Craft and Contemporary Art


Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 73 color illus., 8 b&w illus. Published: March 2011

Art and Visual Culture, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

Contemporary artists such as Ghada Amer and Clare Twomey have gained international reputations for work that transforms ordinary craft media and processes into extraordinary conceptual art, from Amer’s monumental stitched paintings to Twomey’s large, ceramics-based installations. Despite the amount of attention that curators and gallery owners have paid to these and many other conceptual artists who incorporate craft into their work, few art critics or scholars have explored the historical or conceptual significance of craft in contemporary art. Extra/Ordinary takes up that task. Reflecting on what craft has come to mean in recent decades, artists, critics, curators, and scholars develop theories of craft in relation to art, chronicle how fine-art institutions understand and exhibit craft media, and offer accounts of activist crafting, or craftivism. Some contributors describe generational and institutional changes under way, while others signal new directions for scholarship, considering craft in relation to queer theory, masculinity, and science. Encompassing quilts, ceramics, letterpress books, wallpaper, and textiles, and moving from well-known museums to home workshops and political protests, Extra/Ordinary is an eclectic introduction to the “craft culture” referenced and celebrated by artists promoting new ways of thinking about the role of craft in contemporary art.

Contributors. Elissa Auther, Anthea Black, Betty Bright, Nicole Burisch, Maria Elena Buszek, Jo Dahn, M. Anna Fariello, Betsy Greer, Andrew Jackson, Janis Jefferies, Louise Mazanti, Paula Owen, Karin E. Peterson, Lacey Jane Roberts, Kirsty Robertson, Dennis Stevens, Margaret Wertheim


“... [T]he anthology is a significant and useful contribution to burgeoning scholarship on contemporary craft.” — Mary Caroline Simpson, Woman's Art Journal

“Antiques collectors will do well to attend to many of the chapters included in this volume as the objects which collectors today collect, in many instances, would have been called ‘craft’ were they to be produced today. . . . Quilts, ceramics, letterpress books and wallpaper are among the media addressed. . . . The forward-looking text simultaneously reflects on all those attributes we contemporary collectors of antiques value and, often, insist on.” — Bruce A. Austin, New York-Pennsylvania Collector

“Not a foundational reader, nor an academic history, the volume is a kind of ‘the state of craft in art’ after postmodernism. The selection of essays introduces myriad hybrid practices as well as the academics, writers, and practitioners—some recent graduates, some established professionals—currently working in this under-theorized area. Rather than an attempt to narrow the field, this book attests to an expansive, decentered, vibrant condition. Buszek avoided having too heavy an editorial hand; each author’s
voice is maintained rather than serving one unified narrative, and the book is the better for it.” — Meredith Goldsmith, Journal of Modern Craft

“The publication can be warmly recommended to all those who like to indulge in reading, and are interested in the debate that exists between the spheres of craft and art.” — Textile Forum

Extra/Ordinary begins to establish, with refreshing honesty, this thing that has become Craftivism. Time will tell if it sticks.” — Jessica Hemmings, Surface Design Journal

“[A] smart, sassy collection of essays . . . bound to be a new classic for both academics and craft artists.” — Antonia Blair, Bust

“[A] stellar collection of interdisciplinary essayists. . . . [T]his collection features full color illustrations, figures and photographs which not only clarify the processes and products referenced in the accompanying articles but also makes the book a joy to read, enhancing as it does the visual performance of the text itself. The inclusion of the full-color documentation of artistic process as well as the art objects produced therefore honors the main premise of the text: that craft can and should be understood as a liminal form of culturally performative fine art.” — Kristen Williams, Liminalities

“[A] timely response to contemporary art’s interest in craft, challenging the perception that artists choose media or their work with the mere wanton abandon of a child in front of a pick’n’mix counter. Instead, its various authors explore the complexity of art’s interaction with craft, making subtle note of those covering this terrain before.” — Stephen Knott, Crafts

“Finally, a reason to put down the knitting needles. . . . Like a quiltmaker, Buszek has assembled a fine array of writers and topics. . . .” — Anastasia Masurat, Bitch

“This volume fills a void in the scholarship that examines the meaning and the diverse roles that craft plays in the discourse surrounding contemporary art and social, political and popular culture bringing together the voices of artists, curators, cultural thinkers and scholars. Together these authors have opened the dialogue allowing craft to have its own voice and its own meaning, no longer defined by or against fine art.” — Angela Brayham, Visual Studies

Extra/Ordinary is not only the best anthology of recent writing on craft out there, it also delivers several assessments of the Do-It-Yourself movement, which is sorely in need of critical interpretation.” — Glenn Adamson, Victoria and Albert Museum

“Maria Elena Buszek has compiled an anthology that matches the dynamism of a field in flux. As a museum curator responsible for developing exhibitions that examine contemporary craft, I actively seek tools that provide context for craft from within, across, and outside this arena’s historic borders. The essays compiled here provide access to diverse voices and approaches, filling a current void in scholarship and engaging craft from a range of perspectives and places in a shifting culturescape. Buszek’s anthology moves across discursive platforms to share fresh ways of thinking about craft in relationship to gender, domesticity, feminism, activism, and science. Here, ordinary craft is the focus of productive criticism rather than denied, broadening the frameworks for how we connect craft to meaning today.” — Namita Gupta Wiggers, Museum of Contemporary Craft

“Maria Elena Buszek’s volume critically unravels assumptions about craft and pieces together new theories about contemporary handmaking that are at once vibrant, textured, and necessarily scrappy.” — Julia Bryan-Wilson, University of California, Irvine


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Maria Elena Buszek is a critic, curator, and Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Colorado, Denver. She is the author of the book Pin-Up Grrrls: Feminism, Sexuality, Popular Culture, also published by Duke University Press. She has written for magazines and journals including BUST, Art in America, Photography Quarterly, and TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: The Ordinary Made Extra/Ordinary / Mary Elena Buszek 1

Redefining Craft: New Theory

Making and Naming: The Lexicon of Studio Craft / M. Anna Fariello 23

Validity Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Mapping Craft Communities of Practice / Dennis Stevens 43

Super-Objects: Craft as an Aesthetic Position / Louise Mazanti 59

Fabrication and Encounter: When Content is a Verb / Paula Owen 83

Craft Show: In the Realm of "Fine Arts"

How the Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary: The Modern Eye and the Quilt as Art Form / Karin E. Peterson 99

Wallpaper, the Decorative, and Contemporary Installation Art / Elissa Auther 115

Handwork and Hybrids: Recasting the Craft of Letterpress Printing / Betty Bright 135

Elastic/Expanding: Contemporary Conceptual Ceramics / Jo Dahn 153


Craftivist History / Betsy Greer 175

Rebellious Doilies and Subversive Stitches: Writing a Craftivist History / Kirsty Robertson 184

Craft Hard Die Free: Radical Curatorial Strategies for Craftivism / Anthea Black and Nicole Burisch 204

Loving Attention: An Outburst of Craft in Contemporary Art / Janis Jefferies 222

New Functions, New Frontiers

Put Your Thing Down, Flip It, Reverse It: Reimagining Craft Identities Using Tactics of Queer Theory / Lacey Jane Roberts 243

Men Who Make: The "Flow" of the Amateur Designer/Maker / Andrew Jackson 260

Crochet and the Cosmos: An Interview with Margaret Wertheim / Maria Elena Buszek 276

Contributors 291

Index 295
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, Mary Ellen LoPresti Award for Best Collection of Essays (2011 publication)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4762-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4739-2
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