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The New Politics of the Handmade: Craft, Art and Design
is a forthcoming publication on contemporary craft politics edited by Anthea Black and Nicole Burisch.

The New Politics of the Handmade examines the role of contemporary art, craft and design as part of a dramatically shifting global economy. Current interest in virtually every aspect of the handmade appears in Do-It-Yourself, Craftivism, sustainable living, decolonial practices and aesthetics, and a new focus on labour and materiality in visual art and museums. The handmade has become inseparable from capitalist modes of production and consumption, and this change demands new understandings of objects, aesthetics and labour. New writing and artists projects by international scholars and practitioners look at the politics of scarcity, hoarding and sustainability, craftivism and ‘ethical’ consumption, urban space and new technologies, race, cultural heritage and sovereignty. The authors offer a radical rethink of the politics and economics of the handmade, and claim craft as a dynamic critical field for thinking through the most immediate issues of our time.

About the editors:

Anthea Black is an artist and cultural worker based in San Francisco and Toronto, Canada. Her writing has been published by Bordercrossings, No More Potlucks, Carleton University Art Gallery, and FUSE magazine where she was a contributing editor from 2008-2014. She has exhibited in Canada, the US, Norway and The Netherlands, and curated No Place: Queer Geographies on Screen and PLEASURE CRAFT. In 2012, she was the Viola Frey visiting scholar at California College of the Arts, where she is now an Assistant Professor in Printmedia and Graduate Fine Arts.

Nicole Burisch is a critic and curator based in Ottawa, Canada. Her writing has been published in Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Cahiers métiers d’art-Craft Journal, No More Potlucks, and dpi: Feminist Journal of Art and Digital Culture. She has worked with organizations such as Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, Artexte, and Centre des arts actuels Skol and was a 2014-2016 Core Fellow Critic-in-Residence with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Writings by Black and Burisch are included in The Craft Reader (BERG) and Extra/ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art (Duke University Press), Making Otherwise (Carleton University Art Gallery) and together they have lectured on craft, curating, and politics in Canada, the USA, and the UK.

Acknowledgements:
Black and Burisch wish to acknowledge the support of Canada Council for the Arts, Grants to Independent Critics and Curators, Ontario Arts Council Craft Projects – Connections, and The Center for Craft Creativity and Design.

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The Ladies’ Invitational Deadbeat Society’s limited edition DO LESS WITH LESS / DO MORE WITH MORE cross stitch pattern poster was first printed at the Alberta Printmakers’ Society in June 2012. The slogan was inspired by a discussion held during Artivistic’s Promiscuous Infrastructures project at Centre des arts actuels Skol in Montréal, Québec about how artists and non-profit arts organizations negotiate the constant pressure to do more with less. Reissued for FUSE Magazine‘s last issue, LIDS proposes that we resist the capitalist logic of constant acceleration, productivity, and austerity budgets by reasserting a realistic level of production within our means. Use LIDS’ handy pull out pattern to stitch a banner for your own office and hang in the orientation of your choice!

A version of the poster was also printed in PHONEBOOK 4, directory of independent art spaces, programs, and projects in the United States, in 2015; and it has been included in exhibitions Beginning with the Seventies: Glut, at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC in 2018 and Creative Cloth: Aesthetics and Apparel at Museum London, London, ON  in 2019.

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Ladies Invitational Deadbeat Society, DO LESS WITH LESS / DO MORE WITH MORE, FUSE Magazine 31-1 WINTER 2013-14 PATTERN PULLOUT.

Photo credits: Olya Zarapina

The relationship between arts economies and austerity is a tumultuous one. We need only recall Stephen Harper’s sneering 2008 categorization of artists as rich complainers as evidence of the persistent myths that are used to devalue artistic work as “non-essential” during times of economic crisis. And yet, while the global commercial art market continues to experience steady growth and record-breaking auction sales, this profit-oriented circuit is neither possible nor desirable for many artists. Given the rich history of art works that engage with economic exchange–from artists’ storefronts and corporations to drop-out culture and performative actions of refusal–we are interested in considering the ways in which artists negotiate and respond to the simultaneous devaluation of artistic work, and increasing pressures on artists, cultural workers, and funding agencies to behave as financial speculators. In a climate of austerity budgets and precarious labour, we ask: how do artists, cultural workers, and institutions adapt and situate themselves? What kinds of identities–within cultural work and more broadly–are produced by capitalist accelerationism? On October 24 2014, as part of the UAAC conference held at OCADU in Toronto, I co-chaired a panel with Anthea Black on Performing Austerity: Artists, Work, and Economic Speculation. The panel included papers by Shannon Stratton, Michael Maranda, and Kirsty Robertson. To introduce the panel and frame some of the issues presented in the papers, we also drafted a letter to the UAAC community. What follows is a working draft of that letter that we are inviting our colleagues to read, sign, and comment on.

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The Subversive Stitch Revisited: The Politics of Cloth will explore the legacy of Rozsika Parker’s groundbreaking book, The Subversive Stitch: embroidery and the making of the feminine (1984) and two landmark exhibitions from 1988 that developed Parker’s ideas. It will consist of a two day event held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and an online resource that will include documentation of the event.

Anthea and I presented our paper “From Craftivism to Craftwashing: consuming and co-opting the politics of craft” on Saturday November 30th at 2pm as part of the session The Activists’ Stitch: from Craftivism to ‘Craftwashing’.

Full event info here, and on Twitter. Podcast version of our talk available here.

SKILLSHARE
A day of craft research and discussion at Artexte
Une journée de réflexion sur l’artisanat à Artexte

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November 16, 2013, 2:30-7PM // Le 16 novembre 2013, de 14 h 30 à 19 h

(le français suit)

2:30-3:30pm: Tour of the Artexte collection and presentation of selected materials and items
A guided tour of the Artexte collection and facilities, followed by a presentation on Nicole Burisch’s research at Artexte.

As 2012-2013 researcher in residence, Nicole Burisch has been investigating the presence and position of craft within Artexte’s collection. Recent developments in craft theory have been marked by a shift away from traditional definitions of craft as necessarily linked to specific materials (such as ceramics, textiles, or glass). Burisch’s research at Artexte builds upon this stance to look at how craft’s qualities appear throughout the collection – resulting in an intuitive and highly personal search for representations of materiality, handwork, labour, skill, process, texture, tactility, pattern, function, rural and “folk” cultures. Using this broader view on where craft might be located, Burisch has gathered a selection of items and excerpts from the collection that together raise and respond to the following questions: How are aspects of craft positioned or deployed within other fields? Which of craft’s qualities or knowledges are useful in communicating certain values or ideas? How has this shifted in relation to other art historical moments or movements?

The results of this research have been gathered together in a new publication: a limited edition bookwork that is half database and half zine. Produced through the repetitive acts of photocopying and (re)arranging, the publication traces the presence of craft in Artexte’s collection, while leaving room for gaps, contradictions, and future additions. Selected craft-based materials and items from the collection will also be on hand for consultation and discussion.

4:00-5:00 Lecture by Anthea Black and Nicole Burisch: From Craftivism to Craftwashing: consuming and co-opting the politics of craft
Craft has frequently been positioned as both a fix and foil for the ills of capitalism and alienating conditions of industrialization. The last decade is no exception, as a recent resurgence of hand-making in the fields of popular culture, design, and art, and the related practices of Craftivism, DIY, urban homesteading, and back-to-the-land, have been dubbed by some as a “craft revolution.” However, this fascination with all things handmade places emphasis on a romanticized notion of crafting (and often textiles in particular) as simple, fulfilling, and politically significant work. These assumptions about the status of craft operate in what is often a false opposition to mass production, consumer culture, and an increasingly technologized world.

In the almost-decade since the word “craftivism” has been used to describe the blending of craft and activism, a number of forces have complicated this relatively emergent dialogue and set of practices. We investigate how the particular qualities of craft have been conflated with notions of authenticity, individuality, and radical politics, and what this might mean in regards to changing notions of activism. If “greenwashing” refers to the use of branding to make a product seem eco-friendly while concealing its negative impacts, we introduce the term “craftwashing” to refer to instances where craft is used to market and perform political and social engagement while obscuring similarly sticky ethical, environmental, and economic impacts of global production and consumption.

-5:00-7:00pm: Book launch for Hay in a Haystack

This event is presented as part of The Deskilling/Reskilling of Artistic Production research-workshop and lecture series held at Concordia University, organized by the FoFA Gallery, and the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Heartfelt thanks to Sylvie Gilbert, John Latour, Felicity Talyer, karen elaine spencer, Eduardo Ralickas, Julie Fournier Lévesque, Éric Legendre, Sarah Watson, Jo-­Anne Balcaen, Anthea Black, Mikhel Proulx, Olya Zarapina. I am also grateful to the Canada Council for the Arts for their support of the research phase of this project.

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14 h 30 : Visite de la collection d’Artexte et présentation de livres et de documents sélectionnés par Nicole Burisch

Chercheur en résidence à Artexte en 2012-2013, Nicole Burisch a enquêté sur la présence et le positionnement de l’artisanat au sein de la collection d’Artexte.  Sous une notion élargie de l’artisanat, Burisch a réuni un ensemble d’objets et d’articles qui, à la fois, soulèvent et répondent aux questions suivantes : comment voit-on certains aspects de l’artisanat dans d’autres domaines artistiques ? Quelles qualités ou connaissances artisanales sont utiles pour communiquer certaines valeurs ou idées ? Comment cela a-t-il changé par rapport aux autres moments ou mouvements de l’histoire de l’art ?

Le résultat de cette recherche est rassemblé dans une nouvelle publication : l’édition limitée d’un livre d’artiste sous la forme hybride d’une base de données et d’un zine. En utilisant le processus répétitif du photocopieur et du réarrangement, cette publication trace la présence de l’artisanat dans la collection d’Artexte, tout en laissant la place aux lacunes, aux contradictions et aux ajouts futurs. Le lancement officiel de cette nouvelle publication aura lieu à 17h, après la conférence.

16 h à 17 h : Conférence d’Anthea Black et Nicole Burisch : From Craftivism to Craftwashing : consuming and co-opting the politics of craft

Dans la quasi décennie faisant suite à l’apparition du mot « craftivism » pour décrire la fusion de l’artisanat et de l’activisme, plusieurs forces ont brouillé ce dialogue alors émergent et l’ensemble de ses pratiques associées. Burisch et Black examinent comment les qualités particulières de l’artisanat ont été confondues avec la notion d’authenticité, de l’individualité et la politique et ce que cela signifie en regard de l’évolution de la notion de militantisme. Si l’écoblanchiment (greenwashing) fait référence à l’utilisation de la marque pour donner une image écologique responsable à un produit – tout en dissimulant ses impacts négatifs – est introduit ici le terme « craftwashing » pour désigner des cas où l’artisanat est utilisé pour commercialiser et effectuer l’engagement politique et social, tout en masquant les impacts éthiques, environnementaux et économiques de la production et de la consommation globale.

Cette conférence est présentée dans le cadre de l’événement The Deskilling/Reskilling of Artistic Production (la déqualification et la requalification de la production artistique), un atelier de recherche qui aura lieu à l’Université Concordia le 14 novembre, organisé par la Galerie FoFA et la Faculté des Beaux-Arts.

Merci à: Sylvie Gilbert, John Latour, Felicity Talyer, karen elaine spencer, Eduardo Ralickas, Julie Fournier Lévesque, Éric Legendre, Sarah Watson, Jo-­Anne Balcaen, Anthea Black, Mikhel Proulx, Olya Zarapina et au Conseil des arts du Canada pour leur soutien de ce projet.

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The Ladies Invitational Deadbeat Society (LIDS) and friends will be converging in Toronto at the end of May for a performance by Wednesday L AND an official BBQ book launch with our feminist pals! Join us on Sunday May 26th at 3pm at the Feminist Art Gallery for the launch of our new publication.

The publication documents our 2012 residency, the Incredisensual Panty Raid Laff Along and is now available through local LIDS distributors near you! This handy volume gathers together materials produced during the residency: photographs, texts, recollections, and ephemera. Designed by Olya Zarapina, this publication also features 3 new texts by feminist scholars Jennifer Kennedy, Mireille Perron, and Amy Fung.

Sixty of the books are covered in limited edition dust jackets/posters that we printed at the Alberta Printmakers’ Society in June 2012. The slogan on the posters: “Do More With More, Do Less With Less,” was inspired by a discussion about how non-profit arts organizations negotiate the increasing pressure to participate in business-based models and the “cultural industry.” A PDF excerpt of the publication, with an edited transcript of one of our Sunday Tea n’ Chats discussions, The Value Of Our (Collective) Work is available as a free sneak preview.

The Tory Burch FEED bag, one of the examples we address in our text.

Anthea and I have been busy working on a new body of research into the use of craft and crafted aesthetics as a form of political expression and identity construction. We recently presented a paper entitled, “Performing Austerity: Political Identities and the Co-option of the Crafted Aesthetic” at the Textile Society of America Symposium in Washington, DC. The theme of the Symposium was “Textiles and Politics” and we got to present as part of the fantastic Material Matters panel organized by Lisa Vinebaum, Ruth Scheuing, and Ingrid Bachmann.

The abstract of the paper is posted below, and there are more links, examples, and excerpts on the Performed Austerity website.

Craft has been positioned as both a fix and foil for the ills of capitalism and alienating conditions of industrialization, and the current moment, dubbed by some as a “craft revolution,” often romanticizes craft as simple, fulfilling, authentic, and politically significant work. This paper explores the use of crafted aesthetics in both consumption and anti-consumption models of social/political engagement to conspicuously perform values of personal agency, and social responsibility, as expressions of (life)style in an economic climate obsessed with austerity. We introduce the term “craftwashing” to refer to instances where craft is used to market fashionable goods whose desirability often obscures the sticky ethical, environmental, and economic questions around their production.