is this contrast between the cheap labor and mass produced fabric for the lower class and the highly intricate, slowly hand-built Imperial porcelain for the upper class. I have integrated this concept with my practice of using the + (cross). I see the repeated pattern in the fabric as a grid to govern the placement of the ceramic elements. In an ideal society, everyone contributes his or her talent equally to the wholeness and that is where Paradise exists.

Shelley Miller (Canada): Recent Work

I will discuss my art practice and specific projects that further my aim to aggrandize domestic craft practices traditionally done by women, both in terms of scale and importance, using public space to do so. Two permanent public art projects are Tissu urbain (an outdoor ceramic mural for a commuter train station) and Structura habitata (interior mosaic and ceramic mural at the entrance of hospital).

For each, I created geometric compositions that reference traditional quilt patterns. Although different environments, my intent for each was to invoke comfort and security to each space, while simultaneously acting as bold and energizing visual markers for their sites. I’ll also show a recent series called People, Pattern, Place that uses actual people to create geometric formations, referencing traditional patchwork designs of the area I’m working (to date, Brazil and Saskatchewan).

This series continues my interest in micro and macro, bringing the individual back into the idea of a collective urban fabric. I’ll be creating 4 more of these collaborative photo shoots in Saskatchewan in June 2017. Adjacent to the photo shoots, I organize workshops called “Quilt-In’s” where experienced quilters from different cultural communities are invited to demonstrate varied patchwork techniques. The name references a “sit-in”—a means of peaceful protest. In this case, it’s a protest in support of something: traditional craft practices in today’s modern, technological society.

In all of these projects, I use the quilt as a metaphor to address the idea of connections: connecting people, instead of actual fabric; connecting communities.

Julia Krueger (Canada): Keepsakes of Conflict: Contemporary Craft’s Role in Understanding Trench Art

“The duality of trench art is its one constant…it is both art and craft; it is both decoration and kitsch; it is both meaningful and vacuous; it is both souvenir and museum object; it is both hand-made and mass-produced; it is both new and recycled; [and] it is both beautiful and hideous.” Laura Brandon, “The Duality of Trench Art”

On September 16, 2016, Keepsakes of Conflict: Trench Art and Other Canadian War-Related Craft, an exhibition informed by craft theory and material culture, opened at the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery in Moose Jaw, SK. Trench Art is defined by Nicolas J. Saunders in Trench Art: Materialities and Memories of War as “any item made by soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians, from war material directly, or any other material, as long as it and they are associated temporally and/or spatially with armed conflict or its consequences.”

The current openness of contemporary craft discourse enabled Julia Krueger (researcher) and Heather Smith (curator) to examine the complexities of armed conflict and its consequences through the act of making and collecting on a human scale. This presentation will examine, by way of specific examples included in Keepsakes of Conflict, contemporary craft’s ability to facilitate a broader understanding of historical craft: one replete with multiple identities, hybridity, difficult subject matter and unorthodox aesthetics.


2:00 - 3:45


Session Six

The digital ties that bind: Practice-lead research in craft

Convener: Stephen Bottomley, Senior lecturer, Edinburgh College of Art/ University of Edinburgh

Juliette MacDonald, Stephen Bottomley, Jessamy Kelly (Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland): Expanding the field: Parallax perspectives?

“If you divide the candlestick into many more parts, it will appear crowded, as it will want distinctiveness of form on a near view, and lose the effect of variety at a distance […]”

- William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty (1743) p42  

Drawing on Rosalind Krauss  theoretical contemplation  of the Expanded Field and William Hogarth’s reflection on beauty, this paper will explore some of the opportunities and oppositions offered to makers through the combination of historic hand-skills and digital contemporary practice. Current practice-based research found within the craft network will provide the material for this contemplation.

Craft is a practice-based research network originating from, but not confined to, Edinburgh College of Art / University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK whose members work across a range of material and design disciplines and use both emerging digital technologies and traditional craft practices to explore, enhance and achieve fluidity in making activities. Bottomley, Kelly and MacDonald will provide the key examples for the juxtaposition of the historical and contemporary; they have been carrying out collaborative research into the possible applications of ceramic paste, or faience, first developed 6,000 years ago in ancient Egypt in their contemporary craft practices.

The paper will consider the extent to which a balance between the  ‘long distance’ of historical reference and the  ‘near view’ of contemporary digital practice may be  successfully achieved.

David Grimshaw (Manchester School of Art, UK): Learning from Music - opportunities for creative craft knowledge to translate the idealised perfection of the virtual, into the expressive materiality of reality.

In a world increasingly operating within a digitised version of reality, what is the relevance of thousands of years of material and making knowledge? Can the applied knowledge of the craftsman be used, not just to bring digital visions to life, but to contribute positively to a more subtle and nuanced translation of data into physical reality?

In music, conductors and musicians translate the digitised vision of the composer, to become the emotional experience of music. Similarly, digital design data has become the musical score of fabrication, with designer as composer arranging parts to be manufactured, as if parts on a score. However, musicians are not machines, and neither are craftsmen. Each can bring personal interpretation to the reproduction of a fixed composition, taking the raw data to bring a subtle and nuanced expression to the score - conductor and musician in collaboration with composer.

The paper will present practice led research where the digital is viewed, not as a set of definitive instructions, but as a starting point for a conversation between data, tool and material. The work highlights that making can be a collaborative translation, where the craft knowledge of makers can be utilised to discover individuality and expression within the digital making process. A digital file is not rigid, it can be fluid, a set of instructions to be pushed and pulled by the skill of the maker - musicians have known the score for years, and it’s time for designers and makers to hear the music.

Barbara Rauch (OCAD University, Canada): Synthetic Materialization: an emotional transformation of the surface.

In the studio/lab we aim to designate an alternative format of acknowledging research by instigating discourse around the topic of emotion in artistic practice. Situating ourselves in an academic and interdisciplinary research-led environment, we consider the ‘studio’ as a geographic and emotional location in which process and production takes place. Through practice-led research, we connect current studio and craft practices to reflexive, critical visual analysis, as a transformative research methodology.

My research project investigates the transformation of affect and surface qualities through the process of translating synthetic data into “real” (physical) objects with material qualities. Of particular interest is a critical examination of what qualities are gained and which are lost as objects move from digital instantiation, on a computer screen, to physicalization as 3D-printed artifacts. I am a trained crafts person with a training in glass blowing and glass painting prior to moving into the digital studio.

Working in digital print studios, 3D printing has come more recently to our workshops and seems to re-introduce 3D sculpting and material manifestation into the studio. I believe the role of the artist today is that of a researcher; making is enhanced through additional techniques, borders of practices have shifted and interdisciplinary skills are important to execute concepts and ideas responding to a more complex society.

Frank Cooper (Birmingham School of Jewellery, UK): Connecting Technology To Artistic Creativity And The Wider Community

This paper considers how the tradition of the crafted object, often shaped through intense and dedicated practice by the artist, can live comfortably in the new digitally intense world. Enabling makers to negotiate the internet with its instant gratification and the consumer’s often capricious nature, and yet still allow for the whimsy of the creative to continue to be seen and appreciated. In order to demonstrate this we shall focus on a technology intense project, currently developing at The School of Jewellery in Birmingham.

This project juxtaposes the traditional craftsmanship of the musical instrument maker with our technological expertise in Computer Aided Design and 3Dimensional printing. This unusual combination of expertise has been brought together to address the very special needs of a charity: The One Handed Musical Instrument Trust (OHMI). To refine, develop and maintain the musical quality while crucially democratising the creation of a recorder played with one hand.

We will show how the instrument maker embraced the possibilities afforded to him by this project to allow for a radical redesign of the original concept and importantly to bring affordable music to a much wider audience. We intend to achieve this result through the use of our very transferable knowledge here at the Centre for Digital Design and Manufacturing at the School of Jewellery where we act as facilitators who can take a brief and guide it through the appropriate CAD, technology whilst always retaining an intimate understanding and appreciation for the craftsmanship intent to enable the right product, item, artefact to be delivered by assessing and adapting at every stage of the process to ensure the best outcome.

At the same time we shall take the opportunity to show where these same technologically advanced processes have also been applied to some of the diverse, jewellery specific, practices of a number of members of staff here at the School and their varied range of outputs


3:45 - 5:30


Session Seven

Somewhere Between Folklore, Modernity and Utopia: Expo'67 and the development of Fine Crafts and Métiers d'art in Canada

Convener: Bruno Andrus

Gilles Désaulniers (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada) : Travailler et enseigner les arts verriers

Le travail de peintre m’amène à chercher une matière transparente puis l’EXPO 67, à Montréal, me fait découvrir les œuvres de Stanislav Libensky. Je choisis alors d’aller à Prague pour apprendre à utiliser le verre. Les circonstances m’ont retardé et j’ai alors reçu une proposition de Gilles Boulet d’étudier la possibilité d’enseigner les arts à l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) qu’il comptait fonder l’année suivante.

À mon retour des études en Tchécoslovaquie, j’ai poursuivi mes apprentissages verriers, surtout le soufflage du verre, tout en créant et installant le premier atelier universitaire d’arts verriers au Canada. Les premières expériences ont favorisé des carrières artistiques remarquables et aidé la fondation de l’atelier Espace Verre (Montréal). Lors d’une année sabbatique en France, l’École supérieure des arts décoratifs de Strasbourg m’invite à collaborer à la mise en place d’un enseignement des arts verriers. J’allais former le professeur qui prendrait la direction de cet atelier tout en rédigeant avec lui le dossier qui permettrait à la direction académique de donner suite au projet.

Tout ce travail a atteint son but puis j’ai eu l’occasion d’y revenir pendant plus de quinze ans assumer un stage complémentaire aux enseignements de plus en plus qualifiés. Tout ce travail e tout cet enseignement n’ont pas empêché la poursuite d’une carrière artistique personnelle ni la contribution à la création de l’Association des Arts Verriers Canadiens /Glass Art Association of Canada, Je poursuis mon travail de création en lien avec le groupe Atelier Silex qui, à Trois-Rivières offre des espaces et des équipements permettant la création de sculptures en différents matériaux. Trois membres y travaillent le verre.

Susan Surette, Ph.D. (Concordia University, Canada): Tundra Life: Questions of Earth, Images, and Surfaces

Canada’s Tundra Restaurant at Expo 67 participated in the construction and promotion of an authentic Canadian culture through its food and décor. Key to the presentation of Canada as a land of the north were the handcrafted, dark brown, roughly textured, stoneware dinner plates, candle holder and salt and pepper shakers, made by the Southern Canadian studio potter Maxwell Muir, and inscribed with stylized images of arctic animals and Inuit people.

Through a de-colonizing lens, this paper unpacks these stoneware dishes that were an integral part of the interior design of a northern –themed restaurant and aesthetically and technically tied to a menu that strongly referenced wild game, fruits and vegetables. This paper will problematize the stereotypical images deployed and employed on this table setting along with its geographical and cultural origins at a time when the Rankin Inlet pottery project, an undertaking where the forms, colours and content of the Inuit pottery were tightly controlled by Ottawa bureaucrats, was enjoying its first exhibition in southern Canada.

Building on Rhona Richman Kenneally’s study of the cuisine of Expo 67, “Food, Nationalism, and Authenticity at Expo 67,” I argue that the table settings in the Tundra Restaurant project further complicate the notion of national and cultural authenticities. (R.R. Kenneally, “Food, Nationalism, and Authenticity at Expo 67,” in Expo 67: not just a souvenir, ed. by R. R. Kenneally & J. Sloan, (University of Toronto Press, 2010), 27-46.)

Mary Ann Steggles, Ph.D. (University of Manitoba School of Art, Canada): Searching for Utopia: The Vietnam Era Resistors Who Helped Shape Canada’s Craft Revival in Ceramics

From the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 to the fall of Saigon in 1975, approximately 100,000 Americans came to Canada as an act of resistance. For these counterculture youth, they were leaving a country embroiled in political and social unrest. They established homes and studios across Canada where they created handmade objects that formed the framework for a new holistic lifestyle that was rebelling against a growing greed, materialism, and an immoral war in Southeast Asia.

Overtime they helped to establish craft associations –local, provincial, and national – as well as a range of craft fairs to promote their work. Some taught and on occasion helped to found ceramic departments at Canada’s colleges and universities. The craft revival of the 1960s and 1970s in Canada can be directly attributed to these individuals.

In the introduction to Hell No, We Won’t Go, Pierre Berton asserts: ‘It is to the credit of this country that we accepted the American draft resisters in spite of pressure from the United States and in spite of efforts by some of our own authorities to send them back. That they have enriched our culture goes without saying’ (Haig-Brown 1996, p. vi). My paper establishes the impact that these resistors made to Canada’s cultural and craft history, specifically to the field of ceramics.


3:45 - 5:30


Session Eight

Craft’s Collaborations

Convener: Mireille Perron, Alberta College of Art + Design

Tamadher Alfahal (Birmingham City University, UK): New Approach for Islamic Creative Expression

In traditional Islamic philosophy, ‘Sana’a’ or art has always been associated with ‘I’lm’ or Knowledge. Ikhwan al-Safa; the 10th century group of Muslim philosophers describe whoever brings out the form from his mind into a matter as “the artificer, the knower” (al-sani’ al ‘alim)… The notion of creativity in traditional Islam made no distinction between the different types of creating, thus there was no need to categorize a work of art as “fine art”, or “applied art”, or “crafts”.

From this point, comes an attempt to investigate the possibility of a new approach for Islamic creative expression, to reconcile the traditional philosophy with contemporary design practice. Through practice-led research, multi-disciplinary collaborative sessions between artisans, designers and scholars will be conducted in order to examine the potentials of creating general principles for Islamic creative expression.

The research outcomes willbe manifested through different mediums such as: reflexive mind maps/ visuals by the researcher, ideas and prototypes that bridge the gap between craftsmanship and design. The outcomes of the collaborative sessions will eventually be showcased in exhibitions to raise awareness in the communities and receive wider feedback.

This presentation will showcase the key findings and the outcomes of one of the collaborative sessions in the research process; which is a result of a residency in Morocco that aims at creating bridges between artists and artisans. Having this collaboration in Morocco, where the crafts are alive and transferred through generations of artisans is a great opportunity to challenge the boundaries between the creative fields.

Kathryn Walter (Canada): Between FELT and architecture

My presentation will focus on my practice working with industrial felt in collaboration with architects by showing examples of specific projects that integrate feature walls into an overall project design, and to consider this collaborative relationship in the tradition of the allied arts. My felt walls tend to be formal investigations—like painting, they come together using a palette of tones and textures. Folds, layers and stacks of felt soften, both visually and acoustically, modern contemporary spaces of concrete and glass.

My practice occupies a space between architects and trades, working at the front end with the design team, applying a site-responsive approach to creating built-in, customized installations. And, I’m involved in making the work and often at the end of the process, on the ground, on site, with the contractors, installing. My practice is equally bound to design and fabrication, and I identify as an artist, a designer, and a maker.

Three projects I will cite include working with Levitt Goodman Architects and Seventh Generation Image-makers to produce a feature wall for Native Child and Family Services in Toronto, that incorporated images of the Thunderbird from the Great Lakes tradition; a collaboration with nushu architects to create a wall for Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago made from materials and remnants that met the strict codes of this environmental advocacy group; and a project inspired by the industrial history of Queen Street West in which I worked with superkul architects to create a wall of felt for Aesop Toronto.

By looking at my relationship to architecture as part of a history of collaboration since the days of William Morris, and considering how technologies and perceptions have changed in the allied arts since then, I hope to align my work with a resurgence of interest in collaboration, craft materials and the handmade.

Raine McKay (Craft Council of BC, Canada): Craft Council of BC & Joe Ink Performance Society

We would like present our experience to date about around a collaboration between Joe Ink and the Craft Council of British Columbia involving 5 craft artists, 6 dancers and choreographer Joe Laughlin. The craft artists involved are Deb Dumka, Stephanie Dueck, Debra Sloan, Peter Pierobon & Hope Forstenzer. Joe Ink has created over twenty-five original works and has produced major works in partnership with local, national, and international artists and organizations, this critically acclaimed company is well known for its wit and versatility.

The project explores the collective experience and draws upon the powerful potential of highly skilled artists and community members whose aim is to investigate the physical and visual aspects of performance. We are bringing together a large group of people in a series of meetings, interactions, research workshops and rehearsals building towards a large-scale performance installation.

This collaboration with several dance and craft artists is about mixed media, creating dance and object together, weaving the result into stories that express the natural world through movement, object and environment. Creation, collaboration and cross-pollination speak to human invention and our limitless possibility. Through this dialogue and building new constructions, we aim to push the forms into each other by exploring them through theatrical invention. We will discuss the powerful synthesis of knowledge and technique from both forms using the objects to extend and the ideas of the work highlighting the way that collaboration contributes fresh ideas and insight into dance and craft and by extension, the arts milieu overall.

Jennifer E. Salahub, PhD. (ACAD, Canada) :The “Unfriending” of Sloyd

This paper argues that Sloyd, a descriptive that has apparently been “unfriended” from the craft lexicon, was the driving force behind a short lived (1900-1903) educational reform movement that prioritized craft education and collaboration in Canada in the early part of the twentieth century. Despite its brevity, I suggest that it was this cohort of sloyd educators, which set the stage for a century of craft education at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

In January 1900 the Calgary Weekly Herald proclaimed, “Sloyd gives a healthier tone to all branches of education, and if it only redeems what we know as sleight of hand (for sleight is the English equivalent for sloyd) from the reproach of ages, no small victory will have been won.”(Calgary Weekly Herald. 4 January 1900). Eighteen months later that same newspaper summarized the progress being made, stating that craft (sloyd) not only fostered the creative instinct and imagination but brought a student “into touch with the beauties of the universe and his own relation to the world.”(Calgary Weekly Herald, 11 July 1901).

There is no doubt that craft and collaboration were at the core of social, political and cultural life in Calgary with several of the original sloyd instructors remaining in Calgary even after the initiative ended. Their voices continued to be heard – as educators – as administrators – as advocates of craft. The approbation of craft took a variety of forms – from an appreciation of skill and aesthetics to a general expectation of its inclusion in post-secondary education. Thus, when the precursor to the Alberta College of Art and Design, the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art, opened in 1916 craft was central to the curriculum. Arguably sloyd was the driving force underpinning a century of craft education at ACAD.

Opening reception of the Canadian Craft Biennial




  8:30 - 9:15      

Registration and Welcome Remarks
9:30 - 10:15

Keynote address: Anton Reijners


10: 15 - 12:00


Session Nine

Craft and Public Art

Conveners: Kathy Kranias, PhD Student, Humanities Department, York University, and Lera Kotsyuba, Research Assistant Intern, Ontario Heritage Trust

Adrien Lucca (École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre, Belgium)

Soleil de minuit (2015-2017) is a permanent Glass Art installation in the metro station Place-D'Armes in Montréal, Québec, Canada. It has been crafted by the French artist Adrien Lucca in collaboration with the glass studio Debongnie (Belgium). Produced in the context of an exchange of artwork between the cities of Brussels and Montréal, Soleil de minuit is made of 14 panels of epoxy-laminated mouthblown "Lamberts" glass "pixels"

. Each panel is individually framed within the 1960's concrete "modernist" architecture of the metro station, and backlit by high-end white LEDs. Its design is based on the idea of permanently transporting the color of Brussels sunlight during the summer solstice at sunrise into the metro station, in 14 steps from dawn to day.

From a technical point of view, Soleil de minuit has overcome several challenges: The epoxy-lamination technique has been created from scratch by the studio Debongnie to produce large, unique glass panels measuring 207 x 157 cm, each weighing 210 kg. Each panel represents a circular light figure, made of 1813 colored glass "pixels", which has been generated by an algorithm coded by the artist.

This algorithm acts like a bridge between the physics of colored glass, craft and visual arts. It implies physical measurements of the glass color properties in relation to their interaction with the selected LEDs, it generates 14 full-size maps for the production in the glass studio, and it allows the artist to precisely select colors among the 5000+ references available in the Lamberts antique glass factory in Waldsassen (Germany).

Nicola Pezolet (Concordia University, Canada): Secular and Sacred Light in the Work of Jean-Paul Mousseau

At every stage of his long and prolific career, Québécois artist Jean-Paul Mousseau has been engaged with the integration of modern craft to architecture. Indeed, from his early ceramic murals with Claude Vermette to his later Op-Art projects in Montreal metro stations, Mousseau has been chiefly concerned with using colour and light to redeem and aestheticize the everyday.

This paper wishes to investigate Mousseau’s various public craft commissions, specifically his stained glass projects that made use of either natural or artificial light. In the 1960s, a number of art critics and journalists pointed to Mousseau’s effort to reinvigorate the longstanding religious tradition of stained glass windows by using new artistic forms, materials and technologies, such as neon and fiberglass. Since then, however, this interpretation has been repressed in the historiography. For example, in the two exhibition catalogues on Mousseau produced by the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Arts (Aspects, edited by Gilles Hénault in 1968, and the more comprehensive Mousseau, edited by Francine Couture in 1996), not a single one of Mousseau’s religious projects, such as the stained glass windows for Saint Gérard Majella Church in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, is discussed or reproduced.

This omission is no doubt symptomatic of the still dominant view of Quebec history, which equates the modernization of the province with a swift process of secularization (the so-called “Révolution Tranquille”). This paper wishes to challenge such a narrative and to reconsider critically Mousseau’s important stained glass work as part of the momentous shift that Canada’s religious landscape underwent in the 1950s and 60s, and of the blurring between the sacred and the secular that occurred during that time.

Lexie Owen (Canada): New Genres: Craft + Public Art

Both the fields of Craft and Public Art have seen renewal and expansion in the past two decades. The emergence of what theorist Glenn Adamson has termed post-disciplinary practice in the crafts has expanded the field to include new materials and methodologies, challenging preconceived notions of what is and can be considered craft. Similarly, the field of Public Art has been in flux since the emergence of Relational Aesthetics and a turn to the social, or as Suzanne Lacey terms it the emergence of ‘New Genre Public Art.’

These shifting fields provide an exciting space for cross-disciplinary practices. In New Genres: Craft + Public Art Vancouver based artist, writer and curator Lexie Owen focuses on her own artistic practice, which weaves through both disciplines, exploring perceived dissonances between these fields. Her public practice balances what she sees as the central concerns of Craft, namely labour, value and the meaning of making, with those of New Genre Public Art, a field deeply concerned with problematizing the central role of the artist in the meaning making processes.

While these concerns can sometimes be at odds with each other Owen creates a hybrid practice deeply dedicated to both fields. Drawing a trajectory of practice from her early public projects The Tacit Knowledge Front (2013), Jam Exchange (2013) and the Textiles Institute (2014) to her ongoing works The Collaborative Embroidery Society (2015 -) and ODD JOBS (2016 -) Owen’s practice places craft in public using the social as her primary material.

Susan Surette, PhD. (Concordia University, Canada): Sturdy-Stone Ceramic Murals: the ups and downs of a "visually perceived environment"(Izumi Kyoshi, 1961)

We all wait for elevators, expectantly eyeing the floor indicators above them, between inside and outside, up and down, patiently or impatiently lingering in the liminal space of an elevator lobby. The elevators and lobbies of modernist public multi-story are evaluated in terms of efficiency, safety and accessibility, but decoration, visual delight, and intellectual diversion (beyond what the materials might offer) have not been compelling considerations.

In these modernist buildings the decorative style adopted for the gates, doors, or surrounds of the elevator correspond to the style of the lobby in particular and to the overall architecture of the building in general, promoting a visual, conceptual and even social unity.

This paper argues this emphasis on functionality and de-emphasis on decoration actually opened up a space for social intervention in one building’s elevator lobbies. Using a case study of five stylistically eclectic ceramic relief mural projects installed above the elevators on five different floors of the 1979 brutalist-style Sturdy-Stone Centre, Saskatoon, I suggest decorative disunity promoted social and cultural pluralism.

Their individual visual vocabularies ranging from folk art to beaux arts to modernist abstraction, coupled with their collective stylistic disunity, confront a captive audience waiting to change floors. Analysis of the murals in the context of works commissioned from studio ceramicists by the provincial government for their new government office building indicates how they disrupt the notions of metanarratives and unified social agendas. Ultimately they interrogate how government-sponsored arts might inflect the formation of social and cultural identities.

12:00 to 1:00



1:00 - 2:45


Session Ten

Identity, Craft / Métiers d’art and Marketing – Part 1

Convener: Susan Surette, PhD, NSCAD University and Concordia University

Lisa Binkley (Queen’s University, Canada): Marketing Reserve Craft at Agricultural Fairs in the Nineteenth Century

Agricultural Fairs have been used as a form of displaying government objectives and settlers’ achievements of colonial life since the mid-nineteenth century in Canada, inspired by the British Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, 1851. Through the practices of display and marketed as a celebration of local achievements, agricultural exhibitions offered a venue for participants to share the fruition of their labours with items such as livestock, agriculture, and craft.

In 1876, however, and following the inception of the Indian Act, Aboriginal peoples across Canada were restricted to participation in agricultural exhibitions only on reserves. While this made it possible for Aboriginal women to continue to display their handmade crafts, it altered and objectified the way in which handmade items were viewed by attendees to the fair, which usually included tourists and settlers. For the Canadian government, reserve exhibitions became a way of demonstrating their efforts in ‘taming the savage’. Craft items were given awards, determined by a committee of government affiliates, and offered for sale as Indigenous craft. For Aboriginal craft artists, the sale of craft items at the reserve exhibition provided necessary income, but cemented their identity as ‘other’ and their crafts as different from those made by settlers.

This paper considers Mrs. J. Lalonde’s silk patchwork quilt, which won first place at the 1880 St. Regis Reserve (Quebec) Agricultural Fair. Recognized for its superb needlework by the government’s Indian Agent, Lalonde’s quilt was one of three examples of her needlework that was awarded a prize-winning ribbon. Although Lalonde’s needlework objects were considered the products of an expert needle artist and offered for sale to outsiders, by virtue of the venue in which they were displayed they were identified as “othered” craft and she as a marginalised artist. Thus an analysis of the making, use, and circulation of the silk coverlet, will explore Lalonde’s identity and experiences as an Aboriginal woman in the context of colonisation.

Elaine C. Paterson, PhD. (Concordia University, Canada): Tracing Craft: Labour, creativity, and sustainability in the Home Arts Movement

The late nineteenth-century Home Arts Movement was a network of craft guilds designed to provide sustainable creative work to craftspeople through national and international exhibitions and may be understood as an important historical antecedent to current concerns for art and labour. The Movement’s organising body, the English Home Arts and Industries Association (HAIA), was officially founded in the same year as the well-known, London-based, Art Workers’ Guild (1884), itself established as an alternative to the perceived elitism and exclusive practices of the Royal Academy and leading to the creation of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society (the official body of the better known Arts and Crafts Movement).

Many of the anti-industrial ideals of the time were expressed in the craft workshops scattered all over the country as part of the Home Arts Movement. These ideals were exported (by people, in print or as exquisitely crafted objects) as far as Canada and Australia and included concerns for reskilling, collaborative making, sustainable creative labour, as well as rural regeneration through art and a belief in the emancipatory effects of the workshop for craftswomen. In this paper, I explore the multiple ways labour, creativity, and sustainability intersected within this mainly rural and largely women-led artistic movement.

Through the concept of the ‘art worker’ I examine notions of labour and skill, amateur and professional, collaboration, materials and craftwork as these were brought together in the working lives of particular craftswomen. For instance, Mary Seton Watts of the Compton Potters’ Arts Guild in England, Evelyn Gleeson of the Dun Emer Guild in Ireland, and May Phillips of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild in Canada all positioned themselves as artists and workers while aligning their work with that of the international Home Arts Movement.

To conclude I trace a historical trajectory from these nineteenth-century craft revivals to the more recent explosion of Do-It-Yourself ‘crafters’ and politically inclined craftivists at the turn of the twenty first century. Doing so highlights how the historical inflects the contemporary in the complex, intertwined history of art and labour.

Akycha Surette (Concordia University, Canada): Dirty Words, “Money and Market”: The One of a Kind and Craft Professionalization

Contemporary studio craft, among other things, is a commercial enterprise. For many studio craftspeople selling is not selling out, and sales are an acknowledged sign of professionalism within the Canadian studio craft community. One way that craftspeople may choose to access a market for their products is to participate in craft shows, especially juried craft shows. Scholarship around craft fairs and commercial craft has so far mostly been neglected by Canadian craft history.

In this paper I argue that One of a Kind influenced the professionalization of Canadian craft through its formation of professional expectations within the commercial market for both the craftspeople who either participated or hoped to participate in the show, and the show’s audiences of private, commercial, corporate and public craft consumers. One of a Kind was instrumental in creating a Canadian ‘craft brand’ particularly as it restricted itself to, and actively marketed itself as, the venue for Canadian craft producers and their “Made in Canada” products.

The show increased both the distribution of craft objects and craft’s associated values through the accessibility afforded by a patently commercial venue. This venue, which became a commercial and cultural institution, created a link between craft’s cultural values and its economic value. Craft shows embody some of the complexity of the continuously changing faces of contemporary craft. This complexity is not just about what is being made but who is making it and how it is being received.

Mia Hunt (University of Toronto, Canada): Managing marginalised material in the craft marketplace

This paper highlights the work that goes into crafting the material and the message to market ceramics produced by marginalised women. By way of a grounded ethnography, it steps inside a pottery-based social enterprise in Toronto which uses craft to support women facing poverty, homelessness, addiction, and trauma. Involvement in this craft-based employment program is undoubtedly empowering to individual women; through their participation and their craft practice, participants recover self-esteem and dignity and gain supplemental income.

In many ways, the program challenges current academic conceptualisation of craft as white and middle class. Despite this welcome subversion, much work goes into guiding the aesthetics through the making process in order to produce goods that are marketable to those with mainstream taste. Though these efforts are meant to benefit the women by increasing sales, they may also shape personal expression and, as a result, the subjectivities of the women involved.

In this paper, I consider the management of aesthetics in the studio and reflect on my own participation as a designer in the normalising of the participants’ creative outputs. I also look at the particular ways in which the ceramics are then marketed within both the craft marketplace and within the realm of local social enterprise. In each case, the multiple – and often complex – identities of the women are bound up in processes of managing the material and the message presented to the world outside.


2:45 - 4:30


Session Eleven

Identity, Craft / Métiers d’art and Marketing – Part 2

Convener: Susan Surette, PhD, NSCAD University and Concordia University

Shalini Sahoo and Imrana Shahryar (India): Reanimating the Indigenous Crafts

Indigenous craft tradition remains as the oldest and the most refined symbiosis of functionality, technology and aesthetics. It evolves over generations and constitutes to a living heirloom of a culture. Today when by noticeable degrees the reign of craft objects is being lost to cheaply manufactured machine goods, the need is more than ever urgent to have a sound understanding of what 'craft culture' in its totality means and what from it we want to preserve and reinterpret for the next generation.

In the year 2007 we initiated a craft project with the faculty of textile design at the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture (IVS) in Karachi. In this project apart from analyzing, documenting and contextualizing the rich craft culture in Pakistan, we also aimed to develop a sense of appreciation for this indigenous tradition amongst the young students at the IVS.

This work is divided in three parts: the first is a field research. Here students are instructed in the basics of active ethnography. The duration is three weeks in the field. The students and craftsperson encounter each other for the first time. The role of the student is that of a silent observer. He documents the complete process of the selected craft with the aid of photographs, drawings, texts, videos etc. The second phase is in the studio, where with the method of Systems Design Analysis (SDA)- the craft product in its holistic context is mapped and analyzed. Problems and issues are filtered out and contextualized. The third phase is of a pro-active design intervention. The student goes back to the field with the identified issue or problem in hand and works in close association with the craftsperson to find solutions to it. This phase spans from 6 to 12 months depending on the intricacy of the issue.

Elizabeth Kalbfleisch, PhD. (Canada): Celebration or Craftsploitation? Cultural Diplomacy, Marketing and Coast Salish Knitting

On December 26th, 2012, Justin Trudeau, then still vying for the Liberal Party leadership, met with Theresa Spence, Chief of the Attawaspiskat First Nation. Chief Spence was three weeks into a hunger strike to draw attention to living conditions in her community as well as to the larger Idle No More movement, then at its zenith.

Trudeau entered Chief Spence’s camp, reporters and photographers in tow, wearing a handknit Coast Salish cardigan, popularly known as a Cowichan sweater. Photographs circulated widely, with Trudeau’s carefully chosen outfit signalling political and cultural identification with Spence’s cause. Settler politicians have frequently and publically donned Coast Salish sweaters, offering up a symbol of Canadianess that resonates domestically and abroad, and alternately, as in the case of Trudeau, signifying cross-cultural solidarity with Indigenous people.

This paper will examine the political and cultural capital of Coast Salish knitting, practiced by Indigenous women on the Northwest Coast for over a century. Drawing on the visual culture documenting the knitting industry, I will consider historical and contemporary examples of how this craft has morphed from practical outdoor dress to a go-to form of cultural diplomacy.

Equally, I will consider how Coast Salish makers, businesses and communities have marketed knitting in ways that both support and undermine these identifications. Assertions by Indigenous people of intellectual property rights over knitwear designs reinforce the cultural and commercial value of this craft, which I will consider in tandem with the more recent movement by Indigenous people to reclaim Coast Salish sweaters as cultural dress.

Shannon Black (University of Toronto, Canada): Crafty impressions: Performing craft work on Instagram

Moving away from an exclusive focus on what photographs show to consider what photographs do, scholars suggest that photographs are spaces in which social relations, subject positions and identities are performed (Harrison 2002; Murray 2010; Rose 2010; Van Dijck 2008). From this perspective, photographs are regarded as social processes, inseparable from the various social, political and economic practices that constitute, and extend beyond, photographic production, exchange and consumption (Rose 2010).

Following this conceptual thread, I consider the photographs posted by ten female sewing, knitting and quilting bloggers on Instagram. I explore how their photographs offer a unique space for the performance of textile-based work and the marketing of craft identities. I explore how these performances are significant- not so much for their “indexicality or authenticity” (Van Dijck 2008) - but rather for their capacity to communicate particular and partial “messages” (Rose 2010, p. 62).

Through their visibility, these performances appear to challenge gendered norms around work, space and craft, offering ‘new’ visions of what craft can be and of who crafters are. However, because of their partiality, they also obscure important social, economic, and political dimensions of women’s craft work, reinforcing problematic discourses about creative labour and creative subjects more broadly.

Dr. Sandra Alfoldy (NSCAD, Canada): Crafting Kindness

A grandmother in her rocker knitting a baby blanket. A father and son proudly holding up snifters of their carefully distilled whiskey in their strong, capable hands. These images have been used for centuries to brand craft. After all, crafting sells. Kindness sells. Together, they are a marketing dream. My paper, “Crafting Kindness” will argue that Western perceptions of craft have shaped today’s easy popular culture references that have been co-opted for successful branding and marketing in corporate campaigns.

At their core is the messaging that the labour, processes and end products of craft represent kindness, a set of values based on Christian messages of care. This is no accident, as the connection between craft and kindness has deep roots in Western history. In Ancient Greek Xrēstόs was an adjective meaning “to furnish what is suitable; useful (beneficial, benevolent).” This term was adapted to Chrestotes, referring to Christ, and was used in the Bible in Galatians 5:22 to mean “useful, fit for use,” and providing labour and objects that were “good, virtuous, mild, pleasant.”( Definition from Strong’s Concordance, accessed 15 May 2016,

No surprise given that Jesus Christ and his father were both carpenters. The sense of love, kindness and comfort contained in an object that clearly holds the maker’s essence has been the basis for much craft history and theory, and a wonderful marketing tool. This paper will argue that kindness and craft are such nebulous terms that corporations can appropriate them without any obvious consequences. They have enduring appeal, even as the message of craft becomes increasingly diluted, and audiences overlook issues around labour, gender, race and access.


Opening reception of ‘Crafting the Future: A National Craft Student Exhibition




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.