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Posts from the ‘Craft’ Category

A Cooperative Craft Survey in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Part 1

A note on photographs. Here just a few photographs from the first day of our May 2019 travel in Yunnan are presented. It will take time to work through all of the images that were made during the travels described in this post. When a fuller report is ready, the team will share additional images.

In May, after the conclusion of the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage (where our focus was Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies), I was part of a group of American museum folklorists who traveled to the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Yunnan Province. A spin-off project from the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, our group was very generously hosted by the Institute of National Culture Research at Dali University in the city of Dali (Figures 1-2). Together with members of the Institute’s faculty, we traveled throughout the prefecture meeting Bai craftspeople working in a range of material forms. From them, we learned about their craft disciplines and about their experiences participating in formal intangible cultural heritage initiatives. This opportunity to learn from talented makers in Yunnan offered a wonderful comparative experience, pointing to commonalities and differences with northern Guangxi, where our group has been pursuing collaborative studies with partners from the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum and the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum.

Institute of National Culture Research Discussion Photograph (Size Reduced)

Figure 1. Dr. CUN Yunji, leader of the Institute of National Culture Research at Dali University, hosts a discussion on heritage research. Participating were faculty, researchers, and students from the Institute and visitors from the three participating institutions in the United States (Michigan State University Museum, Museum of International Folk Art, and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University. May 23, 2019. Photograph courtesy of the Institute of National Culture Research.

A full account of the Dali-area craft survey is in preparation and I am hopeful that we can share it later. Here my aim is to thank our very generous hosts and interlocutors.

Dali University Institute of National Culture Research Group Photograph (Size Reduced)

Figure 2. Members of the Institute of National Culture Research, Dali University together with the visiting team from the United States. May 23, 2019. Photograph courtesy of the Institute of National Culture Research.

During our time in the Bai region, our bi-national team visited with a silversmith, a wood carver, a ceramicist, an embroiderer who also makes elaborate fabric figures and miniature dioramas on ethnographic topics, two tie-dye artists, and two basket makers. In each case, these craftspeople maintained active studios and most guided the work of many students, apprentices, and junior colleagues. Nearly all were recognized as masters on some formal level (national, prefectural, county, etc.) within China’s system of intangible cultural heritage recognition, promotion, and safeguarding. We also attended a key calendrical festival of regional importance and visited the Three Pagodas of the Chongsheng Temple near (old) Dali (Figures 3-5). While old Dali was our home base, we traveled to many towns and villages and spent one night in old Shaxi. We enjoyed traveling with our colleagues from Dali University and holding discussions with them on areas of shared research interest while visiting the university’s beautiful campus. Many layers of cultural history are evident when traveling in the Dali area. Long favorited by international and Chinese tourists, Dali and the whole region has an elaborate tourism economy and infrastructure, reflective of dramatic and constant change within the period of China’s “opening up” (see for instance, the research of Beth Notar). As throughout the country, one can also see Dali-specific evidence of older historical eras, from the time of the cultural revolution to the republican and imperial eras. In this region, particular emphasis is given (at present) to long-distance trade on the Tea Horse Road. Intercultural connectedness is a theme in tourism and historical consciousness that draws on the story of trade routes, the region’s religious complexity, and its distinctive place in the region’s long history.

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Figure 3. Erhai Lake and the Dali Basin as seen from the Dali University campus near Dali (Old Town). May 23, 2019. Photograph by C. Kurt Dewhurst.

I record here our deep appreciation for our generous and knowledgeable colleagues at Dali University and in Yunnan more broadly. Many friends in the Chinese folklore studies community assisted us making this journey. We look forward to sharing the fuller story of this trip and to thanking our partners by name in a more formal report. Special thanks go, of course, to the craftspeople who opened their studios, workshops, and homes to our team of Chinese and American scholars.

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Figure 4. A view of The Three Pagodas and the Cang Mountains. May 23, 2019. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

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Figure 5. A small glimpse of the very large Chongshen Temple and Monastery complex near (old) Dali.  May 23, 2019. Photograph by Carrie Hertz.

CFP: Studying Traditional Crafts: Goals and Methods in Higher Education

Here is a call for papers for an exciting conference in Estonia. The hosts are wonderful colleagues whom I met while visiting Viljandi last fall. Their call is quoted below. –Jason

Studying Traditional Crafts: Goals and Methods in Higher Education

Viljandi, Estonia, November 12–14, 2019

OPEN CALL!

The academisation of traditional crafts means studying traditional handicraft techniques, carrying out high-quality research in the field and being involved in creative activities. It requires developing new teaching and research methods by combining and integrating specialized expertise in different fields within natural science, humanities and social sciences. However, it brings along many challenges such as balancing between theoretical research and practical training; balancing between tradition and innovation; economic pressure to adapt to large groups with less contact time; high teachings costs and need for well-equipped labs, etc.

Estonian Native Craft Department at University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy celebrates its 25th anniversary with an international conference dedicated to different topics that explore the role of craft studies in higher education. Higher education on traditional crafts provides a framework for discussing tradition as a dynamic cultural process and describing heritage as environmental, cultural and societal assets for the continued development of society in local, national and global perspectives. It empowers people to make intentional decisions about their environment and material culture.

At the conference we would like to discuss inter alia the following topics:

  • teaching/learning approaches; changes in the educational models
  • definition of traditional crafts in different countries and contexts
  • social responsibility and knowledge transfer: what we do and what is expected of us
  • integration between science, technology, entrepreneurship and traditional crafts
  • the process of creating a new professional tradition
  • research methods and sources (museum repositories and documenting crafts)
  • diversity and potential of traditional ways of production in the contemporary society
  • professional development opportunities and increasing the level of competence
  • philosophy for the reconstruction and preservation
  • building local identities and doing international cooperation between HEIs

We invite to participate scholars, teachers, students, and practitioners. We welcome proposals for individual presentations reflecting the themes proposed above (20 minutes), and for poster presentations. Proposals should include title, name of presenter/co-presenters, name of institution/organization, email address, technological needs, and a 300-word abstract describing your proposed presentation. The conference language is English.

Please submit a proposal by e-mail to the address: craftconference2019@ut.eeThe deadline for the abstracts is May 20, 2019.

More information is available on https://sisu.ut.ee/craftconference2019

I am very thankful if you can spread the information to all whom it may concern.

All the best,

Ave Matsin

University of Tartu Viljandi  Culture Academy
Vice Director for Academic Affairs, MA
Head of Department of Estonian Native Crafts
Posti 1, Viljandi 71004
Estonia

 

Material Culture Journalism, 7

The Material Culture students do not know about Material Culture Journalism yet. Maybe this week I’ll mention it to them. Day one was surely an overload as it was…

“450-Year-Old Painting Contains Over 100 Proverbs We Still Use Today” by Jessica Stewart on My Modern Met. (HT/BKG) https://mymodernmet.com/dutch-proverbs-pieter-bruegel #paremiology

“The Era of Easy Recycling Coming to an End” by Maggie Koerth-Baker for FiveThirtyEight. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-era-of-easy-recycling-may-be-coming-to-an-end/ #waste

“China’s Destructive Laser Rifle has a Half-Mile Range” by Jefrey Lin and P.W. Singer for Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/china-laser-rifle-energy-weapon #conflict

“Never mind killer robots—here are six real AI dangers to watch out for in 2019” by Will Knight and Karen Has for MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612689/never-mind-killer-robotshere-are-six-real-ai-dangers-to-watch-out-for-in-2019/ #threats

“Persian Traditional Crafts: Traditional Bookbinding” on YouTube (Seen First on on Facebook). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgQ-x-1hRQ4&vl=en #handcraft

“The Poor Can’t Afford Not to Wear Nice Clothes” by Tressie McMillan Cottom in Medium. (HT/RG) https://medium.com/s/story/the-poor-cant-afford-not-to-wear-nice-clothes-b015f6a79561 #racism #class #inequality

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Material Culture Journalism, 3

Thanks to all the friends sharing the material culture journalism. Here is a new batch. The passing of Shan Goshorn is particularly sad to note.

The making of the Finnish First Lady’s tree-based eco dress. A guide to the creation of Jenni Haukio’s Independence Gala gown, from a forest in Joensuu to the red carpet at the Independence Day reception in Helsinki” by YLE/UUTISET (HT/HV) #craft #innovation

Shan Goshorn, Whose Cherokee Art Was Political, Dies at 61” by Alex Lemonides in the New York Times. (HT/JL) #loss #indigenous #art

Creating Tradition” [A Profile of Florida Seminole Artist Brian Zepeda] by Tina Marie Osceola in Life in Naples Magazine. [HT/Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Museum] #indigenous #craft #art

Why We Cover High Fashion” [“The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic reflects on what makes haute couture relevant'”] by Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times. #elitism #dress

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Google Celebrates Native Artist in November 9th Doodle

A guest post by Emily Buhrow Rogers.

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A carved bear by Amanda Crowe (Eastern Band Cherokee) from the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University. ca. 1973. Museum purchase. 7″ x 2″ x 4.75″ (1973-19-002)

In honor of Native American Heritage month, Google today celebrated renowned Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artist, Amanda Crowe (1928-2004). Born and raised on North Carolina’s Qualla Boundary, Amanda Crowe is perhaps best known for her fluid and expressive animal carvings, which have been collected and praised by museums and art galleries across North America. She is also famous as an educator. After training at the Art Institute of Chicago, she returned to North Carolina and took up a post as studio art teacher at Cherokee High School. Here, she trained hundreds of students from her community in the art of woodcarving and influenced generations of Cherokee artists. The Mathers Museum of World Cultures collected several of her works and displayed them in the 2015-2016 exhibition, “Cherokee Craft, 1973.” Her bear sculptures instantly became staff favorites. (Here is a screenshot from the Doodle. Here is a link to the Doodle video. https://youtu.be/Je2du-WEnPQ

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The Doodle video was made in cooperation with Amanda Crowe’s nephew, William “Bill” H. Crowe, Jr., and the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, from whom the Mathers Museum of World Cultures obtained its Cherokee collection in 1973.

Emily Buhrow Rogers is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at Indiana University, where she is also a research associate of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. She was the curator of the museum’s exhibition Cherokee Craft, 1973. Her dissertation research focuses on craft and environmental knowledge among the Choctaw people of Mississippi.

Fieldwork: Highlights from the Textile Group

This post in the recent series on December 2017 research and travel in Guangxi, China was written by Carrie Hertz, who also provided the photographs.

In this post, I complement Jason’s series of field reports (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) on our December 2017 trip to China with some highlights from the research team focused on Baiku (White Trouser) Yao textiles.

The textiles most visible in daily life are traditional baby carriers and women’s dress. December 15, 2017.

Textile making traditions are extraordinarily strong in Huaili village. In most households you can find a floor loom, an indigo dye pot, and a cache of tiny silkworm eggs. Because of the damp climate, most families hang their laundry out to dry. Strung out like banners across rooftops, balconies, pathways, and side yards, the clotheslines offer a visual inventory of typical wardrobes.

Daily dress combines traditionally made and mass-produced garments. Most women have several sets of indigo-dyed skirts, aprons, jackets, and tunics in regular rotation, the finest serving as festival dress when new, and as daily wear when faded. With age, the natural red dyes of embroidered skirt hems bleed, creating a beautiful ombre effect, and the appliqued silk felt disintegrates, taking on a feathery appearance.

A beautifully aged skirt hung out to dry. December 17, 2017.

Each garment represents countless hours of skilled labor, spread out throughout the year. Winter, while fields lie untended, is a busy time for textile production. Throughout the village, small groups of women huddle around fires on their front stoops, busy with embroidery or winding spools of cotton.

Lu Xiao Mei works on her embroidery while visiting with Li Xiu Ying and Wang Lian Mei holding her baby. December 15, 2017.

Winter is also a good time for warping looms. Women help each other, taking over the village courtyard. It takes the better part of a day to set up warp poles and wind the approximately 80 meters of thread in a spiral pattern around them.

The tree sap used to draw intricate resist patterns on clothing is harvested in winter. The bark is scarred and glistening where people have gouged it with their knife blades.

December 14, 2017.

We had the great fortune to spend two days with a recognized master textile artist, He Jinxiu. She is considered the most skilled and knowledgeable needleworker in Huaili village and teaches embroidery and resist dyeing to all of the girls attending the local primary school. At her home, she brought out stacks of textiles that she was currently working on as part of a yearly cycle of production. Together we inventoried these materials, along with the tools, techniques, and terminology important to their creation. We diagrammed garment patterns. We filled notebooks with the local names for various motifs and their significance.

The home production of textiles is supplemented with supplies and finished goods purchased in the Lihu Town market. Alongside the many stalls stuffed with factory clothes and accessories, vendors sell silk embroidery thread, stylus for batik, and bolts of undecorated, hand woven cloth. A large area is devoted to selling indigo. One half kilogram costs about 6 RMB. In addition to being an important venue for textile sellers and makers, market days are for dressing up, for looking and being seen.

 

We also had opportunity to interview Li Xiu Ying, the primary textile producer in her family. For most of her life, her mother made her clothes, but now she makes clothes for her mother, using the skills her mother imparted.

Li Xiu Ying wears a handmade needle case hanging from her belt. Her nail beds are ringed with blue from indigo dye. December 15, 2017.

With Mrs. Li, the textile team examined a traditional burial cloth, part of the ecomuseum’s permanent collection. Every household hopes to always have a few of these on hand. When villagers die, the cloth is laid over the body and a series of smaller cloths, thirteen layers for men and fourteen for women, cover the face.

A woman’s burial face cloth made by He Jinxiu is now in the collections of the Museum of International Folk Art.

 

He Jinxiu holding up a woman’s burial face cloth that she made, now in the collections of the Museum of International Folk Art. December 17, 2017.

The textile research team feels incredibly grateful to those who shared their time and knowledge with us. These brief highlights merely touch upon what we learned and experienced during our visit.

Carrie Hertz is Curator of Textiles and Dress at the Museum of International Folk Art and a participant in the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.

Who Cares About Craft as Traditional Knowledge?

This fall has been a particularly busy season for research-based programs at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. An an outgrowth of our Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation exhibition and our participation in classes and programs for Themester, we will have hosted, by semester’s end, a very large number craftspeople or groups of craftspeople representative of a broad swath of vernacular making in Indiana. Because of our Themester mandate to focus on questions of Beauty in our engagements with these artist-craftspeople, our discussions with them have always had an aesthetic component. We have asked, for instance, questions like: “What characteristics do you associate with a beautiful weaving [or chair, or drum, or pottery bowl, or…]?” or “When producing for the marketplace, how do you balance functional use and aesthetic impact?” Art and aesthetics are a crucial part of the human experience and of what makes cultures distinctive and meaningful.

But the objects that we curate and interpret, and the makers of things with whom we engage, are not only about art. Even while many have both aesthetic and functional purposes, many others of our museum’s objects are not reasonably framed as art and some of our interlocutors are talented, knowledgeable makers and users of things, without being artists. Our work is bigger than art, as important as art is. Aesthetic values are part of larger cultural systems and those larger wholes are our focus. Whether in China or in Indiana, our work is about local knowledge, including traditional cultural knowledge. A big part of our engagements with makers focuses on the knowledge that goes into making–craft expertise along with local environmental and contextual knowledge concerned with uses, meanings, significances.

A detailed story in last Saturday’s Independent by Amalia Illgner is a good evocation of the kinds of concern we (particularly Traditional Arts Indiana, led ably by my colleague Jon Kay) try to bring to our work with craft objects, craft knowledge, and craftspeople. (I appreciate Matthew Bradley for sharing it with me.) Read the story (“Raiders of the Lost Crafts”) here. (I note here that, despite the declensionist hook and playful title, the author is not so obsessed with authenticity discourses that she disregards fruitful rediscovery of older craft knowledge through the study of museum collections and documentary materials. The story is a rare and rather sophisticated treatment of its subject.)

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Who cares about craft as traditional knowledge? My colleagues and I do. We also like art and we also love seeing where contemporary craftspeople, including studio craft, DIY craft, and many others, are taking their passions–but documenting what people know and have long known is important and helping foster environments where those who have traditional cultural knowledge are supported and encouraged is key part of our mission. If you care about such things, you still have lots of chances to engage your interests at the museum this year. This week we will host a wonderful group of African American quilters and a talented maker of African drums. In following weeks, we offer chances to connect with Indiana limestone carvers, a hoop-net maker, a rosemaler, a pysanky artist, a Native American potter, a Zapotec weaver, and an Orthodox iconographer. Learning from such craftspeople is something we intend to keep doing as along as we can.

Call for Applications: Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

SIMAHere is a call for applications for next year’s Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology, which will be held again at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. I post it here on behalf of SIMA Director Candance Greene. This is a wonderful program that has made a big difference for the training of graduate students for collections research. Note that the program now includes Faculty Fellows as well as graduate student participants.

Dear Colleagues,

We are now recruiting prospective graduate student participants, as well as Faculty Fellows, for the 2016 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA). We hope you will forward this announcement to interested students and colleagues and re-post to relevant lists. SIMA is a graduate student summer training program in museum research methods offered through the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History with major funding from the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation. Summer 2016 dates are June 27-July 22. Student applications are not due until March 1, 2016, but now is the time for students to investigate the program and begin to formulate a research project to propose. Decisions on Faculty Fellows will be made in December.

During four weeks of intensive training in seminars and hands-on workshops in the research collections, students are introduced to the scope of collections and their potential as data. Students become acquainted with strategies for navigating museum systems, learn to select methods to examine and analyze museum specimens, and consider a range of theoretical issues that collections-based research may address. In consultation with faculty, each student carries out preliminary data collection on a topic of their own choice and develops a prospectus for research to be implemented upon return to their home university. Instruction will be provided by Dr. Joshua A. Bell, Dr. Candace Greene and other Smithsonian scholars, plus a series of visiting faculty.

Who should apply?: Graduate students preparing for research careers in cultural anthropology who are interested in using museum collections as a data source. The program is not designed to serve students seeking careers in museum management. Students at both the masters and doctoral level will be considered for acceptance. Students in related interdisciplinary programs (Indigenous Studies, Folklore, etc.) are welcome to apply if the proposed project is anthropological in nature. All U.S. students are eligible for acceptance, even if studying abroad. International students can be considered only if they are enrolled in a university in the U.S. Members of Canadian First Nations are eligible under treaty agreements.

Costs: The program covers students’ tuition and shared housing in local furnished apartments. A stipend will be provided to assist with the cost of food and other local expenses. Participants are individually responsible for the cost of travel to and from Washington, DC.

SIMA dates for 2016: June 27 – July 22
Application deadline – March 1, 2016

NEW opportunity for faculty: We are now also offering fellowships for faculty to develop courses in museum anthropology. Interested faculty members should see the information included on the SIMA website.

I will be at the AAA meetings in Denver from November 18-22 and would be glad to discuss and answer any questions about the program. Email me at greenec@si.edu if you would like to schedule time to meet.

Want to discuss a project proposal? We’d love to hear from you. Email SIMA@si.edu
For more information and to apply, please visit http://anthropology.si.edu/summerinstitute/

Regards,

Candace Greene

Vernacular Culture in Hands and Minds (The New Basketry Video)

The best places to preserve worthwhile vernacular cultural knowledge is in the hands and minds of talented and engaged people who carry it forward, making it their own and handing it on to still more people. Viki Graber of Goshen, Indiana comes from a long line of willow basketmakers. She has not only preserved the traditions of her family, she has built upon them in ways that curator Jon Kay has explored in the MMWC exhibition Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker. With Viki, Jon made a short documentary film showing steps that Viki uses in the production of a bail-handled work basket. Check it out on YouTube.

This basket is of the basic workbasket type that Viki learned from her father. If you visit the exhibition, you will see the great diversity of complex forms that Viki now creates.

Hopefully the film will inspire you to see the exhibition (through December 20, 2015) at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, to learn more about Viki’s basketwork, and to carry on or document the cultural practices of your family, community, or heritage. If you share a passion for vernacular culture—follow the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and Traditional Arts Indiana on social media or sign up for the museum’s email list.

Contemporary International Basketmaking by Mary Butcher

I mentioned in my previous post purchasing a number of basketry books in route to catching up on neglected topic of longstanding interest. Among those in my recent haul is Contemporary International Basketmaking by Mary Butcher, with contributions by Laurel Reuter and many artists contributing to the 1999-2000 UK exhibition for which this book was the catalog (London: Mary Holberton Publishers with the Crafts Council, 1999). I have not read it cover-to-cover yet, but I can note here that it is a fine publication–well produced and image/object rich. Along with a long essay on the past and present of international basketmaking and a collection of overviews of basketry techniques, the Artists’ Voices section is particularly compelling. It is useful as a research document because it presents individual artists’ answers to a range of fixed and compelling questions. While asked here of basketmakers active on the contemporary craft/studio craft/critical craft ends of the basketmaking spectrum, these questions (or a parallel set) could similarly be asked of basketmakers working less individualistically within particular vernacular/local/historical basketry “traditions.”

In the latest issue of Museum Anthropology Review, I published a review of Basketry: Making Human Nature. Readers of that review will notice that I gave special attention and praise to the long essay therein on East Anglia basketry written by Mary Butcher. It was wonderful and now I find that she is also the scholar-maker-curator behind the older catalogue being discussed here. It has been a pleasure to learn from, and engage her fine work as a basket scholar.

Mary Butcher’s website is here: http://www.marybutcher.net/
Her blog is here: http://marybutcher.wordpress.com/

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