I spent this past weekend in Hawke’s Bay attending the Volume Contemporary Craft/Object Symposium in Napier. Hosted by Hawke’s Bay Museum & Art Gallery, this was an exploration into the state of contemporary craft and the function, position and future of the crafted object in New Zealand.
The key note speaker was Justin Patton, director of Christchurch Art Gallery. In discussing his thoughts on the place of craft and its function, he made a key point which I felt was beautifully simple: that objects speak – to us, for us or about us. Instead of focussing on the obvious connection between maker and object, he spoke about the connection between object and the person experiencing it.
Quickfire presentations by Genevieve Packer, Anna Marie White, Renee Bevan, Paul Rayner, Esther Lamb, Caroline Billing, Matt Blomely and Karl Chitham yielded a wide variety of work by new and established New Zealand craft artists, among them Tim Main, who has a sculpture exhibition opening at Milford Galleries Auckland in November, and Karen Denis, whose vandalised vintage under the pseudonym Trixie Delicious is frequently featured in home magazines worldwide.
Tim Main, Rangiora II (2007) DETAIL
Trixie Delicious, Vandalised Vintage
I was also engaged by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins’ talk and the ensuing discussion on the declining quality of craft and design education. Essential skills and knowledge in these areas are falling victim to “credentialing” culture, as Polytechnics shift their focus away from practical training and toward providing qualifications. There was speculation on how early craft skills should be introduced into the curriculum and how we instill value for these skills in future generations.
All in all it was a stimulating conference and a welcome reminder of the passion that drives artists, designers and craftspeople to create.