Author Archives: cherissebrown

Defining the bridge between Art and Craft

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For pieces of contemporary art which are produced using techniques such as sewing face an on going battle as to which box they should be placed by society, should they be defined as craft or art? But how do we reach our conclusions on these definitions and how have they been reached?

‘Much has been made of the need to erase false distinctions between art and craft, “fine” art and the “minor” arts, “high” art and “low” art…’(Lippard, 1995).

Here Lucy Lippard raises the question of the boundary between both art and craft by defining them as “high” and “low” forms of production. To gain an understanding of why craft has often been distinguished as a “low” form of creativity we need to look at how craft has progressed from needlecraft and embroidery in the home and how socio-political changes have influenced its move into a popular form of expression. The first major turning point for craft in Britain was the production of textiles in the Industrial Revolution. Pawson, E. (1979) explains the increase in consumer demand for textiles as, ‘People were beginning to ask for- and were able to pay for- more than just the bare essentials, the necessities of life.’ This change in appeal and demand for textiles led to its industrialisation and took the art of weaving and sewing out of the home and into factories where fabrics could be produced on a larger loom and at a greater pace. Enabling this mass production meant there were more jobs readily available, and although women were wanted in the factories due to their higher knowledge of the production of textiles they were still expected to carry out their roles in the home. The workplace was not an even playing field for men and women and this was reflected in both job roles and pay.

‘Supervisory roles were almost exclusively taken by men, and men also came to operate the most expensive and sophisticated machinery and to monopolise the high status and higher paid jobs even in textiles.’(BBC, 2011).

It is this move of women’s labour out of the home and into the public sphere, which is a turning point to defining craft as a skill and craft which is viewed as an art form.

The development of an ideology of femininity coincided historically with the emergences of a clearly defined separation of art and craft…The art/ craft hierarchy suggests that art made with thread and art made with paint are intrinsically unequal: that the former is artistically less significant. But the real differences between the two are in terms of where they are made and who makes them. Embroidery, by the time of the art/ craft divide, was made in the domestic sphere, usually by women, for ‘love’. Painting was produced predominantly, though not only, by men, in the public sphere, for money. The professional branch of embroidery, unlike that of painting, was, from the end of the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, largely in the hands of working class women, or disadvantaged middle-class women (Parker, 1984).

In this extract by Rozsika Parker she raises the key issues of how art and craft have come to be seen as two separate entities. Right up until the late 20 Century crafts such as needle work were seen as something which should be kept private and in the shadows, it is the idea of class and money which caused this secrecy. Up until when needlework became fashionable it was seen as something done by the lower and middle classes, who simply couldn’t afford to buy new, ready-made items, so instead took on the philosophy of ‘Make do and mend’. It comes down to the availability of materials and the history behind society, women who, were from upper class families would never have learnt nor been expected to make do and mend, they were the ultimate consumer who would pay others to make new items to replace those damaged or out of season. However for the lower classes it was a necessity to repair and patch things up, lower and middle class women would have worked to make ends meet unlike those of the upper classes who would not dare be seen to be doing such things (Parker, 1984).

Both Lippard and Parker raise key issues and questions about domesticity and the movement of craft skills from private to public. Parker reflects more upon the history of craft pre Renaissance whilst Lippard takes more of an interest in the more recent industrial revolution and how this enabled women to begin to make their move into the public sphere from their private homes where, Parker points out they have been pushed from due to class. Pawson also allows us to understand that the industrial revolution was a turning point where by men started to interact with textiles. Lippard shows how the change in women’s roles has caused us to question if craft works can really be classed as “hobby art” (Lippard, 1995). However, it is important to define how I choose to differentiate between needlework, embroidery and hobby art. Hobby art is something which remains in the home, whilst needlework and embroidery could fall under the same title, but as Parker makes clear in the above quotation, embroidery also took place in the home, by women for love. So really it is the more general area of needlework I am considering, although the works of contemporary artists who use craft may be referred to as hobby art, it has clearly advanced to more than this.

The journal article, ‘ A stitch in Time: Third-Wave Feminist Reclamation of Needled Imagery.’ By Ricia Chansky (2010) raised many interesting and new avenues. Chansky questions why feminist artists choose to use needlecraft to carry their message, considering whether it is perhaps ironic, or just ingrained in the, or indeed to do with reclamation.

Chansky goes on to point out that their foremothers fought so hard for their rights to equality not only in the work place but the home and society. There was a time when their foremothers were expected to sew and be homemakers, in fighting for their rights many of the skills of the home were left behind; perhaps this is about reclaiming them once more, declaring victory in the on going battle for equality. Chansky also suggests it could be about having a sense of ownership over these skills. Chansky (2010) states in her article, ‘The needle is an appropriate material representation of women who are balancing both their anger over oppression and pride in their gender.’ Though Chansky’s article only considers feminist art works and possibilities for their choice to respond in this medium, her writing could still be applied compared to why male artists might wish to claim a stake on crafted works. With ongoing battles for equality in society it is possible to consider that through making a claim on craft men are breaking the age old stereotype of a woman’s role is to be the keeper of the house.

Inside the White Cube

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For a project similar to Outside the White Cube  I experimented with how to interact with the traditional gallery space of the white cube, so called because of its cube like nature and the fact that most spaces are pristine white walls on every side before the work has chance to interact with them. In this project I was required to build the work for the space as opposed to designing a work and then finding where it fits into the gallery. For me this was an initial challenge as each artist was assigned a space that could amount to no more than one metre cubed and having to consider how to fill a space definitely played tricks on my mind. Through tireless research and determination to grasp the understanding of how this pending work would fit into the space I realised that the answer lay right under my nose, in the form of colour in the tradition white cube gallery space. I obsessively gathered wool in an array of colours but being unable to knit left me with the puzzle of how to draw them all together. I began to experiment with different techniques such as making pom-poms but this didn’t have the effect I desired, I decided the design needed to be more linear in order to emphasise how it interacted with the space and thus began to wrap willow stick in the wool in precise measured blocks of colour. When placed together the sticks interacted with the space in every dimension as they formed their own tensions, relying on each other for support and flowed across open space held in place by gravity and the placement of the wall and floor.

Colour is a key theme across all of my works and whilst this may be more minimal compared to some of my other works it still carries the same notes of craft and production and drawing together of simple everyday things to make something captivating and eye pleasing.

Outside the White Cube

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IMG_0168For a project titled ‘Outside the White Cube’ I experimented with the concept of scale and once again taking items which had an aspect of play associated with them, model train accessories. Using the small scale people, trees, animals and buildings that are used in creating model train sets I took them away from their function and placed them in every day scenarios across York City Centre, essentially invading the town with a mini community intervention. The work was not only to do with the key aspects of scale and play but also to see how the public reacted towards them, to perhaps illustrate that we are often in such a hurry in our home city that we never stop to appreciate and truly take in what surrounds us.All of us are guilty of being so pre-occupied that in reality there could be real life mini towns within our towns and we would be non the wiser.

Mail Art

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Mail art is a process via which you assume a new identity and send art through a secret contact list in the Royal Mail postal system. It is through Mail Art that I first began to experiment with textiles and their ability to provide a fun narrative or a childhood enjoyment. I recall when I was younger sitting in on stormy days making making puppets out of my dad’s socks, I realised that these would be relatively easy to send via post and fun to play with. As the correspondences grew and grew throughout the network I began to give the characters I created human qualities. Illness and instructions on how to care for them, allergies, favourite activities etc. I was fast to identify that this process was not just about the enjoyment of what I was producing but the method through which I was achieving it. Learning to use a sewing machine and planning how to create the desired creature became a fun time consuming act and I started to consider scale. What would happen if I made a giant sock rabbit? I hurried around gathering as many white socks as i could and started to form a giant sock rabbit with the added help of a little felt and some chicken wire to help it keep it’s shape and hey presto I had one giant, fully functional sock rabbit!

Whilst producing this giant I also continued to make the small toys too, but I had to figure out how to display all the mail art I had received. I decided to run with the theme of fun but to also consider the history of mail in transit. It soon dawned on me that carrier pigeon’s were my solution. However due to my disliking of the creatures I couldn’t get real ones so instead had to settle for some decoy pigeons rigged up with sound. I feel this added to the surreal experience my work offered as whilst these pigeons had all the features of their feather friends they would never be able to take flight.

And the build begins!

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The build for Create’13 is fully underway..What will you discover?

Emily Whistlecroft

Now the official 10 day countdown begins! The art block is buzzing with activity and progress is definitely being made! The space is being cleared and the walls are being built and sanded ready for that fresh clean coat of paint!

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Ronald Rabbit

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From a young age I have simply loved to burrow, I would burrow all day long given half the chance! It got to a point though where I was digging burrows that were so deep my mother, Berta, would send me off with a pocket full of carrots and turnips to keep my energy up and so I wouldn’t get too hungry. I used to grumble when she gave me the packed lunch and sent me on my way but today I realised just how grateful I was. Today was the day I made my debut into the world of adulthood you see, I left the family warren on a mission to find myself and see the world and all it has to offer for myself. As I was putting my pro- burrowing skills into action and cursing the extra-weight of my mothers food parcel I realised I had left my map on my desk, so I turned around and headed back only to find the tunnel had collapsed! So terribly that even I couldn’t burrow back out of it, so I now had no choice but to carry on forwards. I guess this is the true meaning of adventure! I can only imagine where I might end up…so you will have to forgive my lack of picture..I will have to get back to you on that one once I burrow my way back into the light. But for now I’m going back to eating those carrot sticks I am very grateful for! My mum even packed me a tasty bit of carrot cake for dessert, I do love that raisin and carrot combination!

Colin Cat

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Bojour! You enjoying my moustache? Bet you think I’m French and a chef don’t you… WELL DON’T BE SO ASSUMING.

Ahaahahaha your face was a picture! Just joking I am French really,well half french anyway, on my Mum’s side and my Dad is English hence my peculiar looks. I prefer to call myself quirky and edgy personally.Where do I see myself in 12 months time you say? Well as a model obviously! I hear the likes of Vogue love that foxy and edgy look and let’s be honest I am clearly both. In fact I don’t like to brag or anything but after 23 months of pestering one agency in particular day in and day out-quite literally might I just add. Except for Christmas and my Birthday of course. Anyway they tried to get me to stop calling but my persistence has finally paid off! They FINALLY answered the other day with some amazing news! They said they have a job coming up and they think my look is just perfect for it, they are even paying for my travel costs and a place to stay and they think I will work so well in this job they have only booked me one way tickets! I just can’t believe my luck! I’m a true professional now you know darling! But be sure to look out for me in the show they are sending me for. It’s called Narnia, yep, I can see it in your face now, you are well jealous!

Crunch Crocodile

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Hello there old chap! How are you? Don’t worry I won’t bite. Wait! Unless…you are one of those pesky shrimps. But you don’t look like one of them so you’re okay, those annoying little things are always running around trying to clean my scales, I manage to keep them away from most but when i can’t reach the ones on my back my arms are too short. It’s not that I don’t want to be clean you see but they charge excessively high rates, except for Jacque of course, he does a very good job. But the other’s…well..they make me look all soft and cuddley and I have a reputation to uphold with a name like Crunch and all. I’m in charge of these here waters you see and the shrimp have to do what I say! But Jacque talks in his sleep sometimes. I hear him saying something about the uprising and the formation of a mutiny because I won’t let the other shrimp work for me. He speaks of how they want to carry me off to a place they call Narnia while I sleep one day. So I’m trying to keep an eye open at all times. This is my watering hole and I refuse to be parted from it. I’ve managed to stay awake for 5 days now…not sure how much longer I can last but I refuse to end up in this place they speak of.

Chrissy Caterpillar

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O! O hello! Sorry I didn’t see you there! I know, I know I have big eyes but you see I had a run in with a bee once and now I can’t see so well…and then that, well that combined with my gigantosaurus size means I find it so very hard to negotiate my way around. Are you  staring at me? O! yes I think you are, I suppose you’re wondering how I got so large aren’t you? Well as you might of guessed by the end of my species name -osaurus, I am in fact an ancient dinosaur. I was just out for a morning walk one day stretching out my segments, they fold up a bit like an accordion when I sleep you see and it all gets a little uncomfortable by morning. Anyway where was I? O yes, so I was out for a walk with my friend Terry, who was a Triceratops when suddenly it got very cold and then that’s all I remember. Till the other week when a man called Sven found me and thawed me out. He looked a bit confused when I started to move and from what little Norwegian I understand he was harping on about it being like a creature out of something called Jurassic Park. The next thing I knew I was being put into a large box and onto this peculiar silver gigantosaurus that didn’t talk but he could walk on water very quickly. I had a quick read and this box I’m in says Destination: Narnia. I hope it’s nice there.

Frederick Flamingo

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Why Hello there! My name is Frederick and as you have probably already guessed I am not the most conventional of Flamingo’s. You may be used to seeing my cousins roaming around and having a little paddle at the zoo or along a nice coast line somewhere with their pretty pink feathers. They get their cute Barbie pink colour from eating brine shrimp and blue-green algae and my gosh you just can’t shut them up, they just love to chit chatter and that’s why you always see them sauntering around in their hundreds. But I had to get away you see, I grew up with 151 female relatives you see and it was just too hard to deal with all that gossiping and scheming. So I just upped and left, heading North and hoping for the best. I found my self a quaint, private little watering hole. it was quite lovely and there was even tiny bearded man who was very dedicated to fishing, he never left! But then these other white birds with funny long birds just appeared and where like
‘hey this is pond’ I politely explained that I didn’t know what a “pond” was or how they could own it. They were very brash and told me it was private property so I said goodbye to the bearded man and left him a few feather to keep him warm in the decreasing temperatures. I son stumbled across a new watering hole which was simply ideal! I was surrounded by lots of small yellow birds whom were very quiet yet impressively friendly. People would just come hook them out of the water and a strange man, the owner of the other ducks was very taken by my presence and people started giving him little round shiny metal objects to look at me. We traveled all over and the friends people would feed me all sorts, my favourite was the blue stuff called candy floss. That was when my beak and face started to turn blue and I developed these odd black spots. I was severely depressed for a few days and the people didn’t come, even the little yellow birds drifted away from me but soon more people started to come see me than before and were very keen to feed me. I feel so loved in this place they call The Travelling Fare and soon I am moving to a new home with new friends called Narnia I believe. #excited!