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Makers Eye: Stories of Craft

BROWNSWORD, Neil (2021) Makers Eye: Stories of Craft. Crafts Council. (Unpublished)

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Maker’s Eye: Stories of Craft celebrates the breadth, diversity and qualities of craft, and includes numerous craft objects made in the UK over the course of the last 50 years.
Neil Brownsword was one of 13 makers invited to curate up to 15 objects from the Crafts Councils collection which explored diverse views on craft and making at its centre. Each of the maker-selectors have work in the Crafts Council Collections. Together, they represent a cross-section of craft interests, disciplines, career stages and models of practice. Curators were asked to in response to the brief: “What does craft look like and mean to you?”.

Selectors included:
Assemble (Amica Dall & Giles Smith), Michael Brennand-Wood, Caroline Broadhead, Neil Brownsword, Dr Christine Checinska, John Grayson, Ineke Hans, Angela James, Michael Marriott, James Maskrey, Freddie Robins, Matt Smith, Esna Su, Simone ten Hompel

Central to Brownsword's approach to his selection were notions that 'craft' remains a fluid and discursive platform, dominated by a series of binary oppositions through which philosophies and practices often straddle the ‘in-between’. Through its heterogeneity, it can be concerned with: making or unmaking; material specificity, or employ the detritus of mass production; archaic/traditional methods, or cutting-edge digital tools; slow-paced meditative action, or expressive immediacy; procedural know-how that maybe hackneyed, formulaic, repetitive - or irrational, ‘sloppy’, sporadic, intuitive process; time-served technical precision, or amateur/hobbyist gratification; domestic and utilitarian effectiveness, or a means of protest and activism…. This multiplicity that underpins craft as both idea and action underpinned Brownsword's curatorial process.

'Immersed in a world of traditional know-how via my own industrial apprenticeship, the layers of socialisation and complex bonds forged through collective skill, together with systems of explicit, material and haptic knowledge have since offered me rich scope for interdisciplinary research and practice. No matter what form or expression my work takes, it remains underpinned by a ‘rigour’ that derives from thinking through praxis. The practitioners represented in my selection demonstrate sophistications of ‘knowing’ through this process of immersion from a variety of perspectives. None are characteristic of recent paradigm shifts, where practices are situated within or framed by the much-vaunted ‘turns’ of the art world. Instead they are selected to reflect a period of time that was formative in shaping of my own modes of thinking and creative identity. Primarily concerned with medium specificity, materiality and ‘objectness,’ all have a personal resonance, where past and present, and the intentional and unintentional often collide.

As an undergraduate student I remember being captivated by the tactile experience and meditative repetition of Takeshi Yasuda. Interrogating ‘for hours’ the subtle nuances of making a handle for one of his vessels, where every detail from preparation to execution was considered. Gillian Lowndes approach to salvage and transformation says everything about pushing the boundaries of curiosity and materiality that challenged puritanical notions of making and what ceramics could be. Often working with an unorthodox mix of materials through variants of heat, she facilitates the unexpected and epitomises David Pye’s ideas surrounding the ‘workmanship of risk.’ Richard Slee’s work has always struck a personal chord though its embrace of popular culture and the domestic ornament. It mirrors much of the banality of early twentieth century ceramic mass production - a ‘lowly’ material culture which surrounded me as a child through collections my grandmother accumulated through numerous factory work.

Revisiting objects and makers that I had once been inspired by, and with distance reassessing my understanding of them, was perhaps the most rewarding aspect of being involved in this curation. I invested a great deal of time trawling the Crafts Councils database, re-evaluating things I’d previously overlooked from its early history, and discovering emerging makers from more recent times. What was interesting was seeing how the shape of craft has been constantly redefined. It also represented an important opportunity to propose a contemporary maker for the collection, who exemplifies my present understanding of craft through its embrace and reimagining of the past'.

Item Type: Other
Faculty: School of Digital, Technologies and Arts > Art and Design
Depositing User: Neil BROWNSWORD
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2022 10:58
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 14:02
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