Journal of Modern Craft 2.3

Journal of Modern Craft 2-3

Journal of Modern Craft 2-3

Third issue of 2009

Editorial Introduction


A Ghost in the Machine Age: The Westerwald Stoneware Industry and German Design Reform, 1900–1914 by Freyja Hartzell

A Catalan Werkstätte? Arts and Crafts Schools between Modernisme and Noucentisme by Jordi Falgàs

Early Expressions of Anthroposophical Design in America: The Infuence of Rudolf Steiner and Fritz Westhoff on Wharton Esherick by Roberta A. Mayer and Mark Sfrri

Primary Text Commentary

Design in Ireland: Report of the Scandinavian Design Group in Ireland, April 1861, by Paul Caffrey

Statement of Practice

Handspring Puppet Company by Adrian Kohler, Basil Jones and Tommy Luther (pdf)

Exhibition Reviews

Craft in its Gaseous State: Wouldn’t It Be Nice … Wishful Thinking in Art and Design by Mònica Gaspar

Quiet Persuasion: Political Craft by Geraldine Craig

Book Reviews

A Theory of Craft: Function and Aesthetic Expression reviewed by Sandra Alfoldy

Designing Modern Britain reviewed by Peter Hughes

Keeping memory at hand

How a folk needlecraft tradition seeks to repair recent political violence…

Photographs: Kathy Bernett, Diana Cullum-Hall

Photographs: Kathy Bernett, Diana Cullum-Hall

Irish Linen Memorial (Photographs: Kathy Bernett, Diana Cullum-Hall)

Northern Ireland Linen Handkerchief Trade

Regarding Northern Ireland’s post-conflict shared future it befits my purposes here to share some historic links about trade unionism and cross-community social relations. The first Belfast female linen trade unionist was Saidie Patterson (1906 – 1985) who worked in the mills as a teenager and then, from 1960s – 80s as a peace activist, eventually winning 5 international peace awards before her death. She stated that making beautiful underwear and fine fancy domestic table and bed linens in the mills were all-very-well, but that the working class women from the Shankill (Protestant) and the Falls (Catholic) districts both came home from a day at the mill, exhausted and had to eat off of yesterday’s newspaper!

Linen is iconic in Northern Ireland culture for people of all political persuasion; it features in the poetry of Seamus Heaney and rock music by Billy Harrison (founder of the band ‘Them’ with Van Morrison) Both Heaney and Harrison commemorate their mother’s daily toil in poetic verse about linen – Heaney in the domestic setting and Harrison in recalling his mother’s job in the Belfast Mills. (One of my Names List soundscape readers, Jim Clinton, now an Australian, also had a mother who worked in the Belfast Linen factories, post World War II and died of a lung disease associated with textile workers.)

Handkerchief Designers Herbert and May Lilley and Belfast’s Linen Economy re: the non-sectarian Arts and Crafts Movement

The material culture that I “speak” through to recount the toll of the loss of life in Northern Ireland’s sectarianism has been The ‘fancy’ Irish Linen Handkerchief, which was central to the Edwardian Belfast economy and global trade for many years.  Edwardian Belfast was the largest producer of linen goods in the world; about 80 companies manufacturing and exporting linen handkerchiefs in Belfast as late as 1911. (Unlike the luddites,) Lilley embraced machine work as an enhancement of production and design.

The industrial textile industry survived on the employment of good designers such as Herbert and May Lilley who were also teachers of the art of embroidery. The Lilleys joined a firm of about a thousand workers. The 1910 Belfast art and design community claimed to be ‘non-sectarian’ and openly embraced the ‘non-political’ interest in the irish language and the Celtic myths and medieval illuminated manuscript imagery etc. while being influenced by the broader arts and crafts movement of the period (inspired by the writings of John Ruskin and William Morris).  But Herbert Lilley adjusted the utopian socialist vision of ‘the hand-made’ to his own situation of being a designer-craftsman working in the obviously vast industrial complex of Belfast’s linen industrial stronghold. Northern Ireland’s flax farming and linen manufacturing system evolved from N. Ireland’s colonial relations with Britain and poor conditions for the factory and cottage-worker underclass.

Herbert Lilley specifically worked on Handkerchief design in his career which spanned 1912 – 1950s) and was the subject of a recent retrospective and catalogue publication in Ulster. The ‘fancy Irish linen handkerchief’, as a domestic good, is held as precious within Irish cultural memory as a commemorative device and souvenir for a place or event, as well as an ideal Goodbye gift for the traveler.

Description of the craftivist, embroidered Irish Linen Memorial

In the Irish Linen Memorial, the handkerchief (each with ten embroidered names of those killed and a spot of my sewn hair) is the central unit for the counter-monument. The Linen handkerchief Memorial was conceptualized in late 1999, after a chronological Names List was published of those killed in the sectarianism; — the sewing is finally finishing up these last two months of 2009. Please see ; included is the digitalization of the handkerchiefs for the website and a Names Reading soundscape.

The (Irish) Linen Memorial has been completed thanks to 50 charity craftivists, concerned with anti-violence, peace and reconciliation and cross-community relations in Northern Ireland, after The Troubles. It was conceived in 1999, after I was working in Belfast’s inner-city, cross-community or interface neighbourhood and after I read Lost Lives, a published names list. Back in 1999, there was no neutral site for a traditional memorial for joint public mourning in Northern Ireland. Still today, in post-conflict N. Ireland, this idea is still problematic. Such an artwork-monument, while it contains a ‘neutral’ list of names of all those killed, chronologically, could/can possibly instigate further violence between persons/communities on either side of the political divide and that was/is not my intention.

I hope Craftivism, as a movement, purports for ‘The Pitiful’ and ‘The Human’- in- art , as Paul Virilio, world renowned theorist on ‘Art and Fear ‘ and the de-humanising hyperviolence of TV imagery, reiterates.

As an activist – craftivist, I am concerned about a sustainable environment and sustainable communities. I credit my colleagues who were involved in the civil rights movements of the 1960/70s with the fact that I am still making art today. Art historian Dr. Gloria Orenstein states that the links of contemporary arts with activism for the environment and egalitarianism is a return to the utopian dreamlike visions / imagery apparent in the paintings of the female surrealists, such as Leonora Carrington.


H.R. Lilley Artist and Designer by H.J. Bruce, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the Cultural Traditions Group of the Community Relations Council, Belfast. (no date; 2008 is likely) ISBN 1-8982 76-15B pp. 2 – 34

Australian Digital Thesis link: Lycia Trouton An intimate monument (re)-narrating ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland

Performing Civic Craftivism

In Mourning and in Rage (1977) by California artist Suzanne Lacy (now recognised as a distinct politically relevant  performance art 'school of thought', out of the West Coast of North America). Protestors are in robes and hoods; this isperformance art using textile arts (costuming) as a social-change activist strategy, to protest against the murders and rapes of ten random women in Los Angeles.

In Mourning and in Rage (1977) by California artist Suzanne Lacy (now recognised as a distinct politically relevant performance art 'school of thought', out of the West Coast of North America). Protestors are in robes and hoods; this isperformance art using textile arts (costuming) as a social-change activist strategy, to protest against the murders and rapes of ten random women in Los Angeles.

In Mourning and in Rage (1977) by California artist Suzanne Lacy (now recognised as a distinct politically relevant performance art 'school of thought', out of the West Coast of North America). Protestors are in robes and hoods; this isperformance art using textile arts (costuming) as a social-change activist strategy, to protest against the murders and rapes of ten random women in Los Angeles.

A 2009 heightened anxiety (about the self’s connection with ‘the other’ and ‘the material world’) has driven us to Craftivism. Ever since the advent of the mid-1990s information age when ‘the screen’ took precedence over real-time relations and touch, Western conceptual craftivists have rebelled against ‘time management’ and ‘efficient production’. “The hand-crafted artefact” is a labor-of-love: by engaging in craft as a practitioner, craftivists reject conspicuous mass consumerism (I am speaking as a resident of a Commonwealth country). We also reject ‘the discarded readymade’ as the primary medium of the installation artist. When I am working as a craftivist, I think that I am hoping for some kind of physical confirmation of my attempt to be a more fully humane human being.

Authentically crafted objects offer enjoyment simply in the material pleasure of their awkward existence. In craftivism, the artist is able to enjoy the notions of ‘sustainability’ and ‘civility’ because the making of The Crafted Artefact takes time and, often, a long-term connected relationship with both the materials and other people in public and in private. Craft circulates in a gift economy rich in relationships, but not necessarily in cash-flow.

By continuing as a craftivist artist – designer, or a place-making site-specific sculptor, since the advent of high speed internet, late 1990s, I have accepted being a luddite. Kevin Murray and I laughed that we were both luddites, over a fair-trade chocolate in Tasmania last July. (The word luddite refers to the protesting British textile workers of 1811-16 who destroyed labour-saving machines which represented technological advances in their industry). But craftivists don’t really reject technology, we rely on it too much for communications. Craftivists like myself are concerned with the lack of e-civic activism or ‘real-time’ civic participation in the public sphere since people’s really human links with one another have become deadened by the constant anaesthetization of the extreme juxtaposition between ‘the intimate’ and ‘the anonymous’ (due to digital communication advances). Our lives seem to be tenuously based upon ‘only-the context-at-the-time’; connection, once dependent upon human warmth and kindness to one another are, therefore, always at risk of fracture. Craftivists comment upon this state of a lack of sustainable community relations, and the building and mending of the social fabric of our lives, through their making of ‘things’ and performances with these crafted things in public space.

My Background:

I am an installation artist-turned Craftivist who used to work as a site-specific, public artist, mainly in compressed earthen materials, a different branch of the fiber arts: organic conceptual minimalism (see

Now, as a textile installation artist – craftivist, I am curious how women’s leadership roles in community(ies)-of-violence have been impacted. The community with which I have chosen to be most concerned with, as an artist, is a community-in-crisis: that of North and West Belfast, Northern Ireland, my neighbourhood-of-origin,. This is a place that has sustained 40 years of extreme violence and a very high rate of inter-urban migration.

Women artists employ gendered ‘textile arts strategies’, together with oral storytelling or silence, in various protest-vigils which use cloth /costuming as metaphor(s). A typical artform for women makers and craftivists is commemoration. For example, a Northern Ireland example of  Craftivism and “The Art of Survival” to communicate the personal experience of war, loss and grief was a quilt exhibit, 2008. This was curated by Roberta Bacic and was funded, in part, by the European  Union Programme for Peace and Reconciliation. The exhibition included 10 small-scale Peace and Reconciliation quilts and circulated with the Londonderry/Derry Council Heritage service, Northern Ireland. Examples of various late 1960s to 80s public needlework protests, different from quilting but referencing the art of textiles, are included in the images and captions at the end of my response (to be continued).