The Desire to Get Down and Dirty

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Norwegian Crafts’ annual crafts seminar is an important and popular date in the Baltic craft calendar: It has proved a fertile ground, in the past, for speakers to wrestle with specific themes, and a great means for Norwegian Crafts to participate in craft discussions at an international level. (The annual conferences tend to engage with subjects tackled in Norwegian Crafts’ publishing arm, Documents on Contemporary Crafts.)

This year, the conference was hosted by the F15 exhibition space. Situated in Moss, some 45 kilometers south of Oslo, the large manor and the surrounding sea-facing property provide a versatile ground for both indoor and outdoor exhibitions. It has been hosting the yearly Nordic Crafts Tendencies exhibition since 1971, and has become a mainstay for the craft community in the Baltic area.

The hosts had lined up three speakers: Curator Gjertrud Steinsvåg presented this year’s Tendencies exhibition, Grand Old Ladies & New Kids on the Block (March 19–June 7, 2016); theorist Stephen Knott delivered a paper directly resonant with the seminar’s focus on making, titled The Desire to Get Down and Dirty; and noted potter Alison Britton, who, as curator and maker, has been “sitting on the fence” for the last 45 years, intertwined a history of British ceramics with an overview of her own work.

We are very happy to have received permission to feature Stephen Knott’s lecture on Art Jewelry Forum. In his talk, Knott examines a number of case studies to unpack a recent surge of interest for the handmade in art circles. While Knott welcomes this interest, he also wonders about the role that “evidence” of hand-making plays within contemporary art strategies, and questions the motivations behind “getting one’s hand dirty.” (feat. a small jar of styling cream.)

—Benjamin Lignel


  • Stephen Knott

    Stephen Knott is a writer, researcher and lecturer in craft theory and history. He is author of Amateur Craft: History and Theory (Bloomsbury, 2015), a book that derived from his AHRC-funded PhD at the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum. He is one of the editors of The Journal of Modern Craft and has written articles for Design and Culture and West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History and Material Culture and Crafts. Stephen was the Founder Post-doctoral fellow in Modern Craft at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and currently teaches at Kingston University.

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