The Future of Craft: Apprenticeship, Transmission and Heritage
Location British Museum - Studio
Date and Start Time 03 Jun, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 3


  • Ferdinand de Jong (University of East Anglia) email

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Short abstract

In the study of craft, the assumption has been that skill is transmitted through apprenticeship. However, apprenticeship has changed since industrialisation and so has craft as mode of production. How has the recent "heritagisation" of craft affected the process of transmission of skill?

Long abstract

In the study of the material culture of modernity, the consumption of mass-produced consumer goods has received abundant attention for its role in assembling the modern. This need not surprise us, as industrialisation has been important in defining our conception of modernity. Binary definitions of modernity have always valued craft as "authentic" tradition, confined to the past, facing a future of extinction. But over the last few decades, the humanities have scrutinised the binary classifications of modernity and craft has emerged as a mode of production with a future.

As a result of a revaluation of skill, craft is now reclassified as part of our Intangible Cultural Heritage. This new classification of craft problematizes the old understanding of craft as a mode of production relegated to the past as national governments and international NGOs have devised policies for the preservation of craft knowledge and skills. How are the processes of apprenticeship and the transmission of skill affected by these programmes?

The panel investigates how the transmission of craft through apprenticeship has been affected by its increased "heritagisation". The panel encourages submission of papers that question the extent to which craft can be reproduced through institutions of learning associated with modernity, but also aims to include papers that revalue apprenticeship as an aspect of the knowledge transmission and skills required for the preservation of cultural heritage. The question is how the framing of skill as heritage affects the process of transmission.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


When craft performs heritage: Contested practice in post-earthquake heritage reconstruction in Nepal

Author: Stefanie Lotter (SOAS) email

Short abstract

Nothing could have prepared all Nepali heritage sites for the effects of a 7.8 earthquake. As in previous earthquakes, many structures collapsed to a pile of rubble. Today craftsmen, communities, structural engineers and architects grasp intangible heritage to negotiate authenticity and modernity.

Long abstract

This paper discusses craft practice in the aftermath of two earthquakes that devastated Nepal in 2015, killing 9000 people, destroying over 500 000 houses and shattering many of Nepal's ancient heritage sites. 'When craft performs heritage' explores how the reconstruction of identity-defining heritage sites is negotiated by agents such as craftspeople, community groups, structural engineers, architects and policy makers.

Communities, even nations claim ownership of heritage to distinguish themselves. When craft is requested to perform heritage, agents become contested carriers of identity. When identity is at risk, craftspeople cannot be perceived as creative independent agents but must adhere - for the survival of tradition - to cultural continuity. However, while the heritage discourse produces identity through continuity, the crafts discourse emphasizes continuity through change.

It seems therefore inconclusive to lay the authenticity of a tradition and even more, the heritage of a nation into the hands of craftspeople who per se improvise, innovate, if not play. To resolve the dilemma creativity has been limited through a rigid system of knowledge transfer and the regulation of eligibility to train.

After the earthquakes in Nepal, craftspeople are now required to rebuild ancient complex architectural structures. Adding to the pressure of reconstructing iconic national monuments - much larger than anything build traditionally during their lifetime - craftspeople are also required to guarantee public safety by building earthquake resistant monuments.

With the heavy burden of verifying authenticity through inherited practice a fine line of innovation has to be drawn to guarantee unverifiable safety.

"Heritagisation" of craft in Cape Verde

Author: Rita Guimarães (FCSH/ ISCTE / CRIA) email

Short abstract

The objective of this paper is to analyse two periods of "heritagisation" of craft in Cape Verde - the national independency and the present one- and to reflect on the processes of apprenticeship and transmission of skills at these different times.

Long abstract

The aim of this paper is to share the partial results of an on-going research project of a Phd Programme on heritage, crafts and national identity in Cape Verde. This paper will analyze the creation of the National Centre of Crafts in Cape Verde (1977) in a conjuncture marked by the national independence, whose revitalization and emergence of the crafts served as a critic to the colonial regime. This case was the first action of "authorized heritagisation" to resist the effects of industrialization on crafts and mostly to revitalize the popular culture as a struggle to conduct to national independency. Influenced by the Amílcar Cabral ideas, a group of artists that form the National Centre of Crafts "return to the source" and start the processes of apprenticeship with the older ones to transmit to the younger in the future. The National Centre for Crafts was extinguished in 1997 and only in 2011 was created the National Centre for Crafts and Design. That date was marked by a set of public policies that have been made with the purpose of giving a greater visibility to the Cape Verde craftsmanship, in a gradual process of orientation to the heritage processes and consequently to the tourist market. Nowadays the main mission of the Centre is to stimulate the economic activity of national crafts with the conjunction of "modern" and "traditional" crafts. This new set of cultural policies on crafts reflect a new mode of apprenticeship and skills transmission processes that will be questioned in this paper.

Making ceramics and heritage in a Brazilian quilombo: reflections from Itamatatiua, MA.

Author: Katerina Chatzikidi (University of London) email

Short abstract

This paper seeks to explore the various nuances of quilombo cultural heritage and their influence on practices on the ground, as they transpire in the quilombo of Itamatatiua, Maranhão state, Brazil.

Long abstract

What is 'quilombo cultural heritage' and how does a 'traditional practice' transforms into heritage? How has the transmission of an old apprenticeship changed since it was recognised as part of the country's intangible heritage? This paper seeks to explore the various nuances of quilombo cultural heritage and their influence on practices on the ground, as they transpire in the quilombo of Itamatatiua, Maranhão state, Brazil. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted over 15 months, this presentation will delve into politics of heritage-making and their significance for quilombola struggles for land rights.

Itamatatiua's ceramics evoke, and tap into, a widespread imaginary of how 'traditional', 'authentic', and culture of 'African-descent' looks like. Quilombolas (legally defined as descendants of maroon communities), the makers of the ceramics, are well-aware of the powerful evocative power their traditional practice has acquired in recent years. With a growing awareness of political rights and an established participation in quilombola struggles for the establishment of land rights, the potters of Itamatatiua creatively communicate their ceramic production in order to call for visibility and raise awareness of their land struggle.

On the other hand, and while official 'heritagisation' processes aim at protecting craftwork, less and less people are involved into the production of ceramics. The makers express their preoccupation about the future of their practice and its significance for quilombo land regulation. It will be argued that ceramic craft work has acquired a rather powerful symbolic role in the community's everyday life, being directly attached to quilombola struggles for the establishment of land rights.

Whose culture? New forms of apprenticeship in Sardinian craft-design projects

Author: Antonella Camarda (University of Sassari) email

Short abstract

Can the relationship between designers and craftsmen be defined as a new form of apprenticeship? Looking at the recent history of Sardinia the paper will discuss power relationships and dynamics of production in craft-design projects, one of the most interesting cultural phenomena of our times.

Long abstract

After World War II in Sardinia, the I.S.O.L.A. brought artists and designer to work with craftsmen to reinvent traditional crafts for the modern market. Despite several positive outcomes, the project led to a divide between aesthetic and technique in the craft object. Almost at the same time new regulations on juvenile labour and the mass schooling ended apprenticeship as intended before, leading to a scenario in which crafts production processes were negotiated with, when not superimposed by, representatives of the hegemonic culture.

Today, as heritagisation transformed the function of handcrafted objects, it's the very idea of craft that needs to be redefined.

While some old master craftsmen are highly regarded in Sardinian society, the new generations relay, especially for their aesthetic education, on schools, books, the internet and - most interestingly - on designers and artists, a kind of collaboration that the experience of I.S.O.L.A. made acceptable and sought after. However, designers and crafters -, mostly belonging to different cultural groups - might build asymmetrical power relationships that undermine any true cultural exchange.

Looking at some of the most significant Sardinian craft-design projects - among which Maria Lai's legacy for the weavers of Ulassai, Antonio Marras' work with the embroiderers of Alghero and DOMO - the XIX Biennial of Sardinian Craft - the possibility to rethink these projects as a new, post global system of apprenticeship will be discussed.

Craft skills transmission and the construction of heritage discourses

Author: Daniel Carpenter (University of Exeter) email

Short abstract

This paper explores how concepts of heritage influence the transmission of traditional craft skills, as well as how performances of skills transmission contribute to the ongoing construction of heritage discourses.

Long abstract

This paper explores how concepts of heritage influence the transmission of traditional craft skills, and, conversely, how performances of skills transmission contribute to the ongoing construction of heritage discourses. Inspired by Ingold's (2000, 2009, 2012, 2013) and Marchand's (2008, 2010) apprenticeship-style methodologies, I will reflect on ethnography undertaken with Mike Rowland and Son Ltd, traditional wheelwrights in Colyton, Devon, where I sought to engage in the making process alongside craft practitioners and a journeyman apprentice, in order to reflect on craft skills transmission from a first-hand perspective.

Discussions within traditional crafts continually revert to the importance of skills transmission as a vehicle for heritage, while commonly citing a disinclination or inability to verbalise this skill. Whether or not this disinclination to articulate tacit craft skills holds up to scrutiny, I argue that crafts and heritage cannot properly be located in relation to each other without getting to grips with the challenges posed by tacit and embodied knowledge. Moreover, it is the inability to co-locate crafts and heritage, exacerbated throughout the twentieth century, which has contributed to the rise of an Authorised Heritage Discourse (Smith 2006) that is only recently being challenged as a result of the re-emergence of craft in arenas other than the well-worn art vs. craft debate.

[Daniel Carpenter is a founding Trustee of the Heritage Crafts Association, the only UK-wide UNESCO accredited NGO for intangible cultural heritage and research manager of the HCA/Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts.]

The future of Shetland knitting: from 'maternal osmosis' to 'the responsibility of the community'

Author: Siún Carden (University of the Highlands and Islands) email

Short abstract

Knitting was a major industry in Shetland until the late 20th century and has been subject to heritagisation since. New modes of transmission prize skill over production, but 'skill' still includes the 'social knowledge, worldviews and moral principles' (Marchand 2008) inherent to apprenticeship.

Long abstract

At its mid-20th century peak, the Shetland knitwear sector was sustained by a 'maker culture' (Carr and Gibson 2016) that did not reflect binaries like amateur/professional, hand/machine-based, or artisanal/large scale manufacturing. Skills were transmitted through 'maternal osmosis' (Arnold 2010:87) and honed through economic necessity.

The discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s transformed the Shetland economy. In recognition that domestic apprenticeship in commercial knitting would decline, knitwear was targeted for support as a 'traditional industry' (Nicolson 1976) and reframed as heritage: an interviewee reports that 'heritage came up with oil and the museum'. Support from oil-related funds included knitting tuition in Shetland schools.

In 2010 this tuition ended, sparking debate about the future of Shetland knitting. Meanwhile, the 'hedonization' (Maines 2009) of knitting and an online 'making and doing' (Gauntlett 2011) culture had made Shetland an increasingly popular destination for craft tourists, keen not just to learn about Shetland knitting but to participate in it. A voluntary organization, ShetlandPeerieMakkers, was established to find new ways to transmit hand knitting skills to Shetland children, mobilizing support by framing knitting as 'the responsibility of the community' (interviewee).

Shetland knitting is now valued less as a commodity and more as expertise. Drawing on interviews and ethnographic research, this paper shows how the framing of Scottish craft skills as heritage (McCleery et al 2008) shapes communities of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991) around Shetland knitting by popularising a conception of skill that is more than 'technical know-how' (Marchand 2008).

INDUSTRY AS A NEW PLACE FOR CRAFT: Contributions of an ethnography of the shoe industry in Portugal

Author: Mariana Silva (ISCTE-IUL/NOVA-FCSH/CRIA) email

Short abstract

With the rising flow of heritage values in the field of production and consumption, some traditional industrial production hubs have undertaken a restructuring based on the revival of artisanal models. How will factories today be places of preservation, transmission and apprenticeship of craft?

Long abstract

As a paradigm of modernity, industry is generally associated with principles of mass production. However, today, due to a production restructuring and global markets, some traditional industrial production hubs at risk have responded by reviving models of artisanal production.

Based on a PhD in Anthropology research, this paper aims to focus on the Portuguese shoe industry and the way it has been restructured based on the principles of culturalization of the economy and the aesthetic production method that defines capitalism today.

Fundamentally based on small companies and an endogenous production system as a way of survival and adaptation, the Portuguese shoe sector has carried out a production restructuring centred on small scale production with a focus on design and handcraft, aimed at the luxury export market.

Craft being a mode of production with a future, like the panel suggests, one aims to reflect on the way industries today resort to the rhetoric of patrimonialisation and the cosmopolitan hierarchy of value associated with craft as a marketing strategy, but also as a strategy to value industrial work, as a way of recruiting new employees, in a sector characterized by a weak social image.

Beyond to the companies' speeches, one aims to look at the practices of transmission of craft knowledge and skills in industrial mediums; the effect of this restructuring in factory workers' everyday life and work hierarchies marked by Fordism principles; and also the apprenticeship of new workers who no longer possess a tradecraft passed on from generation to generation.

Persistence of memory. The role of contemporary artistic practice to the safeguarding and transmission of traditional arts and crafts

Author: Rui Oliveira Lopes (Universiti Brunei Darussalam) email

Short abstract

Scholars have been debating the effects of globalization on traditional societies and the safeguarding of intangible heritage. Crafts are a major expression of ICH and its endangerment in the modern world is undeniable. Can artistic research and practice contribute to its safeguarding?

Long abstract

Over the last decades, facing the growing impact that globalisation has in the shaping of cultural identities, serious concerns have been raised regarding the conservation of cultural diversity, cultural heritage, and material culture. During the last decades, the processes of globalisation have been linked to a global phenomenon of cultural loss. One of the main concerns is that globalization, in its continuous and unprecedented acceleration and intensification in the global flows of capital, human migrations, information, and technology, is having a homogenizing influence on indigenous cultures. Whilst globalization promotes interaction and tolerance between cultures and societies, there is also the danger of hegemonic and transnational cultures over traditional and regional societies, leading to the loss of cultural identity. This is particularly evident in circumstances where traditional societies are exposed to rapid 'modernization' based on models imported or imposed from outside and not gradually adapted to a new context.

However, in a realm of an affirmed dichotomy between 'mainstream art' and 'crafts', several contemporary artists have been engaging in creative processes that involve apprenticeship, the transmission of skills and traditional knowledge, and eventually the participation of the owners and practitioners of traditional crafts.

This paper discusses the effectiveness of contemporary artistic practice and curatorial theories as a method towards the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and its contribution to the transmission of traditional knowledge and skills.

JULIA: An Iban Master Weaver's Journey To Fulfilment

Author: Vernon Kedit email

Short abstract

We follow the journey of an Iban weaver from her first woven cloth to her final one allowing her to weave an undyed selvedge denoting a master weaver. Her soul had to negotiate a succession of increasing spiritual dangers until it had the maturity to withstand the most powerful spiritual forces.

Long abstract

In the first half of the 20th century a master weaver named Julia Anak Ipa from the Saribas region of Sarawak Borneo wove eight Iban ritual blankets known as pua' kumbu', which are the subject of this paper. They reveal the dangerous journey embarked on by the Iban weaver in which her soul grappled with arcane supernatural powers and, if successful, could engage these powers to help her household in their endeavours.

A typical journey can be explicated through an examination of Julia's eight cloths. In each cloth Julia wove motifs which showed the development of her spiritual maturity as well as representations of concepts of her world-view. As that spiritual maturity increased, Julia signalled the stage she had reached in her coloured selvedges.

Julia, through her cloths and designs, became story-teller, historian, archivist, and commentator. She transmitted important information based on all eight cloths: information that was jealously guarded as secret knowledge and passed down from teacher (usually mother) to developing weaver.

The information was collected by the author between 1991 and 1993 in the master weaver's longhouse and in Kuching.

The images, motifs and designs Julia incorporated into her eight cloths are but a small part of the extensive repertoire of the Iban textile inventory. The sparsely recorded collective memory of Iban weavers is disputed in the academic literature. This paper seeks to offer an indigenous perspective through the medium of Julia's works to shed further light on the complex world of Iban textile design.

Crafting Futures

Author: Ferdinand de Jong (University of East Anglia) email

Short abstract

As a mode of production craft has recently attracted the attention of a range of African artists and artists of African descent. Engaging a wider turn to craft, these artists have explored craft as a time-based medium, engaging time, history and memory in the process of making.

Long abstract

Craft has recently attracted the attention of a range of African artists and artists of African descent. Engaging a wider turn to craft, these artists have explored craft as a time-based medium, engaging time, history and memory. Considering the legacy of Hegel's observations in his Philosophy of History on Africa's role in the development of the world for postcolonial conceptualisations of Africa, it is interesting that craft is taken up by African and African-American artists as a way of thinking time.

From the inception of colonisation, Africa has been perceived as a land devoid of art. The handicraft emerging from Africa was thought to be work of the devil, fetishes that should only be collected as evidence of the underdeveloped African mind, entirely in keeping with Hegel's concept of the continent as "the land of childhood, which lying beyond the day of self-conscious history, is enveloped in the dark mantle of Night" (Hegel, 1956, p. 91).

How surprising, therefore, that contemporary African artists and artists of African descent have recently re-engaged with the notion of craft in ways that defy Hegel's conceptualization of history in order to re-think time, temporality and world-making through craft. In this presentation, I will look at work by Martin Puryear (b. 1941, Washington D.C., USA), Sammy Baloji (b. 1978, Lubumbashi, DRC), and Kiluanji Kia Henda (b. 1979, Luanda), to examine how these artists conceptualize craft explore how their craft intersects with time in processes of making pasts and futures.

The future of maki-e in Japanese lacquer art

Author: Tanekuni Koyanagi email

Short abstract

As a well-established maki-e lacquer artist, I highlight that the key for the survival of this Japanese tradition lies in the modernisation of apprenticeship, focusing on the education of young generations and the promotion of maki-e intangible cultural heritage at local, national and global level.

Long abstract

As a well-established Japanese artist practising the traditional maki-e lacquer technique, for the last 50 years I have been involved in the conservation and preservation of national cultural properties and treasures in Japan.

During my career, I have witnessed problematic changes threatening authentic lacquer techniques: the emergence of cheap plastic imitations that has marginalised the consumption of traditional lacquer products; a shortage of young lacquer artists and craftsmen. I therefore intend to use my experience to highlight that to reappraise and modernise apprenticeship is the key to the transmission of knowledge and skills required for the preservation of maki-e, an intangible cultural heritage fighting for survival.

In my days as a young artist, my apprenticeship followed the centuries-old system of training, learning from and living with three holders of the title Ningen Kokukō (Living National Treasure). However, due to the change of circumstances, I suggest the need of new apprenticeship schemes tailored as university degrees or diploma courses, to attract young people.

While appreciation of traditional arts and crafts should be nurtured in schools across the country, at grassroots level, local governments should promote the formation of lacquer craftsmen at community colleges.

I also propose that to guarantee the survival of this technique, an effort to recruit lacquer and maki-e artists at a global level should be considered.

In a personal attempt to boost international awareness and involvement, an exhibition of my work A Secret Beauty: The Spirit of Japanese Maki-e is planned in 2019 at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.