United Kingdom

You Are Not a Lemming

The Imagined Resistance of Craft Citizenship


Cover, Glenn Adamson, Elissa Auther, Edward S. Cooke, Jr., Tanya Harrod, Stephen Knott (editors), The Journal of Modern Craft, volume 9, issue 1, March 2016, photo: Benjamin Lignel

The latest issue of the Journal of Modern Craft was plonked into my letterbox with some months of delay. My guess is that this extra time is to be thanked for the extremely rich pickings I found in the lovingly titled vol.9-issue1-March2016.

They include a very welcome overview of mail art’s engagement with craft; an excellent interview of trailblazing book designer Irma Boom (her Sheila Hicks monograph is a model of coherence between subject matter and design); an invigorating reproduction of metalworker W.A.S. Benson’s 1888 address at the National Association for the Advancement of Art and Its Application to Industry, in Liverpool; and Finn McCahon-Jones’s review of the third iteration of Wunderrūma, at the Auckland Art Gallery.

It was exciting to receive such a breadth of material, but more exciting still to discover in the Journal a short essay by Kathleen Morris focusing on the instrumentalization of craft ideals by both big business and the culture industry. Her argument reprises some of the ideas sketched by Glenn Adamson during his SNAG Seattle keynote address[1] (2011), but focuses on the political, rather than artistic, currency of the “image of craft.”

It’s hard not to feel partly complicit to the rhetorics she describes, and that’s why her essay caught my eye: She details how positing and exploiting the idea of the mythical craftsperson as a model of citizenship runs parallel to a slow erosion of the support systems that nurtured craft in the first place. Let’s pay attention, she reminds us, to the pretty tale that is being spun (by “us,” by “others”) around the calloused hands, the anvil, and the maker.

Many thanks to Journal of Modern Craft editor Stephen Knott, and to his colleagues at Taylor and Francis, for making this article available to Art Jewelry Forum readers for free, for a six-month period (ending in April 2017).

—Benjamin Lignel

You can access the article here.

[1] Notably on the Jeep Cherokee campaign. See Gabriel Craig’s review of the keynote here.


  • Kathleen Morris

    Kathleen Morris is a maker, educator, researcher, and craft advocate. She holds a bachelor’s of design from OCAD University, and a master’s degree from the University of Toronto, with a research concentration in craft pedagogy and practice in a 21st-century context. Her master’s thesis, “Emerging Views on Making,” was awarded the 2014 Arts Researchers and Teachers Society (ARTS) Graduate Research Award.

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