One of my favorite things about my work is its ability to transcend borders. In September of 2017, I was one of a lucky few to attend the Canadian Craft Biennial as a Writer-In-Residence with Studio Magazine (based out of Craft Ontario in Toronto).
The experience was challenging and complex, enlightening and confounding at the same time. My graduate program lacked focus in craft, as did my undergraduate program, so my writing (and I) have been in a sort of craft-writing-less vacuum, rarely encountering peers or mentors. To be suddenly confronted with the real, loud, and divergent opinions of young craft writers was the best kind of challenge, and the work was strengthened because of it.
In particular, our group consistently returned to the "defining of craft," whether it was in a van on the way to the Art Gallery of Burlington, in workshops with established critics, or in series of letters I exchanged with my new friend Andrew. I kept returning to this as a theme, the idea of defining craft, and the craft field's obsession with delineation and hierarchy. Having based a large portion of my research in the DIY-emergence of the early 2000s and having been educated in a contemporary, critical theory environment, these squabbles seemed outdated and less-than-useful.
If you know me at all, you know that I'm not skilled at hiding my emotions, and this topic is no exception. When I was approached by Studio Magazine editor Leopold Kowolick to write for the Fall issue in 2018, I knew what I wanted to address. Spurred to action by a facebook post (of all things), I wrote the first of a two-part piece for Studio entitled, "Why I'm Done Defining Craft."
You can find a brief excerpt and purchase the magazine here.
The image is from an Islamic Lustre Workshop that we were able to do with Scott Barnum, a potter in Ontario.
Mary Callahan Baumstark is a maker, writer, and researcher with an M.A. in Contemporary Art, Design, and New Media Art Histories from OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario. She is interested in trendspotting in contemporary ceramics and organizing socially engaged or activist projects. She is the current Resident Art Historian for the Socially Engaged Craft Collective.