Chapter 3 : On Display
3.1 Jewellery and display
The usual definition of a museum is: ‘an institution that is a repository for the collection, exhibition and study of objects of artistic, scientific, historic or educational interest’ (The Chambers Dictionary, 2003). This conventional definition relates to Eilean Hooper-Greenhill’s description of the ‘mythical museum’, a term that encapsulates common notions of the museum setting and its associations of ‘preservation and conservation, of scholarship, and of displays based on aesthetic approaches to the layout of knowledge’ (Hooper-Greenhill 2004: 557). It also informs the presentation of many craft exhibitions (ibid.). The role of the museum is problematic, as noted by Sir John Pope-Hennessy:
...the whole museum situation is inherently an artificial one. The works exhibited were intended for a vast variety of purposes...the only purpose for which we can be confident they were not designed was to be shown in a museum...they have been wrested from their setting and alienated from whatever role they were originally intended to perform. This is the museum dilemma. (Pope-Hennessy 1975: 717).
Pope-Hennessy, a former director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and The British Museum, who was also director of European painting at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, began to consider the alienation of objects from their original context and question the role of design in museum display. In a 1975 article ‘Design in Museums’, Pope-Hennessy discusses the 19th century method of presenting objects in collections, thus facilitating comparative observation of aspects such as development in form, decoration and construction techniques. He reveals his appreciation for uniformity within the display case, a form of presentation that allows the viewer time and space to contemplate each object in succession ‘with unremitting interest’ (ibid.). The collection establishes conformity of layout and pieces, and its unifying function allows the viewer to engage with the material content and aesthetic detail of each object and to observe their differences. Pope-Hennessy describes the ideology that validates exhibits by allocating each a contextual narrative as ‘frequently conceived as a kind of cultural gloss on the works of art’ (ibid.). As an example, he cites the example of a display of classical vases at Munich’s Staatliche Antikensammlungen museum in 1973, which presented a collection of objects from varying styles and periods in order to provoke a dialogue based on aesthetic conclusions. Under such conditions taxonomy, chronology and geography are used as ways of organization and communication, but the cased objects remain detached from functionality and bodily involvement.
This consequence is problematic in terms of jewellery display, as objects within the display case are seemingly wrested from the body of the wearer. The first International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery at London’s Goldsmith’s Hall in 1961 presented designs spanning the years from 1890–1961. Pyramid-shaped display cases housed the work on display, which was curated to illustrate the varying styles and periods of jewellery over the 70 years covered. Display based on the principles outlined by Pope-Hennessy can still be seen in jewellery exhibitions, craft galleries and museums. The V&A’s William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery, which was opened in 2008, is arranged in sections covering periods from the ancient world to the present. Many international galleries also place emphasis on the display case. Elegant Armor: The Art of Jewelry, a 2008 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, reflected the display methods used for the Modern Handmade Jewelry exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1946. These exhibitions presented the work in collections, drawing on developments in form, decoration and design as a way to contextualize objects. Collections are usually presented using conventional structures such as plinths and lockable cabinets. These aim to provide a neutral and contained setting for these relatively small objects, and also respond to the gallery’s conservational efforts, security issues and the space available for presentation.
Manuals such as Margaret Hall’s On Display: a Design Grammar for Museum Exhibitions (1987), and Collecting and Displaying by Alistair McAlpine and Cathy Giangrande (1998), summarize conventional structures of display recommended for jewellery exhibitions. Display methods are catalogued under subcategories including cabinets, frames and mounts, plinths and shelving; elements that can be altered depending on the choice of lighting:
Sculpture and other three-dimensional objects often need plinths or stands to be fully appreciated. Even when an object can stand freely on a table or shelf, a plinth draws a visual line between the object and the display surface, giving it special prominence (McAlpine and Giangrande 1998:137).
There is a focus on the benefits of these conventional structures, such as how a plinth may draw the viewer’s attention to the proficiency of an object on display, by providing a platform that works with its proportions and presents no distractions. Hall comments on the arrangement of artefacts and the subtleties of design and meaning that are achievable in the display: ‘if objects are placed to emphasize the wealth of the users, the effect can be intensified by close grouping of the pieces’ (Hall 1987: 173).
Observations of the V&A’s approach to jewellery display reveal a conscious effort to create a dynamic, intimate viewing space in the design and layout of the display cases. These combine architectural creativity with sculptural grandeur, directing the viewer round a gallery space that has a backdrop of neutral materials and colours in order to emphasize the objects on display. Among examples of the intricate detailing necessary to create a pleasurable viewing environment is the use of non-reflective glass and acoustic rubber flooring. These aspects are drawn from the experience and knowledge of architect Georgina Papathanasiou of Eva Jiricna Architects (EJA) combined with the expertise of the V&A’s curatorial team. Veronica Simpson, who considers the methods used by architects to display craft, says the V&A gallery was redesigned to ‘fine tune the collection and the displays so as to maximize impact, giving as much emphasis, through spacing and positioning, to each gem as possible, and grouping them into logical, as well as chronological themes’ (Simpson 2008: 36). The pragmatic overview offered by the likes of Margaret Hall offers only simple advice through universal templates rather than reflecting the art-led designs of contemporary jewellery. It seems rudimentary compared to the creative solutions and developments revealed by the actual objects.
The role of the display case, which reflects Pope-Hennessy’s promotion of 19th century display methodology, demonstrates a perspective embedded in the history of the ‘cabinet of curiosities’ or ‘cabinet of wonder’. These terms were used to describe the objects that were exhibited as an expression of the interest in accumulating collections that developed from the 17th century (Putnam 2001). Intellectual curiosity influenced this drive to amass objects including scientific instruments and preserved animals and plants to create the first examples of collections, leading to the development of present day museums.
A contemporary example of this methodology was seen in The New Exhibition, a vast collection of contemporary international jewellery at Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne in 2010. Curated by contemporary jeweller Karl Fritsch, this reinterpretation of the museum’s permanent collection featured more than 100 jewellery objects, reflecting a multitude of artistic approaches. It demonstrated the collective method of display, which presents an array of ‘specimens’ to illustrate the diverse techniques, material content and concepts surrounding a particular form. The creation of meaning thus relies on subtleties established by placing objects next to each other to create a narrative by comparison. Carla Yianni argues that this arrangement of objects symbolizes the fact that 19th century knowledge lay within rows of specimens (Yanni 2005). Fritsch’s choice of objects was formulated to reflect the collection’s diversity, and exhibited within the setting of the glass-fronted display case. He explained: ‘I display many pieces from different people to form one big picture about, for example, what a ring or a necklace can be today’ (Fritsch 2010).
3.2 Reviewing the existing literature
In her article ‘Curatorial Conundrums: Exhibiting Contemporary Art Jewelry in the Museum’ (2010), Namita Wiggers describes various styles of exhibition practice that inform how craft is displayed. The contemporary, academic and media-specific museum is compared to the ‘encyclopedic museum’ (Wiggers 2010) which uses chronological modes of jewellery display. The role of this style of exhibition is identified by presenting ‘examples of works that are agreed upon by many curators, scholars and artists to be the finest examples of particular visual works’ (ibid.) The presentation of contemporary collections in this format is highlighted in the exhibition Kiff Slemmons: Artifacts into Art (2008) at Chicago’s Douglas Dawson Gallery, which was designed to present a range of objects in a practical exploration of jewellery’s history. Wiggers compares this approach with that of regional art museums such as the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington’s Tacoma Art Museum, as well as of craft-based museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon. She shows how the institutional setting can influence craft display by employing a regional narrative or by presenting craft-specific objects in order to create an alternative dimension to the larger, encyclopedic museum.
As noted in Chapter 2 with regard to the ‘museum dilemma’, the use of the display case removes the objects from the body and the interactive nature of their original design. Alternative display methods such as wall mounts and
installation of domestic furniture within encyclopedic exhibitions exemplify techniques that attempt to embody and contextualize the jewellery object within an everyday narrative. Ceramist Carol McNicoll’s exhibition in Norway’s Bergen Kunsthall (2001) presented ceramic objects on tables against a backdrop of decorative wallpaper in order to emulate a lived-in environment. This technique was also seen at the Galerie Sofie Lachaert stand at the Crafts Council’s 2010 Collect fair at London’s Saatchi Gallery, for which domestic furniture had been adapted to function as a display case and plinth, thus demonstrating the use of environmental settings within the gallery space. As noted by Hall, these ‘props and backgrounds’ are illustrative of ownership and are an informative tool in conventional display methods. They are commonly used to bridge the divide between displayed object and the body, by providing visual cues as to how the object is worn or used and by whom (Hall 1987: 174).
In terms of museum presentation, additional visual, audio or text-based information can provide a substitute for the museum docent, in order to guide the viewer and to mediate the sense of ownership and wearability with which the exhibited work is associated. The concept of ‘props and backgrounds’ may also incorporate interactive devices such as guided tours, demonstrations, digital wall panels and workshops that are introduced within the museum structure in order to provide a memorable experience for the visitor, while protecting work for future generations. Representational methods such as these equate to a layered method of communication within display methodology. For example, the development of dynamic environments within the gallery space has led to the exploration of experience and multi-sensorial engagement in exhibition practice. This is based on change, and dynamic display methods are illustrative of two or more different states of communication from those used in a static exhibition, thus demonstrating the creative role of narrative and ecological display types (Mensch 1992).
As a response to the museum’s educational function, new design strategies have engaged with the importance of ideas or concepts. The conceptual identity of an object or collection of objects is thus established as a narrative: an approach informed and structured round a storyline in order to contextualize the objects on display. A narrative pattern is used as an abstract dialogue in the design and formulation of an exhibition, and is developed in order to support understanding and provoke an emotional response through engagement.
The notion of a dynamic environment in terms of jewellery display offers an alternative approach to the encyclopedic approach to the display case. In terms of the display of American jewellery, Wiggers outlines the differences between conventional approaches and those that address the artistic developments evident in contemporary jewellery. As an example, she highlights the 2009 Equilibrium: Body as Site at the Rubin Center, University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). This ‘exhibition-in-print’ which became an ‘exhibition-on-view’ was designed to reflect the artistic content of the work on display, referring to concepts such as conceptualism and minimalism. An artistic environment was used, employing the stripped-down format of the white-walled gallery space: a design format that is associated with theoretical and analytical consideration. A sensory narrative was used to engage the viewer with the absent body, supported by a slide show available on the exhibition website. Caroline Broadhead's Necklace-Veil (1982) comprises a nylon cylinder that sits on the shoulders, towering above the head so the wearer becomes cocooned. This design, which exists between jewellery and garment, was presented to explore the performative aspect of the sensory experience of sight alongside a collection of images that documented the body’s physical interaction with the piece. The white-walled presentation space allowed the viewer to contemplate the conceptual meaning of an object, thus addressing the interdisciplinary relationship between jewellery and fashion and implying a sensory experience that is evoked through the object’s form and function. This emotive performance is thus both experienced by the wearer and perceived by the viewer, and supported by the visual documentation of photography.
The role of conceptual narrative and dynamic display methods has had little impact on jewellery discourse to date, and there are few examples of presentation in which the relation between jewellery and display is considered beyond the accepted structures outlined in Wiggers’ encyclopedic and art-led structures. One such example may be seen in the observations of Ellen Lupton, who addresses the concept of representation and display as a framing device within contemporary jewellery. In ‘Collect, Connect, Protect, Display: Framing the Art of Jewelry’ (2007) she refers to Jacques Derrida’s critical thinking on deconstruction and the importance of framing in The Truth in Painting (1987). Derrida defines framing as a marginalized form of artistic expression that is secondary to the primary artwork. Yet, Derrida argued, framing devices and their supportive structure are necessary in understanding the central work. Lupton identifies processes of construction and the subtitles of material that hold and support a jewel as significant constructs in an object’s meaning. She cites elements such as glue, or techniques that acknowledge the function of the mould and are recorded in the subtle suggestions of seams, air bubbles and deformities that are vital to the object’s being. She continues this line of thought by discussing jewellery’s ability to frame the body, thus drawing attention to the body’s role through adornment and its associated social and cultural meaning. Lupton concludes by addressing the ways in which jewellery can also be framed in cases, cabinets and the gallery space for the purpose of protection and display. Her selection of objects is unified by ‘the fundamental act of transforming materials and images by setting them apart from the realm of the ordinary’ (Lupton 2007: 29). In a press release produced by the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Wendy Miller describes ‘framing the art of jewelry’ as:
one component of a multi-faceted investigation of the art of jewelry that, at once, acknowledges the growing independence in the visual practices of art, craft and design, and poses theoretical questions about the way contemporary art jewelry is presented for the public experience (Miller 2007).
This observation reinforces the focus on display as a growing area of interest that aims to inform previous discussions on the triangular relationship between maker, wearer and viewer. It focuses on jewellery’s relationship with the body, in terms of both the worn object and one that is viewed, contemplated and experienced outside the realm of ownership, thus questioning how forms of presentation such as the museum setting and printed matter may establish bodily relationships between object and an audience.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, figures including the architect Frederick Kiesler and the photographers Herbert Bayer and El Lissitzky helped to create dynamic, interactive environments for the exhibition of art work, thus influencing the role of public experience within the gallery space. The viewer’s ability to move through the exhibition space and interact with display structures encouraged active participation, as demonstrated by Kiesler’s development of the Leger und Träger (L and T) free-standing display system of 1924. The creative use of lighting and inclusion of moveable panels allowed the audience to control the appearance of the artwork in Lissitzky’s architectural project Abstract Cabinet (1927–1928). Bayer’s creations Diagram of Field of Vision and Diagram of 360 Degrees Field of Vision initiated the use of ceiling, floor and wall space in the exhibition environment (Staniszewski 1998). This methodology recognizes the exhibition as a representational space that is responsive to the time and place in which the exhibit is experienced.
As noted by Mary Anne Staniszewski, creative practitioners of the time tended to ‘reject idealist aesthetics and cultural autonomy and to treat an exhibition as a historically bound experience whose meaning is shaped by its reception’ (Staniszewski 1998: 27). The reactive relationship between audience and designed space is informed by the wider social political context that shapes the interpretations of the viewer, thus indicating an emphasis on the role of the viewer and the potential to embed meaning through collaborative engagement. This principle has gone on to inform methods of participation in art and display as well as the area of audience development in museum methodology. A separate study would be necessary in order to document developments in new museology, but highlighting this movement in exhibition design history shows how display methodology can be integral to the design and construction of an artwork, rather than simply a compliant form of post-production presentation. Jewellery designed to be worn on the body or displayed as a static object may now be informed by the interactive intent seen in artistic practice. This interrogates the notion of how jewellery’s display may impact on the viewer, thus informing how it may be experienced and understood in the gallery space.
Approaches to viewer engagement, whether physical, emotional or intellectual, seem to view communication as a dual process, which both demands input from the viewer and requires display in the museum’s exploration of interactivity. Multimedia and interactive principles, as a response to an increasingly media-literate society, present ways of developing engaging environments in which the audience can be crucial to the production of meaning. Bonnie Pitman-Gelles suggests that interactive exhibitions:
provide a sense of discovery or direct experiences with objects. They appeal to a variety of senses and generally require the adult or child to handle materials, play roles, day dream, operate equipment and participate in play or work (Pitman-Gelles 1981: 35).
Pitman-Gelles investigates elements ranging from physical activity to the value of imagination and conceptual involvement, in order to address the process of contemplation and empathetic response in addition to the physical consequence of touch as a form of interactive experience. As Dormer notes on the relationship between jewellery and wearer: ‘you need to wear it, or, when not wearing it to leave it where it can be seen, or pick it up and turn it over in your hands’ (Dormer and Drutt 1995: 15).
Accessibility informs both the understanding and meaning of jewellery. The gallery space must be an area of consideration, because of the limitations conventionally imposed on physical interaction by concerns of security and conservation. A few contemporary jewellery designers and curators have addressed this consideration. At the beginning of the 1990s, jewellers began showing their work via installations and alternative venues as a way of creating an interactive dialogue as opposed to the encyclopedic approach seen in museums. Besten’s 2004 article ‘Beyond the Showcase’ documents the experimental steps taken during the 1960s and 1970s, reflecting on the presentation and representation of contemporary jewellery in accordance with these changing attitudes. Besten observes the changing image of jewellery over the last five decades, in terms of photography as tool that has allowed jewellers to create a context for their designs. She looks at the ‘clean, beautiful young girls, looking upside, in the future’ of the 1960s as a means of photographing the oversized, industrially inspired designs significant to the time (Besten 2004), presenting an approach which resulted in a body of striking images that reflected social attitudes aimed at the upcoming, youthful generation. Besten also explores the playful explorations of wearability and function with regard to the body of the 1980s and the impressionistic exploration of 1990s photography. These approaches were achieved collaboratively, by drawing on both the creative interpretations of the professional photographer and those of the jeweller.
Alongside her observations on jewellery and photography, Besten discusses the work of Ruudt Peters and the use of installation to submerge his audience in the context and ideas surrounding his work. The interactive environments in which his jewellery pieces were presented derived from his belief that jewellery should be touched. In Picasso (1998), tents suspended from the ceiling each housed a pendant that the viewer had to uncover. Viewers were invited into an individual viewing area segregated from the rest of the gallery space, thus offering a personal dialogue. Similarly, in Ouroboros (1995) Peters used the height of the gallery space by pinning brooches to the ceiling, providing access to each via a wooden step-ladder. Though the safety of the audience was compromised to too great an extent, meaning that the invitation to climb the ladders was often declined, Peters’ installations established a link with the dynamic environments and display structures that were explored in art during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Among contemporary exhibitions that pursue a similar interest in physical interaction is Touching Warms the Art (2008), curated by Rebecca Scheer, Rachelle Thiewes and Namita Wiggers at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Formulated as a practical response to Lupton’s theoretical considerations, this exhibition was also a reaction to Scheer’s review in Metalsmith magazine of the 2005 exhibition Beyond the Body: Northwest Jewelers at Play at Florida’s Tacoma Art Museum. The review attempted to address the lack of bodily interaction between jewellery on display and the viewer. The interactive display encouraged visitors to try on work created by sculpture students but was described by Scheer as a ‘petting zoo’. Concern over the loss of craftsmanship because of this approach to interaction raised doubts over the value of first-hand experience in the gallery space.
In Touching Warms the Art, the conclusion to her survey of curatorial practices in jewellery display, Wiggers documents its development as a means of promoting physical interaction supported by contextual reasoning in the museum setting (Wiggers 2010). In this, Hilde Hein’s observations of phenomenological values with regard to changing approaches to museum objects are significant (Hein 2000). Despite the theoretical approval of the value of touch in the exhibition space, the notion of the ‘petting zoo’ remains problematic. This is because the objects are purposefully made with touch in mind, so choice of material and construction techniques are guided by the intended form of display. This necessarily implies the use of durable or inexpensive material, thus offering only a limited view of jewellery construction techniques and meaning. The notion of wearabilty, as noted, is just one of many principles encompassed by the overarching concept of contemporary jewellery. As a result, Wiggers’ approach to introducing physical experience to the gallery space may be viewed as making a limited contribution to the quest to solve the curatorial conundrum of exhibiting contemporary jewellery.
Earlier attempts to activate the jewellery object in order to demonstrate ownership, wearability, materiality and scale were evident in the performative demonstrations of Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum, as seen in their exhibition of experimental clothing at London’s Electrum Gallery in 1972. The clothing’s structure, which reflected the minimalist forms and construction techniques used in their aluminium jewellery, offered the wearer freedom of movement and a sensory experience that was marked by the use of models to wear the clothing. More recently, this principle was explored in Ted Noten’s Tedwalk (2008), which featured a catwalk show and used models to wear the jewellery and to interact with the audience. This exhibition strategy provides a momentary glimpse of the activated jewellery piece in the artificial environment of the catwalk, or a movement within the gallery space that is directed by the jeweller. The jewellery object is often returned to the safety and permanence of the display case after a period of time.
Consideration of the materiality of an object uncovers a conflict between the conservational ideology of the gallery space and the interaction implied by the concept of jewellery. Christoph Zellweger demonstrates the contradiction between display and materiality by embracing the transitory nature of rubber, his choice of material in Chain (1994). The material inevitably disintegrates over time, suggesting the transient materiality of an object through illustrating its life cycle, and embedding within its surface a record of its history and the impact on the object of those who have come into contact with it. The material progression towards the unwearable sits uncomfortably with the notion of the white-gloved hands of the gallery conservation team, revealing the practical limitations of the technique of touch within display methodology. This format explores interactivity with an audience but does not fully explore the theoretical or practical content of such engagement regarding the embodied object.
3.3 Craft and the gallery space
The gallery space provides a challenging environment to investigate when exploring methods of display in jewellery. As indicated, conventional methods of display can offer little in terms of wearability, and overlook the contextual information that supports how a jewellery object is experienced or understood. Similarly, the personal ownership, function and everyday framework in which craft operates is what distinguishes jewellery and the crafts from fine art. Exhibits which explore display methods beyond that of the display case, and which place craft within a white-walled environment of an art institution, reveal the unsettled nature of the relationship between the arts and craft.
In Craft in Transition (2009) critic and maker Jorunn Veiteberg documents the difficulties she experienced in curating a craft exhibition at Norway’s Bergen Kunsthall contemporary arts centre. Veiteberg considers the comments made by critic Eva Furseth, who asked whether exhibiting craft in a contemporary art arena was too problematic, claiming: ‘the pieces do not seem to feel properly at home in the institutional context’ (Furseth, 2001). The large white walls of a gallery space and expanse of the room, she felt, strip all contexts from the craft object. As a response, Veiteberg reflects on the implications of the gallery space for fine art and the effect on craft when introduced into this environment.
The home... has been seen as a dangerous arena for art because it is a place where one does not have control over how art is presented. In the home, art is at risk of being trivialized and rendered ‘invisible’. This has led to greater ambivalence vis-a-vis craft in artistic contexts (Veiteberg 2004).
Critical assessments such as this underscore the importance of display and the way in which art is revealed to the public. In the gallery space, control over the way art is presented may be achieved by employing a neutral format. Reference to craft’s association with domesticity, in which craft is predominantly produced for interaction within the private sphere, presents a further problem: allusions to such an origin sit uncomfortably with the ‘please do not touch’ signs seen in the gallery or museum, as well as with the ‘art gaze’ that is associated with the white walls of the gallery space (Foucault 1970).
The implementation of a domestic setting in which household props and wallpaper backdrops are used in the gallery space offers a limited view of the presentational approaches open to craft display and the critical discourse with which craft is associated, in line with the concerns raised by Veiteberg. Craft, like contemporary jewellery, has been informed by the arts, resulting in works that explore the notion of functionality by symbolic or conceptual means in order to engage or subvert viewers’ expectations. As with jewellery, craft exhibitions are often associated with encyclopedic methods of presentation; objects are arranged in groups in accordance with function, discipline or age to allow them to be observed in terms of craftsmanship and form. The lack of development within craft display may be explained by its decrease in popularity compared to that of the arts. This is reflected in the fact that the term ‘craft’ is associated with confusion and preconceived notions.
The difficult relationship between the arts and craft was played out publicly when in 1986 The British Crafts Centre was renamed Contemporary Applied Arts (CAA), thus removing any reference to craft. Similarly, New York’s American Craft Museum became the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in 2002. Other museums have adopted the term ‘contemporary’ in an attempt to relinquish or challenge pre-determined notions of craft tradition, including Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft and Houston’s Center for Contemporary Craft in the US. Global financial pressure has also had an impact on the crafts, affecting the structure and availability of craft-based courses in a way that will continue to influence craft discourse. Over the last 10 years limited resources and the cost of facilitating and running craft-based courses in the UK has led to many course closures, as documented by the Crafts Council. These factors also influenced the closure of the Crafts Council’s gallery space in 2006.
In addition to economic factors, the interdisciplinary blurring of the boundary between craft and fine art has led to the integration of applied practice within more broadly based art or design courses (‘Craft course closures’; Crafts Council, 2009) and has been blamed for craft’s subsidiary position. This is an indication that institutions are under financial pressure to retain the traditional approach to craft exhibits. As a result, discussions concerning marginalization and the relegation of craft to the parameters of contemporary art and design has led to what Glenn Adamson describes as craft’s ‘stumbling block’ (Adamson 2006: 109), which alludes to the desire of many practitioners and writers to erode the art-craft boundary within craft theory. The current status of craft display within the fine art context is encapsulated in Adamson’s observation: ‘When the climate is so militantly hostile to an intelligent handling of craft, how is a curator who is interested in craft to navigate the shoals?’ (Adamson 2006: 110). This problem has caused recent ripples among curators and institutions who seek ‘rejuvenation’ and ‘new possibilities’ for craft both in terms of how the subject is understood and the environmental settings in which it exhibited (Simpson 2008; Charny 2011). New spaces such as Middlesbrough’s Institute for Modern Art (MIMA), which opened in 2007, provide adaptable spaces that allow art and craft to cohabit. The institute’s gallery, with its emphasis on space, light and scope, offers flexibility between small and large-scale displays. The three-year closure of Belfast’s Ulster Museum allowed for a dramatic redevelopment of the museum’s applied arts gallery, which was reopened in 2009. Head of Art Kim Mawhinney notes that the new space has provided a permanent display for the museum’s craft collection, saying that the gallery now has ‘a lot more flexibility both in terms of the size of exhibit we can display and how we display it’ (Simpson 2008: 34).
The Crafts Council’s strategies and plans document highlights the focus on craft and its display between 2008–2012. Public awareness and engagement was put forward as an objective, and the need for:
opportunities for the public to engage in contemporary high quality craft – both as attendees and participants – and to develop a robust evidence base to influence decision makers and funders (Crafts Council 2008: 16).
This comment illustrates a dynamic initiative that aims to address craft’s current profile within a wider cultural context and will support and engage those in and around the crafts now and in the future. This response reflects the optimism and interest that has been developing round craft in recent years. As Dormer and Turner previously observed: ‘There have been occasions… when it has been fashionable to set ‘craft’ on one side on the assumption that ‘craft’ is boring and plodding and somehow prevents the Phoenix of creativity from rising’ (Dormer and Turner 1985: 32).
Though craft has been deemed a subject that facilitates the creation of art and design practices, there is a continuing need to develop curatorial methods that engage with it as a subject in its own right. Alternative modes of communication have been developed beyond the gallery walls. This has been assisted by advances in digital and internet technology: forums including blogs, websites and crafting groups are creating multiple levels of perceptual space that respond to social and cultural changes. These avenues of communication offer makers access to their audience. In her survey of emerging American jewellers Cindi Strauss recorded the following comments from jewellery lecturers:
‘Our students like street fairs, clubs and underground exhibitions. I took students to Munich one year for Schmuck and they were completely fascinated by the guerrilla exhibitions in storefront spaces. They were really taken by their casual and brilliant methods of display, utilizing whatever means necessary to enable speed and accessibility within their resources, while maintaining a level of sophistication’ (Strauss 2010).
‘They are interested in alternative ways of presentation, which includes the internet as a way for visibility. Well, they are far more informed, with dozens of blogs, websites etc. for them to participate in, and these sources provide both desire and community. They like looking at work on Klimt02’ (Strauss 2010).
Many examples depict a generation of makers who are aware of their potential audiences and how to reach and engage with them. Political and social issues can therefore be addressed through a collaborative stance that responds to the technological capabilities of the internet and digital media. These examples range from the individual blog or web page such as Helen Carnac’s ‘Making a Slow Revolution’ (2009); the journalistic reflections of jeweller Laura Potter documented on her website (2003); and community-style databases such as the Art Jewelry Forum and Klimt02 (Cappello 2008) that were created to facilitate the exchange of information between the private and public spheres.
Re-evaluation of the nature of craft has also tended to view its marginalization in favour of art and design as a bonus. As a result, curatorial techniques have moved away from a previous tendency to categorize craft within disciplines of a single medium. This departs from the observations of Glenn Adamson, who in Thinking through Craft argues: ‘the limits embodied by craft are not only psychologically comforting, but also conceptually useful’ (Adamson 2007: 5). Adamson goes on to recognize the material and technical specificity of craft that is imposed by techniques, tools and the properties and characteristics of particular materials. These elements result in a form of ‘friction’ that informs craft dialogue and maintains craft as a ‘form, category, and identity open for further investigation’ (Adamson 2007: 5). This understanding of craft tradition offers a basis from which critical and conceptual understanding can be developed, rather than limiting the grounds in which craft operates. The exploration of this notion of friction in terms of ‘new museology’ curatorial methods was seen in Fred Wilson’s 1993 installation Mining the Museum for The Contemporary and Maryland Historical Society. The artist combined structuralist methods of display with irony to emphasize a political and social agenda. The intention was to critique the institutional context of the museum using an unexpected narrative, by exhibiting objects from its permanent collection alongside objects of emotional significance. The exhibit Metalwork 1793–1880 set ornamental silver vessels beside iron slave shackles. The difference between the material function and the construction techniques used to make these objects alludes to the indifference of Baltimore’s high society to the slavery on which its position was built. In this way, curatorial practice and exhibition design were actively used to establish an initiative in the display of the craft and art objects. Adamson’s response to the difficulties faced by the craft curator was to ‘treat craft as a subject, not as a category’ (Adamson 2006: 110). This indicates the need for dialogue and debate surrounding the approach to craft display, rather than keeping to the conventional modes of display that categorised craft.
Contemporary developments in the presentation of craft can be seen in the exploration of narrative, which involves the presentation of craft objects as a process. The varying approaches of a number of makers to practical enquiry and development can be seen in exhibitions such as Process Works (2007) at the University of Hertfordshire Galleries. Materials selected for this exhibition demonstrated both design development and the ways in which different makers approach their work. Helen Carnac and Lin Cheung, present two very different ways of thinking. In the representational image of a row of books, Cheung refers to her ability to visualize rather than record ideas. The spine of each book features a well-known title, altered slightly to contain a reference to jewellery. This suggests that design ideas can be found everywhere and that jewellery principles have the ability to occupy a jeweller’s every thought. Carnac's abundance of maquettes and illustrations, however, reveals a more systematic approach to design. The communication of thoughts and feelings experienced by the maker during the process of developing their work is documented in the exhibition catalogue (Harper 2007), which includes interviews, conversations and references to a number of their designs rather than the final object. The text that accompanies the exhibition argues that the development of a concept is a valuable part of a jewellery object; in communicating their disparate developmental methods each designer offers the viewer an enriched view of how jewellery is created.
Ruth Rushby refers to the completed work as a momentary pause in an artistic process, thus tacitly alluding to ‘work-in-progress’ exhibitions:
The completed body of work can be seen as a temporary conclusion giving an opportunity to pause for reﬂection. This may be perceived as a time to take stock, to question, to sift and generate ideas, to move forward in the cyclical process of the creative life and work of the artist (Rushby 2007: 7).
This structure is used by educational establishments as part of an institutional assessment practice that encourages students and teachers to measure progress towards a goal. This evaluation procedure gives students the opportunity to revise their work, reflect on current developments and receive feedback. It also allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and capability and becomes a showcase for their developing work. This approach is seen at the Royal College of Art’s annual Work in Progress exhibition. The curatorial approach of Process Works similarly builds on the didactic communication of the ‘how-to’ craft manual, illustrating the design and construction process as a personal pursuit, individually styled to suit each maker. The viewer is also given insight into the contextual reasoning behind each design and invited to observe what is normally a private process experienced only by the makers.
The Crafts Council initiative CraftCube, continues the curatorial investigation of process in a project that ‘presents new and exciting ways of displaying, interpreting and accessing contemporary craft with a focus on new technology’ (CraftCubes 2010). The CraftCube is a free-standing, transportable unit that provides, according to the Crafts Council website: ‘a complete, experiential display environment containing objects and dynamic interpretation’ that can be exhibited at various locations. The three-metre-square cubes, which are divided into two types, are used to present objects from the Crafts Council’s permanent collection and also to engage the viewer with practice-based research projects from across the UK. The visual portrayal of the workshop environment and the digital narration in each cube reveals the skills and processes involved in an object’s construction. The immersive environment is created to present and provide accessibility to a number of contemporary craft practitioners, thus promoting craft to a broader audience and exploring craft’s relationship with digital technologies. Audio-visual methods are used to represent the environment of the maker’s studio and their process of working alongside made objects such as Angela Jarman’s Nap, a sculptural glass object inspired by the stigma of a flower. Jarman’s interest in biology and nature combined with casting techniques is shown via a combination of a large-scale projection and tabletop mounted screens that feature a documentary of the making process. Merete Rasmussen’s Twisted Grey Loop is displayed with a video that documents her working process, revealing how such fragile, yet architectural qualities are achieved within the sculptural ceramic form. Both CraftCube: Collection and CraftCube: Research portray an inclusive method of communication, demonstrating aspects of an object that may be ambiguous or only implied in the final form. This challenges the importance of the physical object in contrast to the time-based narration that contextualizes an object through multimedia.
3.4 Case study: Victoria and Albert Museum
Periodic changes in craft display can be observed by exploring the strategies used by the V&A between 1973–2012. The V&A has held two major craft exhibitions in partnership with the Crafts Council in recent years: Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft in 2007 and Power of Making in 2011. These show a return to an ethos that has not been at the forefront of museum policy since 1973, when it staged The Craftsman’s Art, a survey of contemporary crafts. This exhibition was a response to the government’s formation of the Crafts Advisory Committee (now the Crafts Council) in 1971. It drew together objects from a range of disciplines including bookbinding, ceramics, furniture and textiles, in order to raise awareness of the talents of the contributors and demonstrate developments in craft over the previous century. The accompanying catalogue explored the concept of the ‘artist-craftsman’; ‘the craftsman’ and the ‘industrial craftsman’. These concepts involved work influenced by artistic expression, the tradition and skill of workmanship and collaboration with industry. This ethos sprang from The Arts and Crafts Movement, which developed as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and a desire to reinstate respect for the materiality and aesthetic pleasure of handwork. This led to a generation of craft makers who claimed autonomy within the arts, informed by material and technical knowledge.
At the time, the V&A regarded the alliance between craft and design primarily as an industrial presence that informed craft makers such as furniture designer Gordon Russell. His disillusionment following the destruction of war led him to embrace the integrity of material common to Arts and Crafts, but to explore the potential of machine production. The influence of Russell’s ‘Utility’ designs is reflected in the work of Wendy Ramshaw, a jeweller discussed in relation to the New Jewellery movement, who used batch production methods in the craftsmanship of a single piece of jewellery.
In line with its 2008–2012 objectives, the V&A has hosted a series of projects structured to present a survey of contemporary craft within its institutional setting. These exhibitions provide an insight into the attitudes and approaches being applied to craft and its display in Britain today. The V&A and the Crafts Council began working collaboratively in order to exhibit craft works of high quality. The move was inspired by a sense of disillusionment over the infrastructure available for craft with regard to available opportunities for exhibiting. It aimed to challenge perceptions associated with craft and most importantly, to bring contemporary craft to a wider audience. Craft curator James Beaton, noting that the closure of the Crafts Council’s own gallery was an underlying premise to Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft, described the period as ‘sink or swim’ in terms of the exhibition of craft (Beaton 2008).
As part of the desire to promote nationwide interest in the crafts, several exhibitions were held before The Craftsman’s Art. These included a series of two-person exhibitions, comprising the textile work of Peter Collingwood, the pots of Hans Coper (1969), the jewellery of Gerda Flöckinger and glass by Sam Herman (1971). In the catalogue that accompanies the Coper-Collingwood exhibition, Pope-Hennessy acknowledged the need to provide a platform for crafts within the art gallery:
It has long been clear that artist-craftsmen in Britain are suffering both from the indifference of commercial galleries to their relatively low-priced wares and from the absence of exhibition facilities in the larger museums. The series of exhibitions, of which this is the first, is intended to offer to outstanding craftsman the same opportunity for exhibiting their work that is enjoyed by successful painters or sculptures (Pope-Hennessy 1969).
Since the days of Pope-Hennessy the issue of how to present and contextualize craft objects in terms of the museum ‘dilemma’ has remained problematic for the V&A. The handling of this issue is influenced not only by the sense of confusion and the preconceived ideas associated with craft’s definition, but by financial implications and the closure of gallery spaces.
Alongside the introduction to Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft, Tanya Harrod reviews the steps taken by the V&A since The Craftsman’s Art in 1973. She observes: ‘the chief point of comparison between the two exhibitions is ambitiousness – of scale, of the design of the exhibition space and the content of imaginative accompanying catalogues’ (Harrod 2007: 209). The Craftsman’s Art attempted to show a huge and eclectic selection of objects, from the wood-carving of David Pye, to the industrially-produced jewellery of Wendy Ramshaw, along with rural crafts including shepherds' crooks, baskets and fishing rods. Harrod says:
It was big and ambitious, but to all but the informed The Craftsman's Art must have seemed an eclectic muddle, taking in biomorphism, caprice and whimsy as well as simplicity and mathematical rigour (Harrod 2007: 209).
Her remarks indicate that in 1973 the definition of craft and its associated objects had yet to find a clear narrative within the fine art context. This dilemma continues with Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft, which aimed to document the process of making which transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. It did not set out to offer a contemporary survey of craft disciplines and objects, as this is an objective already addressed in the V&A’s discipline-specific galleries. Instead, curator Laurie Britton Newell approached craft as something that can be used by artists in their work, rather than treating it as a category of objects or processes. The exhibition covered a range of traditional and new technologies including crochet, carving, glass-blowing, animation and laser-cutting. The work of eight contemporary artists demonstrated the common thread of transforming the ordinary to the spectacular in works such as Lu Shengzhong’s hand-cut installation Little Red Figure (2002). Shengzhong’s work consists of a vast collection of figures, individually cut from red tissue paper, that consume the artist’s allocated exhibition space. The collective outcome represents cultural meaning in which colour, material and process play an important role. In China, red symbolizes luck, and the traditional technique of paper cutting embodies vitality through repetition and variation, reflecting constant renewal as each outcome is different. The meditative repetition and precision of skill places value on the hand-wrought process, which allows the artist to incorporate both negative and positive forms from each sheet of paper, representing a conceptual whole.
By contrast, Susan Collis’ allocated space contains a decorator’s table, dust-sheet and stepladder, which at first glance seem to have been overlooked in the setup of the exhibition. On closer inspection the splattered paint and work-related staining is revealed to be inlays of precious material including opals, diamonds and gold; intricately-stitched patterns decorate these mundane objects. The detailed surface is inlaid with meaning, documenting the life-cycle of the objects and those who interact with them. The work, Made Good (detail) (2007), depicts value within the everyday and what Newell calls ‘humble’, as principles of craft worth celebrating.
This exhibition defines developments in curatorial approach since the 1970s. It references craft’s influence within the field of fine art rather than portraying the work of the craft maker, a principle that seems to reinforce the perception of craft as subsidiary to art and design. Emmanuel Cooper’s review in Crafts magazine (2008) noted the dearth of ceramic work and questioned the extent to which artists were involved in the fabrication of their objects, thus emphasizing the dichotomy between conventional categorization of material and process-led disciplines and the traditional portrayal of the handmade in relation to craft.
Newell’s curatorial approach opens craft practice to various subjects such as anatomy, neuroscience and mimesis, a premise Tanya Harrod summarized as: ‘a show about craftedness rather than craft. All the work selected is characterized by a hyper-scrupulous attention to detail that manages to be both spectacular and unsettling, both ordinary and rare’ (Harrod 2007: 24). This approach plays on Glenn Adamson’s discussions on ‘friction’, whether or not this was purposefully woven within the exhibition narrative. Newell’s depiction of makers provokes and portrays craft’s insecurities and challenges in its relationship with the art world, engaging the viewer on the discursive margin between the two. It depicts craft that is built on a foundation of handmaking and skill, informed by the artist’s social statement that is reflective of current contemporary craft dialogue. For example, Yoshihiro Suda’s skillfully-carved wooden flowers and weeds are driven by realism and the artist’s desire to perfect his craft and create a copy of plants commonly found in the city. The pieces are scattered in surprising or forgotten corners of the institutional setting, enabling Suda to signify beauty within the overlooked. The desire for realism is thus supported through methods of display. The inaccessibility of the objects
prevents close inspection, so the ‘makers mark’ is replaced by the illusion that the objects are real. Though skill and technique, aspects conventionally celebrated within craft, are fundamental to the creation of his pieces, Suda’s work is site-responsive, a premise which allows it to operate in a space between that of art and craft.
The frictional premise of this exhibition operates round dichotomies, highlighted by Harrod’s choice of the phrases ‘spectacular/unsettlingly’ and ‘ordinary/rare’. This juxtaposition is extended to the exhibition's layout, which involves its division into eight spaces separated by partitions with white walls and no architectural decoration. This display aesthetic offers a neutral setting, enabling the viewer to focus attention through the act of contemplation, free from distractions. This is in contrast to the collective portrayal seen in The Craftsman’s Art, and the everyday associations of the craft object. The theme is continued in use of the word ‘spectacular’ in the exhibition title: it is laden with theoretical connotations in terms of the arts. Emma Barker, a senior lecturer in art history, says: ‘the spectacle finds its typical expression in the image that serves to promote consumption’ (Barker 1999: 18). This concept is embedded within Marxist cultural criticism surrounding increasing commodification during the 20th century, a contradiction of the theoretical heart of the Arts and Crafts movement that places value on the handmade.
Martina Margetts also voices concern for what Newell deems as ‘ordinary’. As noted, Shengzhong uses the tradition of paper cutting, a process illustrative of cultural heritage and personal struggle that is described in the catalogue as a ‘folk art tradition that is mainly associated with illiterate peasant women’ and the artist’s own ‘lonely struggle along a desolate path’ (Newell 2007: 91). The work is an emotionally charged stream of consciousness through the ritualized production of paper cut-outs, embedded in the lives and traditions of China. It demonstrates the conflict between preconceptions of, and the continually debated position between, craft and art. The artist’s portrayal of the spectacular uses the traditions of craftsmanship as an investigative tool that is located by genre. As with Shengzhong’s larger scale installation, cultural ritualism and the variations of a life cycle are symbolized in the repetitive and meditative process of paper cutting. Similarly, exhibitor Naomi Filmer explores the value placed on decorative ornamentation and its relationship with the body by encapsulating the negative areas of the wearer through the technique of glass blowing to produce an outcome that is defined as jewellery. Whether addressed in the context of craft, art or a collaboration of the two, Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft illustrates a curatorial approach that opens both ‘ordinary’ and the ‘spectacular’ for further discussion.
Martina Margetts takes her lead from Richard Sennett, who in 2008 published The Craftsman, and predecessors including John Ruskin, William Morris and Peter Dormer who have considered the cultural and social value of the craft object, remarking: ‘that making things deﬁnes our culture and humanity and that tacit knowledge and manual skill underpin them’ (Margetts 2008: 301). This comment reinforces the notion that the craft process of making, reducible to material content and learnt technical processes, is embedded within humanistic concerns. This sensibility encapsulates and extends the functionality of form in relation to material culture. The sculptural scale and concept-driven installations of Out of the Ordinary… can also be seen in the work of those happy to define themselves as contemporary craft practitioners such as ceramicist Clare Twomey and jeweller Caroline Broadhead. These makers are from a generation of practitioners who look towards representative methods that evoke an emotive response from an audience, an approach that refers to the relationship between the artefact and the social relationships that underline their craft. Such social statements are reflective of interactive and performance art seen in the 1990s, an observation that drives discussions on the display of craft in Chapters 5 and 6. For example, Broadhead’s suspended clothing embodies a social narrative and is projected within the fabric form of her work. Stress (1993) is constructed to suggest the absent body while life is reflected in the manipulation of the fabric. The body’s outline is contorted by stretching the fabric of a dress over wooden rods that are placed at erratic angles. This alteration of the body’s silhouette reflects the inner turmoil of distress and anxiety. The objects are designed, not to be worn, but to be presented as sculptural forms; Broadhead herself is defined as a jeweller. Both illustrate how craft makers use principles of art practice such as theatrical spectatorship and emotive symbolism in order to explore their discipline, engaging with traditional function and distinctions surrounding the everyday and ornamentation through critical dialogue and artistic expression.
The most recent presentation of contemporary crafts at the V&A was Power of Making (2011). Curated by Daniel Charny, the exhibition is described in the promotional text that accompanies it as ‘a cabinet of curiosities’ (Power of Making, 2011). The collection of objects draws together the diverse practices and processes that currently apply to contemporary craft, demonstrating the skilled craftsmanship seen in The Craftsman’s Art. The exhibition is extended to include progressions in technology and rapid prototyping and combines the display of craft objects alongside craft production, processes and technical equipment. The collection is tightly displayed, using every inch of the gallery room. Not all objects are presented in a conventional display case, a method that is reserved for the more fragile objects such as Jacquy Pfeiffer’s sugar sculptures. The barriers are then perforated using demonstrative films, audio soundtracks, moving objects and descriptive panels. A panel reading: ‘Types of Making’ is followed by descriptions such as ‘Learning a Skill’; ‘In the Zone’; ‘Making New Knowledge’ and ‘Thinking by Making’. Each short introductory text provides the exhibition with a dialogue, underpinned by craft discourse as an act of engaging the public with the process of making that is accessible and identifiable. Statements such as: ‘When you are absorbed in making, things can happen that you didn’t plan. The experience is intuitive, like playing sport, and it can be meditative, like making music,’ (2011) are provided under the heading ‘In the Zone’.
This experience of making reflects Dormer’s The Art of the Maker (1997). In this, Dormer explores the context of making through two types of knowledge: theoretical knowledge, which is formulated through conceptual understanding and descriptive language, and tacit knowledge, or understanding developed through experience and ‘know-how’. The term ‘tacit’ describes the experiential, felt experience of the craft process in terms of learning. Dormer says: ’tacit knowledge is practical know-how, and it exists in people. Consequently tacit knowledge is learned and absorbed by individuals through practice and from other people; it cannot usually be learnt from books’ (Dormer 1997: 147). This notion suggests that craft is a process of self-discovery and experience, of feeling one’s way through the materiality of a discipline and learning through trial and error. This is ‘an activity of self-exploration in the sense that one learns about oneself through searching for excellence in work’ (ibid., 219).
Margetts addresses this concept in the exhibition catalogue in her essay ‘Actions not Words’. Margetts describes making as a creative process as ‘a revelation of the human impulse to explore and express forms of knowledge and a range of emotions’, that ultimately provides ‘an individual sense of freedom and control’ (Margetts 2011: 39). Power of Making addresses craft, as did previous V&A exhibitions, through the contextual evolution of craft’s contemporaries. In terms of the exploratory stance of craft in the last decade, The Power of Making covers a vast field of medical innovation, entertainment, social networking or artistic endeavour as well as considering craft’s role within the art gallery context. What differs is that Charny approaches craft in terms of making, associating the ability to make with power. In particular, he questions what making provides us with as a society and as an individual. The collection of objects is formulated to illuminate human achievement in terms of skill development and methods of making, illustrating how these have progressed by referencing digital capabilities, scientific evolvement and personal achievement. It concludes with what Charny described as ‘ingenious experiments’ as a reflection on contemporary attitudes to making (Charny 2011: 8). This is defined in terms of Bruce Sterling’s discussions on the future of making and the progression towards a ‘mashup’ culture (Sterling 2011: 68). This development has seen technology and hand processes combine, resulting in a generation of hackers and hobbyists who are responsive to a scene of global social networking.
Where Power of Making differs from the collective portrayal seen in The Craftsman’s Art and others such as what Wiggers refers to as ‘encyclopedic exhibitions’, is in its approach towards inclusivity. The presentation of finely tuned craftsmanship such as of gun and saddle making, alongside the technological advances and possibilities of craft demonstrated by 3D printing, engages the audience through recognizable forms, informative film and dialogue. As part of the exhibition the Crafts Council requested the submission of an original short film between 10–120 seconds long, focusing on any aspect of the making process. This request signified an erosion of the aura of mystery surrounding making, and was reflective of the ‘work-in-progress’ exhibitions that offer audience insight into the making process. The films were incorporated as a celebration of craftsmanship and skill by allowing non-practitioners an insight into the maker’s world. The breaking down of such barriers reflects an era in which consumers can design their own products through digital software. The jewellery company Nervous System (2007) uses computer simulation to generate designs and digital fabrication, providing the public with a simple tool to design their own jewellery. This process has been enabled by the internet and rapid prototyping methods such as laser cutting and 3D printers, as discussed by Ele Carpenter in her 2011 essay ‘Social Making’ which notes the development of alternative communities of practice within the world of craft. The approach to engagement is supported by a split-screen film that focuses the intent of the exhibition by depicting the work and processes of ten different makers. The interjection of images depicts bodily movements that locate the making process within everyday actions, such as the filing of a metal object and the filing of fingernails. In this way, it connects a skilled process with a grooming process that is recognized universally.
The use of digital media goes some way towards the exploration of the making culture surrounding craft within the gallery space. As noted by creative director and experience designer Nelly Ben Hayoun: ‘the challenge in presenting the “making culture” resides in the understanding of the context in which the maker makes: its community, its peers, its communication tools’ (Hayoun 2011). Hayoun’s observations imply that there is room for engagement in the social framework in which craft is embedded, and in which the maker operates. This accords with the emancipation of the public in terms of producing their own objects that has been made possible through the development of rapid prototyping. It can also be seen in the social role of the internet in relation to craft communities and communication, which runs alongside the thematic exploration of function addressed in fine art practices. An investigative stance that looks towards the conceptual interactions of the collaborative and open-ended practices of art established in the 1990s is thus demonstrated. This discourse is embedded in the relationships established between neighbouring practitioners, and the relationships between maker and audience and viewer and the object. Hayoun says: ‘I expected to see the making of the future revolution, the power and the people behind it!’ (ibid.). By this statement, she implies that within the current rejuvenation of craft and the approach to its display, it is the makers themselves who are deciding how their objects are to be seen, approached and discussed in the gallery environment.