After reading Edmund de Waal’s interview in crafts magazine article -In black and white- in which de Waal talks about craft as a practice and where he feels sits within the range of visual arts disciplines, I was left feeling that a lot of questions that I have had during the years where answered by Edmund de Waal’s eloquent comments. For so long I have dipped my toes and fingers into so many “lagoons” not wanting to be confined to one or the other.
It’s taken me two weeks to be able to initiate my new course Ideas and processes. I felt I needed to really assess this part of the course and reflect on what I have done so far and where I am going.
Getting back to The interview with Edmund de Waal, there were many things that he said that struck me like: His referencing of visual arts or disciplines within the arts as ” lagoons”. I enjoy the fact that he is proud of his origins as a potter and he is not bothered if people want to put him in the craft section rather than the fine arts section, or “box” or ” lagoon” as he describes them in the article.
In the article in Crafts Magazine he says:
“Craft is the great otherness in our culture. It’s little understood, its extraordinary revelant and powerful. It goes deep into peoples lives. It’s Catalitic it changes the world. It reaches deep into unknown histories that are only beginning to understand. It crosses identities and genders and ethnicities in incredibly powerful ways. So it’s in profound need of celebration and critical celebration. I talk about myself as a potter. I always do. I don’t care about what other people talk about me as. So I don’t believe in the lagoon. And I will always, always, always stand up and champion my early experiences: making things, making a mess, doing things at school, apprenticeships, keeping going the need for art colleges, and the strangeness of craft within a culture that wants to make everything glossy.”(Subject to copyright notice)
This section of the article is very powerful and mind blowing; it cements the way I have always felt about crafts and art. In my younger days I struggled with the word “crafter” and took it almost as an insult. I never knew whether I belonged in the ” arts lagoon” or the “crafts lagoon” and always wondered what the difference was?. When I was a little girl I felt that the word craft was degrading or less than “art”. I saw art as something that the old masters did, generally men. In art college I studied the history of art and there was not one female artist in my book (I studied art in Spain back in the 80’s). Crafts were what women did while having a good gossip (at least that’s how I saw it) This article reminds me of how far I have come and how the “lagoons ” within the visual art practices can be less defined.
De Waal’s interview comforts me. It confirms what I have always believed but found hard to express. Crafts are little understood and often put down by the general public. Yet for so many of us, they delve deep into our lives. It’s a way of expressing ourselves. It’s amazing how the same craft can be interpreted in so many different ways, depending on the environment around us; history, resourses, weather, visual setting etc. I have just read the book ‘how to Steal like an artist’ and it’s all about taking from other artist, people, films, books, etc and making it your own. All the influences around us makes us “us” and reflect in our art or craft.
So what about me then? I still don’t know what lagoon I belong to. I am not sure I want to belong to any. I quite like dipping in and out and, as De Waal says ” making things, making a mess” and see where it gets me is more important at this stage. I belive that the visual arts or “lagoons” are all connected and feed into each other. Arts can be crafts and crafts can be art.
I do worry about our future children and young people as schools and colleges are cutting art in their curriculum. I think of my younger-self and wonder how lost would I have been without those subjects at school. It was the one subject I excelled at! And one I could express and find comfort in. Arts and crafts made me question so much around me and helped me find answers too.