Being a craft writer beyond the academy

For this blog post, Kevin asked me to consider the query: Are there ways of being a craft writer beyond the academy?

My honest answer is that there are not. While criticism itself exists somewhere between journalism and theory, the sad fact is that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make a living as a freelance critic of any sort: art, music, dance, theater, and yes, craft as well. Blogs are all good and well, and call attention to individual practices, but criticism doesn’t really pay the bills. As well, I think there is a real dearth of serious readers in our field. This is mainly because the scholarship and inquiry lags far behind the high quality of artistic practice. That is, there are too many people making, and not enough people writing.

Also, while craft has moved away from an object-only sensibility, its marketplace has not. SOFA and other large-scale craft shows here in the States privilege the individual maker, and have not yet found a way to expand vis-à-vis contemporary art, where the group show model is more prevalent. The world of craft magazines is highly dependent upon gallery-based advertising, which is dependent upon supporting the one-artist model, which, in turn, are featured as singular impressarios.

I do not enjoy reading monographic, single-artist feature articles, I find them horrendously trite: usually full of clichés, and without the comparative analysis or historical context that the craft historian/theorist can provide. But the problem is less the writer than the structure: contemporary craft doesn’t yet have a platform for supporting true analysis. It is almost hard to remember that American Craft, with its anti-intellectual, faux-mainstream content, is the poor relation of Craft Horizons: a discursive and controversial forum that ran from 1941 until 1979, during the so-called “golden era” of post-war craft.

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