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40 Under 40: Defining the Future of Craft

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In museums, conversations about craft tend to stick to the same old narrative — perfectly hewn chairs and impossibly intricate baskets are placed on pedestals. Museums have long supported the studio craft movement, which saw post-World War II artisans dedicating their lives to mastery over mediums such as wood, stone or silver. But only a tiny percentage of craft enthusiasts become masters at their trade. What about the thousands of people who engage in craft for other reasons?

“In the past, craft was looking for an entré into the art world,” says Nicholas Bell, the curator of American Craft and Decorative Art at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Now, people from fields as distinct as computer science, fashion design or performance art are picking up the tools of craft and deciding it works for them. That, I think, is actually liberating for craft. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, but that you want to engage in craft and that it becomes part of your own success.” Jennifer Calvert, Development Officer at the Renwick Gallery, agrees that museums need to broaden their definition of craft. “Everybody’s looking for a way out of the old convention of craft, and I think our curator sees craft as a new way of living in the modern world, rather than a discipline,” says Calvert. “It’s more about interacting in a world where craft actually gives meaning. It gives meaning to your existence.”

Over the past two years, Bell has completely immersed himself in the craft world to mount the Renwick’s latest exhibition, 40 Under 40: Craft Futures. Celebrating the gallery’s 40th anniversary, the exhibition features post-9/11 works from artists under the age of 40. More than just a catchy naming convention, the age limit led Bell to focus on an entire up-and-coming group of artists who are changing the conversation surrounding craft. “Craft isn’t necessarily about making an object out of a certain material, or the way you make it. It is about valuing the actual making of things, regardless of how you do it,” explains Bell. “The emphasis for this generation is not necessarily on skill as it is for a big, overarching goal. That doesn’t mean there aren’t well crafted things in the show, but it’s not the unifying factor.”

The Renwick Gallery

One of Matthew Szösz’s inflatable glass pieces, featured in the exhibition.

What Bell refers to as an “overarching goal” is different for every artist. For Matthew Szösz, the goal is harnessing craft as a means of exploring process. Trained as a glass artist, Szösz pushes the medium beyond its conventional boundaries. He twists, inflates, pulls and rolls molten glass into experimental shapes that often collapse in the end. Yet the process of creating those shapes has to be seen to be believed. “What I also find great about this, is there is less focus on the actual object,” says Bell. “If you are Matthew Szösz, you can make glass that, at the end of the day, all you have is shards. But it’s about the process, without an unhealthy focus on the value of some sort of finished product.

Smithsonian American Art Museum on Flickr

Joseph Foster Ellis installing his work.

For other artists featured in the exhibition, the goal of craft is to open conversations that challenge viewers with the most contemporary moral problems of our day. Joseph Foster Ellis’ piece, China Tree, is made of identical pots he bought at a Beijing market. “People see these pots and assume they’re mass-manufactured,” Bell notes. “But he’s accumulated these pots that are actually made in peoples’ homes. In America, there’s this presumption that things that are made in China are bad because they’re anonymous and don’t bring cultural value. But these pots represent a small sliver of economic entrepreneurship on the part of every day Chinese citizens who are trying to get by. It really startles you. It also allows us to have this conversation on what ‘Made in China’ means.”

Smithsonian American Art Museum on Flickr

Artist Cat Mazza standing in front of her digitally projected piece.

Many pieces in the show push the idea that craft no longer stands alone — it can incorporate many mediums to drive home an important message. “Historically, the division between art and craft has been along more obvious external factors — the materials or techniques they use. But I think that, looking at things through a basic material lens really isn’t helpful anymore,” says Bell. “The dividing lines that separate a photographer from a sculptor are blurring. This generation in particular feels a certain sense of freedom to do what they want to. You see people mixing and mashing things up in a way that’s really refreshing.” In Knit for Defense, Cat Mazza infuses digital animation with knitting to explore the aesthetics of war. Using archival footage, Mazza transforms images of tanks into stitched patterns that are hypnotically obscured. This is not your grandmother’s idea of knitting.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

A crochet installation by Olek.

What’s ultimately exciting about 40 Under 40 is that it presents a whole crop of artists who are using craft to respond to modern reality. “At the end of the day, when I looked at what these people had in common, it wasn’t materials or their process,” explains Bell. “It was a passion for making, and what I eventually called a philosophy for living differently in the modern world. There’s this belief, shared across the board, that there are better ways to do things. You can make things that have a positive benefit for our culture, whether it’s for the maker or the person receiving or buying the object.”

40 Under 40: Craft Futures is on display until February 3, 2013 at the Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C.

Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.

4 Featured Comments

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  • slathered

    Sharon Moores from slathered says: Featured

    While I understand the arguments against Bell's statement, I don't disagree with him. How many parents keep scribbled gifts from their kids for decades? It isn't because they're priceless works of art. It's because their child made it for them. That's valuing the process and the thought ahead of the outcome. It's harder to extrapolate that to people you don't know, but it's still possible. One of the 40 Under 40, Melanie Bilenker, makes line "drawings" out of individual hairs. That's some process! The outcome is just a simple picture of an everyday chore -- it's knowing what went into it that makes it stunning.

    1 year ago

  • dorothydomingo

    Dorothy Domingo from dorothydomingo says: Featured

    I think the emphasis on process is important in the context of the entire work, including the finished product. But if, at the end of the day, that process leaves you with a pile of shards, or a collapsed lump of clay, who cares? The process is only interesting to the onlooker if it can actually produce a finished piece with some sort of artistic value. So yes, if you can produce something by pushing the boundaries of each medium's process, then push on. But if the only value is a process that does not make an object that meets the current standards of excellence then you're not done. Get back in the studio and keep working until it does.

    1 year ago

  • ChainCouture

    Annie from chaincouture says: Featured

    Novelty is never lost on the curious! I will forever be inspired by artists who use methods and materials that I identify with as traditional to tell a new tale or challenge an old one. Through their work, the featured artists combine craft and concept to generate nostalgia and ignite interest. Thanks for the article!

    1 year ago

  • brucelowry

    Bruce Lowry says: Featured

    Debating the definition of art and how it differs from craft has very often ended in a stalemate among artist/craftsman. The simple definition of art which makes sense to me is that "art is the result of a creative process". It is arcane to think that it has to do with what material it is made of. But now how,without a materials focus, do we define craft (which is also hopefully the result of a creative process). I especially like a comment made earlier in the blog that function should be a element of craft. Certainly function can impose limits on form. We could decide right here and now that the basic difference between art and craft is function. In other words if your tea pot has not been designed to work as a tea pot it had better well stand up as a piece of sculpture. All of us makers of things surely would agree that without a well executed process the result will not be worthy. Regardless of how innovative the manner of execution might be if it falls to shards at the end of the day it has not been a successful work of art or craft. One of my drawing instructors in art school may have gotten to the heart of the matter best by saying, "When a craftsman goes into his studio in the morning he knows just what he is going to make, an artist most often does not."

    1 year ago

  • PennyBirchWilliams

    Penny Birch-Williams from PennyBirchWilliams says:

    Maybe it's because I'm a decade older than the cut-off between the 'up and coming' artists that he says represent 'modern reality' that I don't feel much connection with this type of crafting. Curator Nicholas Bell's statement that modern crafting is "about the process, without an unhealthy focus on a finished product" seems kind of ludicrous to me. Not saying there isn't value in the process, but without a result from it, I can't really see the point. It's almost like the celebrity-worship culture where people put so much emphasis on a person's fame, rather than having rationally considered the value of what that person has done to become famous. My opinion is that artists have always had "a passion for making" and have "lived differently" in the world. I'm sorry that I can't see that these 40 under 40 are necessarily so unique and cutting edge just on the basis of not caring if they end up with anything well crafted or beautiful. But to each his own.

    1 year ago

  • Ellareki

    Ellareki from Ellareki says:

    More than anything else, this post made me feel old! Interesting though.

    1 year ago

  • BigRockPaperCo

    Melissa Cyrenne from BigRockPaperCo says:

    I am under 40 and I agree with Penny. I think the above is all about what appeals to your tastes. Art can be interpreted in so many ways... these artists have a passion for one thing whereas perhaps some of us have another.

    1 year ago

  • creativeclassics

    creativeclassics from creativeclassics says:

    The knitting one is pretty cool, but I think there's a very blurred line between "art" and "crafts", which is why the two are often lumped together. Unfortunately I find a lot of "modern art" to be a bit boring and shocking for the sake of shocking. There seems to be less idea of talent and more "what can I do to be talked about?". Craft appeals more to me as something that may be less unique, but takes more hard work and dedication in order to get right (not that I'm saying art is easy, don't get me wrong). Quite an interesting display nonetheless.

    1 year ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie says:

    Interesting post! Thanks for sharing!

    1 year ago

  • furniply

    Ingus Jākobsons from Furniply says:

    Interesting read.

    1 year ago

  • hmmills

    Helen Mills from hmmills says:

    As I read this, it made me wonder if I have missed my chance as I am now in my mid forties. Congrats to the artisans listed in this post.....

    1 year ago

  • irmaharoon

    Irma Haroon from IrmaDesign says:

    I love reading this and makes me think i should make the most of my 10 years before i hit 40!!

    1 year ago

  • sunkissedhighways

    Noel Tambour from sunkissedhighways says:

    yes, anything blurring the lines of arts and crafts i am all for

    1 year ago

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth says:

    This is awesome. I love the swing that is happening. Just the realization that craft is art.

    1 year ago

  • pattihaskins

    patti from pattihaskins says:

    Olek crochets. The last photo is one of Olek's crochet installations, not knitting. Really. http://agataolek.com/home.html

    1 year ago

  • evoreedae

    Virginia Huitron from evoreedae says:

    Some were interesting. Some were just there for the sake of shocking people.

    1 year ago

  • Attractive1

    Elena Fom from Attractive1 says:

    Very interesting!

    1 year ago

  • lcarlsonjewelry

    Liesl Carlson from lcarlsonjewelry says:

    Fantastic!!! I would to be able to go to the show. Being a craftsperson under 40, this is amazing. Thank you

    1 year ago

  • peshka

    Peshka from Peshka says:

    Interesting post! Thanks

    1 year ago

  • TheBadCatBeadery

    Gwen from TheBadCatBeadery says:

    This is not different than what I have been seeing in modern art for as long as I have been alive. All kinds of shows in museums and art galleries with artists using glass, yarn, all different types of materials, for installations and objects in that installation. I understand process, but process doesn't necessarily translate into successful end product demonstrations. I find this kind of art, well, boring as I have seen it done for decades and the newness of the exploration, well, just isn't new to me anymore. I agree with Penny. The art that I find compelling takes something and weaves it into a new thing, something that I may not have seen before or thought of before. To be honest, I am bored by "process" being the end goal alone. Just my little ole opinion, but I am glad that the artists who are doing this are finding it rewarding for themselves, and, that others are enjoying it as well.

    1 year ago

  • poppiesauce

    poppiesauce says:

    That inflatable glass is excellent!

    1 year ago

  • wildthingz

    Andrea from wildthingz says:

    Great post! Makes me want to hit some galleries!

    1 year ago

  • slathered

    Sharon Moores from slathered says: Featured

    While I understand the arguments against Bell's statement, I don't disagree with him. How many parents keep scribbled gifts from their kids for decades? It isn't because they're priceless works of art. It's because their child made it for them. That's valuing the process and the thought ahead of the outcome. It's harder to extrapolate that to people you don't know, but it's still possible. One of the 40 Under 40, Melanie Bilenker, makes line "drawings" out of individual hairs. That's some process! The outcome is just a simple picture of an everyday chore -- it's knowing what went into it that makes it stunning.

    1 year ago

  • dorothydomingo

    Dorothy Domingo from dorothydomingo says: Featured

    I think the emphasis on process is important in the context of the entire work, including the finished product. But if, at the end of the day, that process leaves you with a pile of shards, or a collapsed lump of clay, who cares? The process is only interesting to the onlooker if it can actually produce a finished piece with some sort of artistic value. So yes, if you can produce something by pushing the boundaries of each medium's process, then push on. But if the only value is a process that does not make an object that meets the current standards of excellence then you're not done. Get back in the studio and keep working until it does.

    1 year ago

  • Meliorey

    Mercedes from Meliorey says:

    I love everything innovative, "mixed" and crazy!! (I have to add: everything that doesn't cause suffering to any living creature. I'd never go that "crazy".)

    1 year ago

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage says:

    I was an Art History major at an art school and I have no idea what you're talking about.

    1 year ago

  • OuterKnits

    OuterKnits from OuterKnits says:

    Art is a luxury and not necessary for day-to-day living. I say burn it all!

    1 year ago

  • solocosmo

    Jessica Grundy from solocosmo says:

    That first picture is kind of amazing!

    1 year ago

  • Meliorey

    Mercedes from Meliorey says:

    I can see both sides of the argument. The articles makes me want to create more interesting and "artful" items than I do. Experimenting, trying new ideas. I don't know if I dare to go there yet.

    1 year ago

  • RomanceCatsAndWhimsy

    Darlene Jones from RomanceCatsAndWhimsy says:

    Interesting and thought provoking read.

    1 year ago

  • nonaandlili

    Nona from nonaandlili says:

    Age is a state of mind and art/crafts is about the creative process, always has been and always will be. There are those who are 30 who cannot think outside the box and those who are 60 who can, and vice versa. One is creating a box when implying that age is a defining factor for creative thought. Isn’t that going against what one is ultimately trying to accomplish, i.e., to think outside the box? This article is about some very exciting stuff going on out in the art/craft world amongst all who are embracing it, no matter how old or young one may be. Putting walls up that are defined by age creates a “club” type mentality thereby alienating segments of society. This does not foster inspiration or excitement, but rather the opposite. Once again, age is a state of mind :-)

    1 year ago

  • NicoAndMooMoo

    NicoAndMooMoo from NicoAndMooMoo says:

    It makes me want to visit the exhibition!! Thanks

    1 year ago

  • Meliorey

    Mercedes from Meliorey says:

    Very well said Nona!!

    1 year ago

  • MinaMinette

    Jan Penn from MinaMinette says:

    I think Penny and Gwen said very well the things I am thinking. I only think the process is interesting if I have first admired the end result. If there is no end result or if the end result is not something that intrigues me, then I have no interest in pursuing what the process was. I struggle with the idea--and I will admit to being well past the 40-year-old cutoff point--that anything one chooses to do becomes art or craft. Certainly, if you are the parent of the artist, you will be amazed by his talent and will want to know how he came to his amazing result! But if you are NOT the parent, then I think you will be much more insistant on there being something of substance at the end.

    1 year ago

  • TweedlesDee

    Teresa Keith from TweedlesDee says:

    I am appalled at the arbitrary age limit. Art, to me is about expressing oneself and reflects the lives we have led. Some people at 20 will have more life experience than another at 60. However, history has shown that as artists mature their work matures also. Without an end result of some kind, whether it is a photo collage of the process or an actual piece, there is no art created. There is only a lesson learned. Remember, some of the worst mistakes can turn into a great piece.

    1 year ago

  • Paquette07

    Amanda Paquette from MoltenPerspective says:

    Amen to that. I wish more people were in tune with the value of crafting. I feel like it is underappreciated, even with great sites like Etsy joining us all together.

    1 year ago

  • LynnyA

    Lynn Heigh from VineAndBranchStudio says:

    Very Interesting---process all by itself, unless it leads to a better process toward an end result, seems a bit like a Rube Goldberg machine, interesting and maybe even fun, but mostly indicative that we may have become a society with a lot of free time. Craft, to me, seems as if it should have a productive end, and is more about adding aesthetic value to form and function. Where art is more about transforming intangibles into tangible pieces valued for their aesthetic value alone. ( My children's art/crafts are probably more about art--the expression of love into a tangible--or the tangible evoking an emotion on our part.) Perhaps it's possible for process alone to be an artform. Great discussion, with challenging ideas.

    1 year ago

  • muddywaterscc

    Diane Waters from muddywaterscc says:

    I believe the difference betwen art and craft is subtle. In some ways it is in the mind of the beholder. A piece of fine work that shows fine craftsmanship, such as a piece of furniture is generally not considered art. It is a practical item, that one can enjoy each and every day. The makers of these pieces are considered artisans, or being skilled in a certain craft. However, just as much process went into that piece of well crafted furniture, as a piece of artwork. Is the difference that one is usable and the other only decorative? And why would the decorative be worth more money than the usable? Is it that in our mass produced world we can buy these practical pieces that are not hand crafted, molded out of polymers, for so little money? Perhaps. But, nothing beats sitting on a beautiful hand crafted chair, which you know was made by hand, drinking your hot coffee in a hand crafted one-of-a-kind mug, with a hand crocheted lap throw across your knees to keep you warm. Each piece that you touch is infused with meaning and thought. I would certainly not devalue the worth of art in our world. It makes you feel, it makes you think, it brings up a reaction of some kind. It feeds the soul. But, so does finely crafted, hand-made items of everyday usefulness. To say one has more or less value than the other is silly. So I am happy to see craft being elevated to a more equivalent value to art. The arbitrary age limit, on the other hand, is just a gimic. Maybe it is to lure younger people into the conversation and get them to think about this movement more. If hand crafted pieces are bought, thoughtfully, then maybe people will value each piece more, and own less stuff.

    1 year ago

  • genisepark

    Genise Park from genisepark says:

    I get bored with modern museums trying to create an edgy exhibition, it has no depth or meaning for me in my world. Usually, exhibits like this leave no lasting or profound meaning to take home. It appears like the artist just doing process work of their own psychology. It also seems they have lost their own soul just to do something 'edgy'.

    1 year ago

  • FawningInLove

    Fawning Inlove from FawningInLove says:

    that is one cozy room :]

    1 year ago

  • bedouin

    bedouin from bedouin says:

    I like to think of art as an evoked emotion and can be everywhere at anytime and in just about everything. Whether it be the art of... conversing, the art of the unexplained ...the art of law , as well a tangible piece. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder so is art. Crafting to me is more of a planned idea maybe a learned one that has an end result. As for process...living ones life is a process. Its an interesting post and within it .... the art of evoking ideas.

    1 year ago

  • foxowlroad

    Oriel from foxowlroad says:

    Firstly, i love the 'conversations' that this blog has bought forth, highlighting the fact that yes as 'makers/creaters' we are all different, each of us with a 'process' and 'purpose' totally unique to 'self' and culture no doubt. Alas, i too am in my mid forties, so my initial response to the name of the exhibition was that i too had 'missed my boat' :-) A perfectionest by nature, i find MY process involves a forever learning and perfecting of skill; pushing my skills towards failure only to come out the other end having learnt from my mistakes and 'understanding' the 'why' of this that didn't work!! But........to only find out that that which didn't work ultimately becomes the 'newness' of what i create...(am i making sense).. As a creative soul, i find my purpose is to forever create by that which inspires me and to hopefully someday, pass on skills attained through a lifetime of perfecting my craft to the future generations of....... '40 and under 40'.. as well as the '40 and over 40'.........who have shared their skills with me:-) I wouldn't have it any other way:-)

    1 year ago

  • leeannasjewerybox

    Leeanna from LeeannasJewelryBox says:

    This article did not move me, yet the comments written in response this article were very thought provoking.

    1 year ago

  • RontAck

    RontAck from PricklyBlooms says:

    Oh my thank you! What a wonderful way for Etsy to pay homage to American Craft Week that kicked off in my town today!

    1 year ago

  • ChainCouture

    Annie from chaincouture says: Featured

    Novelty is never lost on the curious! I will forever be inspired by artists who use methods and materials that I identify with as traditional to tell a new tale or challenge an old one. Through their work, the featured artists combine craft and concept to generate nostalgia and ignite interest. Thanks for the article!

    1 year ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat says:

    Concentrating on "process" is all very well for the artist/maker themselves, but leaves anyone else completely cold. I adore the process involved in making my items, but unless I have something worthwhile at the end of the day then I don't expect anyone else to appreciarte my effort, despite it being enjoyable or informative to myself. If I'm confronted with a beautiful item then I can appreciate the process involved in the making of it... otherwise it's just some self-indulgent person wasting their materials by playing messily in their studio. Above all else, art & craft is for sharing, & you can't share the experience of the process.

    1 year ago

  • PinwheelStudio

    Whitney from PinwheelStudio says:

    Interesting thoughts here.

    1 year ago

  • readytopretend

    Janet Irene MacDonald - Hannnam from readytopretend says:

    A nod to Penny's comments. I found myself picking out glasses frames today, when my eye slipped from the design ...sideways... to the name of the designer. I stomped down on my own tongue as I heard myself start to say the names as if it made a whit of difference, regarding whether they suited my face or not. Was I going tell any one I had Roots or Vera Wang on my face. Never, and never at this time and place in history for those who are feeling hardship. My art ( although my shop is empty as I am filling orders) is about refining all the skills I have aquired and to throw my passion behind it and make not is what easiest but what I would bring back to their terms (my teachers) to show them honour. No shortcuts for me. The art above is not timeless, it is manufactured to get a reaction or a buck. It is made by those who I will respect have started the road, but need more mileage under their belts. I kept saying to myself OK..and then what next. As a young person, I spent some time squirreling through small Galleries in Toronto. The plan made, my Mother and I would spend our Sunday affternoons, looking at new idea,........Finally......a familiar term...Impressionistic Art..........we entered the gallery dreaming of Acrylics and Oils............................. and were greeted 3X4 photographs and above them macramed toilet seats....the phots were of a woman's bottom with IMPRESSIONS having spent some time sitting on the above piece. Yes, I still remember it with annoyance, , the artist's name , never stopped to ask, sales/what happened next....nothing but a vow, that if my Art ever looked that transitory, I would stay a crafty friend who helped pick up stitsches. . I am happy to state that my work is touring well allowing museums to keep their doors open as I charge no artist fee, and do not misrepresent myself. www.wix.com/janethannam/readytopretendgiftsofthenorth Janet Hannam

    1 year ago

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios from MerCurios says:

    Great article. Makes me wish I lived closer to DC or could hop on a plane for the weekend to see the exhibit up close and personal. ...hopefully it makes its way to my neck of the woods. xo, MJ

    1 year ago

  • fensalirfiber

    Beth from FiberWytch says:

    I have to agree with Penny, Gwen and others who have commented that the "process," while it can be interesting to those who admire the end result, is not enough on its own. I'll freely admit to being seven years past 40, and this idea of "art is whatever you say it is" is not at all a new concept to me, nor is it something that has ever appealed to me. Some of the examples given are interesting, but there's nothing that makes me go "wow" and wonder how the crafter/artist did it. (Okay, I did wonder that about the glass, but not because I was impressed.) I think artisans have a huge responsibility to work at mastering their medium to the best of their ability, and arguing that only "process" matters regardless of the result seems, to me, a cop-out. Also, the arbitrary age cut-off is offensive.

    1 year ago

  • volkerwandering

    Jess from volkerwandering says:

    I once walked through a tunnel in Chicago. The "art" piece was bright orange light. Now, you might not think that would qualify as art, but the experience of it was striking, and I know I will never forget it. I think art, in all of it's forms, is how we react to something someone made. "Art" all started with an idea. It's how we bring that idea to life and the experience we get from it!

    1 year ago

  • inperfectseason

    inperfectseason from inperfectseason says:

    I would define this more as Craft as Art.

    1 year ago

  • chewytulip

    chewytulip from chewytulip says:

    Why does art need to be "timeless"? What about cultural context? Why do I need to wonder how an art piece was made? What about the meaning behind the piece?

    1 year ago

  • ee333

    Erika Warren from Grotto333 says:

    So many clever artist out there... Some, many of us would never see without Etsy!!! Thanks for sharing them... *cheers*

    1 year ago

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie says:

    Wonderful!

    1 year ago

  • AlisaDesign

    AlisaDesign from AlisaDesign says:

    Interesting article and comments here!

    1 year ago

  • KMalinka

    Natalia from KMalinkaVintage says:

    Awesome article:O)

    1 year ago

  • ikabags

    IKA PARIS from ikabags says:

    Interesting as always :)) Merci

    1 year ago

  • michaelhutton2

    Michael Hutton from LettersofWood says:

    Thank you for sharing.

    1 year ago

  • sidneydodge

    Sidney Dodge from sidneydodge says:

    I love this post. I love knowing what is going on out there and seeing the images.

    1 year ago

  • lizhutnick

    Liz Hutnick from LizHutnick says:

    I used to always think that art and being an artist was not subject to ageism. Oh well. There goes that one...

    1 year ago

  • unassumingrose

    Vilia Rose says:

    What is the wonderful ball in the first photograph, and the women in matching outfits..?

    1 year ago

  • luckystar2009
  • TheWindowArtisan

    Susan Spurr from InSpurations says:

    Craft invoking thought is timeless. Nice to see craft moving in a new direction.

    1 year ago

  • lulabellestyle

    Linda McMullan from lulabellestyle says:

    Sorry, but "valuing the actual making of things" and focusing on the process "instead of the finished product" is exactly what I was taught at the Atlanta College of Art 25 years ago...and is what makes this collection look like the critiques we had of installations and finished pieces back then. With the exception of four or five noteworthy pieces, this collection is redundant and, well, boring. The skills on display in the making of these pieces are apparent,and show so much promise - but will most likely be tossed in favor of a touch screen keyboard when these artists have to make a living and support a family. Come on, young artists, and give us that "Aha!" moment when the world realizes a new threshold has been crossed!

    1 year ago

  • KPlager

    K. Plager from BombyxBotanica says:

    I really like the pumpkin coach in the first photograph.

    1 year ago

  • KPlager

    K. Plager from BombyxBotanica says:

    I really like the pumkin coach in the first photograph.

    1 year ago

  • dayslonggone

    Gwynne Collins from DaysLongGone says:

    Don't get this at all...

    1 year ago

  • Racingstripe

    Ruth from Racingstripe says:

    '40 under 40'... a sound bite ultimately as hollow as most of the political ones are, lol.

    1 year ago

  • lmouer

    Lynsey from lmouer says:

    Interesting read. Thank you for sharing!

    1 year ago

  • goldiesnaturalgems

    Kathleen Paschal and Sheena Ingram from GoldiesNaturalGems says:

    If you don't like something an artist does, that's one thing, but I think it's harsh to dismiss them as the Paris Hilton's of the Arts & Crafts movement because of their process (or this museum the E! network for promoting it). When I create I don't do it because I need to sell something, I do it because I need the idea to get out of me. I have to birth it and nothing can get my fill attention until I do. It's like it already exists in time, I have been compelled to make it exist in space, so I totally understand putting more value on the process. That doesn't mean once it's made, I wouldn't like to make a profit. To live off creating would be a dream come true for me. Of course you want something beautiful that moves you as an end result for your time and effort, everyone wants that. I think this article was discussing more along the lines of what drives these individuals to do what they do. Creating fulfills so many needs inside an artist (and I believe every one of us are artists in some way), and I think taking time to appreciate which need are behind the creation of a piece can only enhance it and give it a new context outside of its form alone. Very interesting read!

    1 year ago

  • goldiesnaturalgems

    Kathleen Paschal and Sheena Ingram from GoldiesNaturalGems says:

    And I really like the pumpkin coach as well! I stared at it for 5 min before I even read what the article was about!

    1 year ago

  • RetroRevivalBoutique
  • goldiesnaturalgems

    Kathleen Paschal and Sheena Ingram from GoldiesNaturalGems says:

    Also I do think the age limit is to draw in young people, which I think has to happen desperately. They are trying to program creativity and critical thinking out of us. There are less music and art programs in schools than there used to be just 10 years ago. NO offense to those who have honed their craft over decades, but that's what you expect to find behind art. It's good for young people to see young faces being recognized for creating. To see it as something they can be now, not 20 years from now. I find it no more offensive than highlighting Race or Sex. It's a sub-sect of a culture worthy of singular notice from time to time.

    1 year ago

  • EmSewCrazy

    Emily from EmSewCrazy says:

    Very interesting. Wish I could actually walk through it. I think the age limit was so people could see what the young people of today are creating. So yes they are not going to have the level of skill of someone who has practiced and they may be a bit rough in their execution but they are creating. It is all part of refining their skill and maybe this will help some of those makers to push on and excel in their medium.

    1 year ago

  • lightiningeyes

    lightiningeyes from JennieMiniMillinery says:

    I took the time to go to the 40 under 40 link and looked at every artist link. That is some interesting work. It also makes me feel less alone as an artist. My art teachers in college looked down on me a little for having such a strong craft leaning to my work. Long live craft-art!

    1 year ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage says:

    Awesome works!

    1 year ago

  • lightiningeyes

    lightiningeyes from JennieMiniMillinery says:

    The "arbitrary" number 40 some posters are moaning about was not picked to make older artist feel inadequate. The museum that is showing these works just turned 40 and this is just a nice play on numbers. (Having worked at an art museum I know for a fact that they are always looking for something fun and engaging to spin the next show.)

    1 year ago

  • coppertreejewellery

    Melody from coppertreejewellery says:

    I really like how the Inflatable Glass piece looks soft and inviting, like it would give a little if you poked it... :D

    1 year ago

  • byloomandhyde

    Alexandra Ritchie from byloomandhyde says:

    I think this is a positive article in many respects - 'çraft' ,from where I come from, has a 'fuddy duddy' connotation - uncool and uncontemporary. I love the rise and rise of craft in this modern day culture. Being a weaver myself and just landed 40 I feel very much a part of this movement!

    1 year ago

  • ElainaLouiseStudios

    Lisa Steiner from ElainaLouiseStudios says:

    It's great to see that museums are focusing on craft as well as art. In so many ways they are one and the same.

    1 year ago

  • satanica

    s. batcakes from BatcakesCouture says:

    I still think skill and technique are important- call me crazy- or maybe just ols fashioned as I'm over 40.

    1 year ago

  • tigersanddragons

    tigersanddragons from TigersandDragons says:

    Joseph Foster Ellis's work is an art installation, but does not belong in any Craft exhibition. Honestly while I enjoy the piece, and it's intentions to be thought provoking, it is art but definitely NOT craft. How is hanging pots on strings, with a light show any form of craftsmanship by the maker? Where is the skill involved? Craft involves working with raw materials, or the very least breaking down and transforming old materials. And it doesn't make me a "fuddy duddy" to believe this....I've seen and been a part of both sides (which often meet), ART and CRAFT. I have a fine arts degree, I'm a member of a craft council, and I spent years working with metal, clay, and glass,and I am still learning. No craft school or craft council would accept China Tree, but I could see it in a contemporary gallery where assembled art is seen regularly, and some artists even come up with ideas and have other trades and craftspeople make the pieces to their specification. They have the "eye" but not the skills.

    1 year ago

  • abbyberkson

    Abby from abbyberkson says:

    I found the art vs. craft debate obnoxious and unnecessary 10 years ago when I was in art school, and I find it even more so now. Personally, I have been learning a craft and honing my skills since I was a teenager, and at 31 I love that I will continue to do so, hopefully for the rest of my life. It makes me mad when people look down their nose at spending a whole lifetime mastering a discipline- it feeds everything in life in ways they can not begin to understand. So here I am- looking down MY nose at them!

    1 year ago

  • ByDianaDivine

    Diana Gonzalez from DivineCrochetCouture says:

    My interpretation of this article is that the purpose of crafting has evolved. Before mass production, crafting existed to create items that performed necessary functions. Sure, sometimes craft was elevated to art, but a chair displayed in a museum or a quilt hanging on a wall are still fundamentally functional items, even if they’re not used as such. Now, crafting is no longer a necessary part of life, which means the craftsperson is no longer limited by expectations of what purpose an item will serve. A craftsperson can make an item for the purpose of being functional, beautiful, thought provoking, enjoyable to make, or something else entirely. The type of craft described in this article is about the fulfillment of the craftsperson’s desire to create something, not the consumer’s need to consume something. That’s the direction craft is evolving, and I think that’s pretty cool.

    1 year ago

  • ShoeClipsOnly

    kathy johnson from ShoeClipsOnly says:

    Isn't a "process without a finished product" just an experiment?

    1 year ago

  • mlezcano

    Mary Lezcano from BellaBboutique says:

    Tea pot chandelier! Great read

    1 year ago

  • silviaberrios1

    Silvia Berrios from DesignsbySilvia says:

    Reading the responses to this article, a lot of them talked about age -under 40--. Looking at the pictures & reading names of the crafters, they all look very Anglo. Since I can't see the exhibit up close & personal, I wonder, as a Latina, what people under 40 from different ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are showing at this Smithsonian exhibit????

    1 year ago

  • GracefullyGirly

    Kimberlee from GracefullyGirly says:

    I have to say that it was interesting to read but I picked up on the same quote as Penny did - the "unhealthy focus on the finished product" seemed really an odd comment to me. Many shopkeepers here and many artists everywhere rely on their "very healthy focus on the finished product" of their craft to support themselves. I did find the teapot chandelier and the commentary about the hand made nature of them pretty interesting.

    1 year ago

  • sugarloafmound

    sugarloafmound says:

    I do enjoy seeing everyone's interpretation of arts and crafts. But too often, in recent years, the line between arts and crafts is becoming too blurred. More often I'm seeing items which look closer to machine produced than crafted by hand. Items that frankly resemble a move from the home spun era to industrialized. I'm not saying the items created via many hands or machines aren't wonderful to see, because they are. But the "art" items produced via a more manufactured style shouldn't be lumped in with or claim to be hands on "crafts."

    1 year ago

  • sugarloafmound

    sugarloafmound says:

    " But the "art" items produced via a more manufactured style shouldn't be lumped in with or claim to be hands on "crafts." Let me amend my own comment. Yes, I know much art such as painting is hands on. But there is still a difference between the "art" and "craft" arenas. Homespun vs contemporary. Down home vs modern. It's not just the hands on but the look or style. Comfy vs slick.... Grandma Moses vs Andy Warhol.

    1 year ago

  • CopachFlur

    Monica Dupuis from CopachFlur says:

    I just keep going back to the first picture of this post. I can picture having one with a bean bag chair or a huge pillow inside the bottom of it, it would make such a comfy place to curl up with a book or a nook to crochet or knit in :)

    1 year ago

  • labellefairy

    labellefairy from LaBelleFairy says:

    Love those glass pieces, excellent!

    1 year ago

  • mirabellamorello

    mirabellamorello from mirabellamorello says:

    I agree with those who are not impressed with the age limit. Does "Under 40" make it better?? I don't know, I just get more comfortable with my art as I get older, more willing to take creative chances, coming up with more creative ideas, a lot of that based on what did and did not work in the past. I'm with everyone else that the focus of this show was "process". I agreed with everyone who said that process means nothing if the end product was not significant. Very unfortunate that the message of this show seems to be striking a wrong note with so many people considering The Renwick is actually a really great museum. When I lived in Washington, I used to take anyone there who loved art, was an artist, needed to have their art horizons broadened, etc. because they were so good at paying respect to craft as art, something that is often missed. I hope this show does nothing to discourage visitors from what is otherwise one of the lesser known, but still one of the best of the Smithsonian museums.

    1 year ago

  • ansluasi

    ansluasi from OnceUponABookshop says:

    To me, craft has always been a marriage between beauty and function. It provides an opportunity to bring joy and pleasure to everyday objects. If in the process of creating you destroy that which you were trying to create, I would not call the end result craft. Craft is what you get after destroying hundreds of attempts and finally producing one that is a masterpiece. The artists shown here are innovative, yes, but what they have produced is art, not craft.

    1 year ago

  • foxlake1

    k webster says:

    Gabriel Craig, one of the 40, briefly had an Etsy shop. His work as the Pro Bono Jeweler demonstrates abundantly that if it's not truly made by hand, real worth diminishes. As a buyer, I'm completely uninterested at Etsy as a perpetual yard sale, or Etsy as a mover of mass-produced things. I buy from crafts people here who actually make their stuff.

    1 year ago

  • linneaheide

    Linnea from linneaheideart says:

    Oh boy... here we go again.

    1 year ago

  • recycledwares

    Nerrissa W from RecycledWares says:

    Why do all the art shows happen far away, so I can't go see them? Would love to see this one up close.

    1 year ago

  • PirateCamp

    Kasandra Zavrie from PirateCamp says:

    I guess with the whole idea of being under 40 as a "new school of thought" sort of thing they were hoping to bring in the younger artists way of thinking. Honestly, I have been witness to the "new school of thought" in the art community, i.e. less is more. Less isn't more. Less is just less. Yes, they put a new spin on how we may look at art. But being an artist who has done all sorts of media, and continuing to explore different kinds of media and projects daily, I can't say I think that most of the artists stand out. They certainly aren't what I would call crafters at all. They are formally trained artists, with portfolios and college degrees. Crafters they are not. A crafter is someone who can take anything and recycle it to make it new or different. A crafter is someone who sees what someone else made, says to themselves that they can make that better and they do it. An artist makes things that are nice to look at but not practical. I saw a lot of that here in this art show. I really couldn't say that there was anything there that I wanted or had to have. I think we have a better bunch of artists and craftsmen here on ETSY in their shops on a daily basis.

    1 year ago

  • BourgeoisDesigns

    V Lynn from BourgeoisDesigns says:

    Cool work here

    1 year ago

  • coalchild

    coalchild from coalchild says:

    Everything old is new again.....imagine bringing a few crafting women back from the past could you see their reaction on walking into a fully knitted or crocheted room...or someone dressed as same as the furniture without having too? And if you told great-great gramma you wanted to hang her creamers on strings from the light fixture? We have become so liberated or have we?

    1 year ago

  • brucelowry

    Bruce Lowry says: Featured

    Debating the definition of art and how it differs from craft has very often ended in a stalemate among artist/craftsman. The simple definition of art which makes sense to me is that "art is the result of a creative process". It is arcane to think that it has to do with what material it is made of. But now how,without a materials focus, do we define craft (which is also hopefully the result of a creative process). I especially like a comment made earlier in the blog that function should be a element of craft. Certainly function can impose limits on form. We could decide right here and now that the basic difference between art and craft is function. In other words if your tea pot has not been designed to work as a tea pot it had better well stand up as a piece of sculpture. All of us makers of things surely would agree that without a well executed process the result will not be worthy. Regardless of how innovative the manner of execution might be if it falls to shards at the end of the day it has not been a successful work of art or craft. One of my drawing instructors in art school may have gotten to the heart of the matter best by saying, "When a craftsman goes into his studio in the morning he knows just what he is going to make, an artist most often does not."

    1 year ago

  • sparrowsalvage

    Sparrow from sparrowsalvage says:

    I'm sorry- I've read this article through 3 or 4 times now and I don't understand what they're trying to say. What I'm seeing isn't pushing any boundaries for me- I'm not seeing any new 'conversations' or ideas- it's the same stuff I've been seeing all my life. I've been in the arts field (I even have a pointless piece of paper to prove it) but I got out because I couldn't stand the over-intellectualized snobbery. This exhibition also makes the long-living mistake that the young people are where it's at. Maybe it's because I live in Melbourne Australia but art and craft have been holding hands for at least 30 years now- this idea that people can explore modern themes with the craftsman's process is much older than my art education is. How about 40 over 40? People who's formative years were in a time when art and craft were pitched enemies, people who were establishing themselves when the gallery was. Now that would be interesting.

    1 year ago

  • galjsaig

    Gal Saig from OsMarket says:

    Amazing article!! wow!! btw look at this list: http://www.etsy.com/treasury/MjQ3OTMzNDJ8MjcyMDgzODQ1MQ/enjoy-the-silence

    1 year ago

  • nicolesweavingart

    Nicole Neal from nicolesweavingart says:

    Ansluasi, I agree with you completely. To me, crafting has always been about function as well as beauty. If you don't have something you can use at the end of the process, that is art, not craft, both of which are important.

    1 year ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery says:

    I do think theres a difference between art and craft, to me this seems more of a meeting point of the two. There's more of an artistic statement going on here although that's not necessarily a bad thing!

    1 year ago

  • stonesartisanjewelry

    Christina from stonesartisanjewelry says:

    I love that you included this feature. I'm over 40, and always feel more hopeful about the world being exposed to other people's creative work. I wish I could see the curated collection in person!

    1 year ago

  • PeggyJean59

    Peggy Laakkonen from PeggyJeanDesigns says:

    Arts OR Crafts come from within. Each has his own way of expressing and bringing it out to create a unique piece to share with the world. Love the crochet studio..... my dream is to have my own space & to fill the walls with unique " things", my photgraphy, jewelry, etc.

    1 year ago

  • ESTATENOW

    VINTAGE NOW from ESTATENOW says:

    Very interesting, Thanks.

    1 year ago

  • kaystyle

    Kay from kaystylejewelry says:

    This is a very interesting and refreshing post. For me Art is like a wonderful meditation. It can take you on an exciting. and rewarding journey that feeds the spirit and calms the entire body.

    1 year ago

  • LillianBlue

    Lillian Blue from LillianBlue says:

    It truly can be hard to just enjoy the process without focusing on the end result. i find myself to be my hardest critic which can affect the creation process. I strive to be more present in the creation process as opposed to justifying the time spent and critiqueing my work as I go. This is the struggle in art. I love my line,but cannot help wonder "Is the end result ever good enough in the eye of an artist?" http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheStaticeQuo

    1 year ago

  • IamTruLuv

    Theresa Roth from SuperLoveShop says:

    I am continually amazed at the creativity I see on Etsy (and in this blog post). I am grateful for this community and the nurturing of creativity that it enables! Thanks, great post! Theresa

    1 year ago

  • kmaskreations

    kmaskreations from kmaskreations says:

    Thanks for sharing. Interesting comments and topic.

    1 year ago

  • bsight

    Bright Sight says:

    The knitted works are awesome! It's high time i learnt to knit myself... Keep it up!

    1 year ago

  • HeatherMcCawArt

    Heather McCaw Kerley from HeatherMcCawArt says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I do think that most of the works on view seem to be art rather than craft, because their purpose is not to be functional but to express ideas *about* craft itself. I love that right now we're seeing methods of craft exploding into contemporary and street art, blurring the lines between art and craft. These explorations are also blurring the lines between the insider art world, which often favors sterile, hands-off art-making, and what used to be considered domestic -often feminine and anonymous- practices.

    1 year ago

  • bluemoose

    bluemoose from bluemoose says:

    ART is a Necessity, NOT a luxury. It's all about the Big Picture.. ART is in everyday Life. .. And if the 40 under 40 think they are making cool Craft and Art..just wait til they hit 50. Oh the discoveries !

    1 year ago

  • gracedmoments

    Sue Taylor-Davidson from gracedmoments says:

    Thanks for making us think and ponder, which perhaps is one powerful root of all art. I liked Theresa Keith's comment ' Remember, some of the worst mistakes can turn into a great piece." That was inspiring and I believe true. I think art and craft are expressions of our need to create and to examine life in its many beautiful forms and expressions.

    1 year ago

  • bettybasche

    Betty Basche says:

    WELL, I HAVE ENJOYED ART AND CRAFTS FOR OVER 45 YEARS. I HAVE ALWAYS FELT THAT ART IS THE FIRST PART OF THE IMAGINATION, THE CREATIVE VISION WHILE CRAFT IS PUTTING THAT VISION INTO A WORK OF ART BE IT CANVAS, WOOD, JEWELRY, CLOTH, ETC. OR ONE OF MY FAVORITES, MARTIAL ARTS ( MY SON IS A SENSI ). IF YOU CAN IMAGINE IT THEN YOU CAN MAKE IT. THAT MAKES YOU AN ARTIST AND A CRAFTER. A DREAMER AND A BUILDER. AN "IMAGINEER" A PAINTER OF MICE. THE DESIGN IN YOUR MIND THAT YOU PUT INTO 3-D MAKES YOU A CREATIVE DESIGNER. AND I LOVE ALL OF THE ART AND CRAFTS IN THIS WORLD. IT HAS CHANGED OUR WORLD SO MUCH, ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN. WOMEN WHO KNOW THEY CAN BE GREAT MOTHERS AND WIVES BUT THEY ARE SO MUCH MORE.

    1 year ago

  • caseysharpe

    Casey Sharpe from caseysharpe says:

    I come from having a BFA in Crafts, and there was a funny thing that happened at my university: the divide between the Crafts & Sculpture departments. (Although I only saw it from the Crafts side, so perhaps it was entirely one sided!) There was certainly a degree of criticism that we directed towards Sculpture, and it reflected in our own critiques. If a piece wasn't well made, not sturdy, not lovingly crafted, we had a tendency to dismiss it as "not well crafted" or "poor craft". The running joke is that we said the Sculpture kids had no craftsmanship, and they said we had no vision. But really, we all had both, we just placed different emphasis on what as important. And I think that it stems from a weird envy- as sculpture, work is considered fine art. As craft? It really has to work for it. Imagine your basic work. Consider a sculpture of the human body, no further context added. Art. Consider a beautifully made teapot, no further context added. Craft- and you'd have to work very hard to get anyone to consider it art and show it in the same gallery space as that sculpture.

    1 year ago

  • AudreyKerchnerPhotog

    Aud Kerchner from AudreyKerchnerstudio says:

    I'm over 40 and really just started over in my new found craft. I've never let my age define who I am. If i want to start something and be creative I just start. It's all fresh and new and most importantly in my own voice. Doesn't matter if I'm 40 or 80 the process will always be the same for me.

    1 year ago