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Fifty Moments that Changed Craft

For the 250th issue of Crafts magazine we asked a number of people what were their 'moments that changed craft'.

Do you agree? If you would choose differently what would your most significant moment for craft be - let us know on content@craftscouncil.org.uk

The Whole Earth Catalog (1968)

The Whole Earth Catalog was a grassroots compendium of the skills, tools and technologies necessary to make your own alternative, unalienated existence. It was the bible of self-built, ad hoc communities like Colorado’s Drop City, and its networked, crowdsourced ethos provided the roots for Silicon Valley’s technological revolutions. The Whole Earth Catalog is not just a landmark text for yesterday’s counterculture, but for today’s cyberculture too.

Catharine Rossi, writer and lecturer

Grayson Perry wins the Turner Prize (2003)

Perry’s success marked an important international shift in the understanding and awareness of ceramics. By his own admission, his work deploys ‘guerilla’ or ‘stealth’ tactics. Beautiful, highly decorated, utilitarian forms of pottery both seduce and provoke the viewer into confronting challenging contemporary social, political and often intensely personal themes. He was not the first to give pottery a subversive agenda, but his achievement in raising the profile of craft which he has since continued via tapestry and quilting has been groundbreaking.

Beverley Rider, designer and collector

Grayson Perry at the Turner Prize reception, 2003. Courtesy of Tate photography

The Maker’s Eye (1981)

The show looked wonderful but suggested that ‘craft’ had a complicated unstable identity. Here was unknown territory, a world, if not quite a discipline, a field apparently undecided about itself.

Tanya Harrod, author, design historian and columnist

The Steam Engine (1763-75)

The earliest steam engines were hand-made objects, triumphs of craft knowledge yet their achievement made possible the Industrial Revolution, and with it a widespread degradation of labour. Craft itself came to be defined against the steam engine and the automated machinery it powered.

Glenn Adamson, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, director

COLLECT (2003)

It spoke of something new and different, it endorsed excellence of making, ideas and context.

Peter Ting, ceramic designer

Atemwende (2013)

In 2013, Larry Gagosian signed a contract with Edmund de Waal, and assisted his passage through the finely crafted glass ceiling which had long kept the crafts from reaching the dizzy market heights scaled by fine art.

Sara Roberts, independent curator

MakerBot Replicator 2

It’s a machine that questions the nature of skill, and yet it also transforms the domination of the machine and the factory in our imaginations.

Deyan Sudjic, Design Museum, director

Makerbot Replicator 2, 2014

The American Craft Museum changes its name (2002)

For me an important moment is the moment that craft became a dirty word: the other c-word! In America the evidence for this is tangible; the changing of the name of the American Craft Museum in New York to the Museum of Arts & Design in 2002 (mind you, I love the acronym MAD).

Freddie Robins, artist

The Financial Crash (2008)

The global financial crisis in the late 2000s highlighted conspicuous consumerism and the danger of focusing solely on a knowledge-based economy. It led to increased public interest in craft both as product and skill. The importance of skills, material knowledge and the maker’s way of thinking was identified as driving success, and in some cases innovation, across a number of industries leading to a positive re-appraisal of craft’s relevance and value in the 21st century. As a sector we need to ensure this continues.

Rosy Greenlees, Crafts Council, executive director

This article is an extract from Crafts Issue 250 - Sept / Nov - 2014