Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
Post-industrialism left crafts education with a crisis of identity. The broad-based denunciation of hands-on fabrication that began in the latter part of the 20th century infiltrated curricula of art and design institutions in both overt and subtle ways. Across North America, craft disciplines commonly became subsumed within departments of Design, the curious and deficient categorization belying the fact that their intent was to fabricate. Design leaves hands clean; it conveys clear boundaries; it entices Western students to draw on their technological prowess and play in virtual worlds, leaving the messy act of fabrication behind. It is not, however, a synonym for craft. The rift between higher education and craft rests partially on semantics, the craft designation open to both illustrious and embarrassing connotations. More importantly, the distancing reflects a mounting discomfort in Western institutions with craft's reliance upon, and glorification of, the human hand. In the field of textiles, so closely embedded in craft traditions, its stubborn dogma of embodied fabrication has been unapologetically co-opted by the DIY movement, an awkward cousin that post-secondary institutions keep at arm's length. While the shadow of industry has long shaped craft as a site of opposition, it is the DIY movement that has defined itself as an active voice of dissent, critiquing capitalist power structures that privilege particular interests and silence others. In this conversation, design institutions ally themselves with hegemonic interests, increasing distance from the culturally shunned act of making, and by doing so, tacitly sanctioning the prevalent paradigm that supports its stigmatization.