Submitted by: Mackenzie Usher, Summer Festival & Curatorial Assistant

Mackenzie at the Cathedral Village Arts Festival

Mackenzie at the Cathedral Village Arts Festival

As a summer student at the SCC, I’ve learned a great deal about Fine Craft. I’ve learned a bit of how certain techniques are employed to get a desired effect on a piece, some of the venues through which craft artists can go to make a living, and certainly of the work necessary to keep this ship running! But perhaps the most relevant thing that I’ve learned is the difficulty of defining Fine Craft.

I recall having a rather abbreviated version of this conversation with a number of visitors to our information booth at the Cathedral Village Arts Festival earlier this spring. Upon explaining to someone what our purpose as an organization was, I would often hear in reply: “Oh, our son/daughter loves arts and crafts!” In just my first week of work with the SCC, it became very clear that there was some significant informing still left to be done.

A thread painting by Donna Cutler entitled "Blackstrap Revisited." This piece is in our 2015 Dimensions exhibition.

A thread painting by Donna Cutler entitled “Blackstrap Revisited.” This piece is in our 2015 Dimensions exhibition.

As with much labelling, defining craft is only truly possible on a case-by-case basis. When rigid guidelines are given with no room for exceptions, pieces that could qualify as craft are unnecessarily and incorrectly left out. I’ve heard people distinguish craft from visual art by labelling them as 3D and 2D respectively; however, this would exclude thread paintings and tapestries from the world of craft. From my observations, craft is also generally rooted or related to tradition and function, but many pieces stray far from both of those concepts. As a musician, I can fully relate to this sort of dilemma, where genres are nebulous and the lines only become blurrier as the years go on.

At the end of the day, attempts to define craft to someone who is not familiar with the idea can only ever go surface deep. Criteria and explanations have their limitations, and it seems that experience is the only way to fill the gap. I’m still relatively inexperienced in the world of craft, so that will take me some time yet.

Fortunately I’ve had the privilege of working with some great staff here that have taught me so much about craft and have just been great company in general. It’s also been a pleasure to have met some of our talented members over the last few months. Thanks for the great jumping off point into the wonderful world of craft!