Professor slams traditional village craft fair

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By Cara Sulieman

A SCOTTISH artist has slammed the traditional village crafts fair for dumbing down the industry.

Georgina Follett said that they focus too much on the skill of making the object and not enough on the thought process behind it.

Her criticism comes after the announcement of Craft Festival Scotland – the country’s first ever national craft fair designed to challenge people’s preconceptions of crafts.

But Professor Follett said that it wasn’t going far enough and that Scotland is “getting it wrong” when it comes to promoting traditional arts.

“Get it wrong”

The Dean of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and deputy principal of the University of Dundee, said that crafts need to be removed from the twee country fairs and treated in the same way as other contemporary arts.

An alternative to Craft Festival Scotland, the Future Craft Exposition has opened at Duncan of Jordanstone to showcase modern Scottish craft that is breaking the mould.

And Prof Follett pointed to Grayson Perry – the cross-dressing Turner Prize winning ceramicist – as the way the industry should be treated.

She said: “We’re getting it wrong. We don’t explain what the object embodies or what the thought processes are that go into it.

“Craft is a discipline like art and design, it’s just been lost from the lexicon of the visual language. And craft exhibitions are complicit in that.

“The public see craft as object-based and not about the artist’s thoughts or intentions.

“I have a problem with the craft exhibition ethos. You have a series of objects put in cases and you can’t understand where they come from, or where they are going to.

“It’s a vacuum. You don’t know how to relate to it.”

“Brilliant”

And she believes that all is needed is to shift the public’s perception of crafts – leading to people thinking of Grayson as the “rule in crafts, not the exception”.

Prof Follett added: “We’ve got absolutely brilliant craft practitioners in Scotland, but because we are not valuing their intelligence and rigour they are not acknowledged.

“We acknowledge them for skilful making. It is the wrong criteria.

“We’re getting it wrong.”

One artist who will be getting his work aired during the Future Craft Exposition is Geoffrey Mann who designed a tea set warped into angry angles by the dinner-time argument between Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening in American Beauty.

“Never a wrong answer”

He said: “If you say the word ‘craft’ you instantly put yourself in the Sunday morning finger-knitting club.

“But crafts are possibly even more experimental than contemporary art. There is never a wrong answer.

“I see crafts as a lab into which artists and designers can delve. That’s what I can do – I’m trained in ceramics, but I borrow a lot of techniques from anything – music, film. Craft is more accommodating.”