STUDIO TIME: Glenn Adamson

On October 25, the Arts Research Center will present Studio Time: Process/Production, featuring “Goodbye to Craft” a talk by Glenn Adamson, Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Dr. Adamson is the author of Thinking through Craft, editor of The Craft Reader, co-editor of The Journal of Modern Craft, and one of the leading thinkers on the concept of craft in our contemporary world. Responses will follow from local artist Stephanie Syjuco and Professor Ron Rael (Architecture). Acting ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson (History of Art) will moderate. In preparation for the event, Dr. Adamson has prepared the following précis of his talk.

Glenn Adamson (photo by Sipke Visser)
Goodbye Craft: A History of Departures
Little did I know, growing up, that I was living through a period of decline. Born in 1972, I was too young to experience the height of the subcultural craft movement, in which hippie idealism on the one hand and crass commercialism were inexorably intertwining. Suffice to say that the popular enthusiasm that craft had enjoyed in the 1960s and ‘70s did not survive the harsher climate of the 80s, and by the time that I began working in the field of craft history and theory came round, my subject was distinctly unpopular. That indeed is what attracted me to it. Today, that marginal status seems – if I can put it this way – endangered. There is a resurgence of craft – not only of the traditional variety, the knitting circles and wood carvings of yesteryear, but also digital/manual mashups and spectacularly crafted works of contemporary art. My instinct, faced with the new relevance of my own interests, is to run the other way: to say goodbye to craft. But then again I am very conscious of the long history of such departures. Craft has constantly been positioned in the act of disappearance, just round the bend of history. Oddly that is one of its most persistent traits. In the talk I’ll be giving at Berkeley, I will try to combine my own biographical involvement in questions of the handmade with a longer narrative, a ‘long goodbye’ in which craft plays the leading role even as it seems to walk off stage.