When visiting museums and galleries today, we enjoy seeing the best of the works produced in the past. We learn about the styles of those times and what was considered valuable.
Despite the increasingly short-term focus of our digital lifestyle, it is critical that we invest in acquiring representative works from our time so they can be enjoyed by audiences today and into the future. Works crafted by hand give expression to an enduring sense of who we are and where we live.
Australia is blessed with a network of substantial state and national galleries. WoCCA seeks to support their work in acquiring Australian craft by promoting recent purchases. We are calling for information and images about purchases of Australian contemporary craft works from across the continent and its islands, specifically including works purchased since 2017.
These will be profiled on our website and shared through our social media. We hope in this way that we can instil pride in the skills and creativity of Australian craft artists and ensure their legacy is sustained into the future.
In April 2015, an earthquake devastated Nepal, killing more than 9,000 people. WoCCA board member Jane Sawyer led a fundraising campaign to help rebuild potters workshops in the town of Bhaktapur. All up nearly $24,000 has since been raised. WoCCA members in Nepal toured Bhaktapur to look at the first round of constructions, guided by the ebullient Pushkar Shakya. The new kilns appeared to have had a transformational effect. They not only restored capacity but also replaced the dirty wood-fired kilns with much cleaner electric versions. This reduced the number of breakages and increased the production rate. Nepalese expressed their sincere thanks for your support. Australia has a very good name in Bhaktapur.
In 2008, I flew to Hangzhou to attend the General Assembly of the World Crafts Council. I was seeking UNESCO endorsement for a code of practice for artisans and designers and was told this required pre-approval by the World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific region. I wandered into the assembly hall and found little flags distributed across the tables. There in the second row was the flag of Australia. As I made my way down, I became aware of a murmuring. I caught the words “Australia has returned.”
In then, I’ve gradually become to realise the critical role that Australia played in the development of this international network, and what an important story it is to our place in the world, especially the region. In recent years, I have interviewed some of the key figures from the time, including Dr Robert Bell AM.
I spoke to Robert mid-way through 2016 at the National Gallery of Australia. He began his story back in 1967, as a 21-year-old working with ceramics and textiles in Perth. Aware of his isolation, Robert sought to make connections outside Western Australia. He subscribed to Craft Horizons, the magazine of the American Crafts Council, which promoted the work of the World Crafts Council, of which he became an individual member.
Along with the magazine came mailings and notices of conferences. Robert started working as a designer of the West Australian museum and also became a founding member of the Crafts Association of WA. At that stage, the Crafts Association of NSW was the de facto lead organisation. Robert remembers how an STD interstate phone call then would cost around $10 for two minutes. It was much more isolated than now.
With notice of the 1970 General Assembly in Dublin, Robert spent two years saving up money for his first overseas trip. This also included a visit to Expo 70 in Osaka, trips to Europe (Scandinavia and the UK), USA and Mexico.
An enduring memory was the breakfast queue at Trinity College Dublin. Robert recalled, “In front of me was Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada and behind me was Magdalena Abakanowicz, all of whom were my heroes.” Alongside these were Australians he had only known about and never met, including Marea Gazzard and Les Blakeborough. Ironically, it was going overseas that, according to Robert, “…gave me a real sense of being an Australian. being part of a community of thinkers about craft and also an opportunity just to see and meet people.”
A key revelation was the visit to Kilkenny Workshops, a working craft centre. This fed into conversations about how to develop the craft scene in Australia. Robert took this model back to Fremantle, where he found great interest in the idea. He said, “Unfortunately, they thought it was too good and took it away themselves so that it became the Fremantle Arts Centre.” (As far as I know, though, this model was important in the inspiration of the JamFactory Craft and Design Centre in Adelaide.)
Robert received a positive response to his presentation. He formed a friendship with Arline Fisch, who he invited back to Australia, where she became one of the first important international visitors. In 1984 he met his future wife, Eugenie Keefer, who turned out to be a student of hers.
Robert recalls finding a world opening up. “Slowly a network became to build around the people I met at the conference. I was determined then to go to every one of them.”
For Robert, the 1974 General Assembly in Toronto was “a really big deal”. The Crafts Council of Australia had been formed and was taking a lead role in the South Pacific. It presented a cultural program about the region organised by Silver Harris, an Adelaide theatre designer and dancer. This involved an opening performance and exhibition by PNG and Australian indigenous artists, as well as the publication of the Crafts of Australia book with a handmade paper cover.
“All of us rightly felt quite proud about that. We definitely got the feeling that Australia was envied by everybody for its ability to get funding from government. We held up the crafts board as an example for the British, the Europeans and Americans.”
The 1978 General Assembly in Kyoto was also quite significant (according to the catalogue, 53 Australians attended). “It was hugely important in cementing the relationship between Australia and Japan, as leading countries in the Asian region.” Robert formed a friendship with industrial designer Kenji Fujimori, who became a mentor. “Japan wanted to present itself as a modern craft culture, as a place where contemporary crafts and design could have a viable economic relationship.”
In 1982, Robert became the President of the Crafts Council of Western Australia. In the same year, he attended the General Assembly in Vienna where Fujimori was appointed the head of the Asian zone and Robert was made his deputy.
Around this time, Robert was beginning to see the discrepancy between the value of craft for Australia and its neighbours. In Sri Lanka, he saw how important craft was to trade, where it was measured by weight and volume of containers. The sales from countries like Sweden helped buy needed medical equipment. By contrast, Robert felt that “Australia is standing out there in a privileged place in the art world, and standing outside that other world where they are competing with each other for that trade dollar. I Started to realise there was a big division between what we understood to be our craft world and what was around us.”
In Vienna, the political dimension of world craft became apparent, and the power shifted away from its origins in New York to the global South. There were two competing models. One involved “wealthy private individuals who had paternalistic interest in crafts trying to help maintain traditional craft industries through private patronage.” The other was based on a strictly economic model, beyond any consideration of tradition.
A visit to Fiji made this painfully apparent. When Robert arrived, “The first question they asked was ‘How are you going to help us?’ I didn’t have an answer. I think they were disappointed in my visit. I didn’t come with any money. ” There was also growing scepticism among members of the Crafts Council of Australia about the value of the expensive membership fees for the World Crafts Council.
Robert began to focus on his curatorial work, especially the seminal series of craft triennials at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, for which the World Crafts Council networks were very important.
Robert’s career impresses me as a story of dedication and vision. He forged a path for himself as a craft curator before the scene ever existed. He was able to draw on the international network of the World Crafts Council to help build a strong national infrastructure which enabled so many craft artists and projects to flourish for decades. It’s hard to imagine that this would have been possible without that international network.
Now my own term as Deputy in the World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific, I am struck by the contrast. While Australia once led the world in its support for crafts, it now finds itself at the back of the pack. Craft Australia, the national organisation, was defunded in 2011. The National Craft Initiative that was to replace it went nowhere. Meanwhile, national craft organisations in other countries like UK, Norway, Ireland, Canada, USA and especially China are forging ahead.
Still, there was enough momentum in our international engagement for us to resuscitate the World Crafts Council – Australia so we can keep this door open. There are enough young and old crafts people whose ambitions were raised by figures like Robert Bell, who seek to continue our role in the world, with the same kind of commitment that characterised its beginnings.
Despite the lack of government support, Australia does still have a role to play in our region as a culture that sits between East and West. We have a developed education sector and flourishing state-based organisations who can provide a space for reflecting on the value of craft today. In this way, we can bring something to the table that enables us to connect with the dynamic and ambitious countries of our region.
Robert Bell found a path to connect us not only with the outside world, but also with each other. This path contains more adventures ahead for us in Australia.
Dr Kevin Murray, Senior Vice-President, World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific
The Melbourne UNESCO Observatory of Arts Education provides a platform from which research and professional networks grow, not only within Melbourne, but across Australia and in collaboration with other Arts Observatories within South East Asia. The Observatory provides avenues for deep engagement and affiliation across this network, and serves as an umbrella for classroom teachers, arts educators, artists and researchers to collaboratively explore arts practice. As part of the Observatory, we host an artist-in-residence program and will be hosting ten artists and designers from Central Asia next week.
Some information on the Kyrgyz artist-in-residence
The Kyrgyz Republic is an independent country located in the very heart of Central Asia in the neighbourhood with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. The Kyrgyz, one of the ancient people of Central Asia, have rich traditional arts and crafts. UNESCO has safeguarded Kyrgyz traditional felt carpets as an ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’, and we will have an opportunity to learn more about this important work during the visit.
The Kyrgyz artists are in residence from Monday 13th to Saturday 17th August. Proudly, we will also be exhibiting the work of Kyrgyz Photographer, Urmat Osmoev across the week.
Please find below registration details for the upcoming ticketed events at the UNESCO Observatory of Arts Education, Melbourne Graduate School of Education. There are 3 formal and ticketed events:
Wednesday 15 August 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
studioFive, Level 5, Kwong Lee Dow Building
Please register here
Hands on making workshops and presentation:
Tuesday afternoon making workshop and discussion about Kyrgyz culture, art and design. We invite students, artists, crafts people and interested colleagues to join us in this amazing opportunity to learn about Central Asian arts, crafts and design.
Wednesday 15 August 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Visual Arts Studio
studioFive, Level 5, Kwong Lee Dow Building
This workshop will focus on
- Traditional felt toys and amulets, with designer Aidai Chochunbaeva.
- Ethnic dolls of felt, with designer Erkebu Djumagulova
- Ala-kiyiz, Kyrgyz traditional felt carpets, with designer Aidai Chochunbaeva
Please register here
Saturday afternoon making in the Kyrgyz Arts and Crafts Workshop includes:
Saturday 18 August 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
studioFive, Level 5, Kwong Lee Dow Building
- Kyrgyz textile jewellery, with fashion designer Tatiana Vorotnikova
- The “nuna felt” scarf making, with designer Kadyrkul Sharshembieva
- Eco-prints on felt, with designer Iniskhan Turgankazieva
Please register here
We are very lucky to have the following artists and designers here on this visit:
- Tatiana Vorotnikova – fashion designer
- Erkebu Djumagulova – designer
- Galina Turdyeva – designer
- Aidai Chochunbaeva – designer
- Altynai Osmoeva – fashion designer
- Iniskhan Turgankazieva – designer
- Kadyrkul Sharshembieva – designer
- Zhanybek Sharshembiyev – artisan
- Urmatbek Osmoev – book designer, photographer
With regret, we announce the loss of a grand figure of Australian craft. Dr Robert Bell’s leadership as curator on both Australian coasts helped give our crafts the national prominence it was due. He was also a keen advocate internationally for Australia’s role in the World Crafts Council. He will be sadly missed. Our condolences to this dear friends, colleagues, family and wife Eugenie Keefer Bell, who provided us with the following obituary.
Dr Robert Stewart Bell AM
29 December 1946, Perth WA – 28 July 2018, Canberra ACT
Loving and cherished husband of Eugenie Keefer Bell for over 32 years.
Beloved by his family as eldest son of John (dec) and Vonda (dec), brother of Anthony and Beverley, brother-in-law of Gabrielle and Lance in Australia, and Diane, Richard and Ronald in California, uncle of goddaughter Veronica and nephew James.
Robert completed a 50 year career in the arts, serving with insight and passion as Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the National Gallery of Australia, following long terms as Curator of Crafts and Design at the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Senior Designer at the W.A. Museum. As an artist working in ceramics and textiles, his work was exhibited in Australia and internationally, and is held in public and private collections.
He was awarded the 2001 Australian Centenary Medal, the 2005 Australia Council Emeritus Award and in 2010 was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to contemporary craft and design.
An unfailingly generous and gracious man, Robert was loved and admired by his family, friends, colleagues and the many artists whose work he encouraged and supported.
A private cremation service will be held.
So that Robert’s many friends and colleagues may have an opportunity to come together in sorrow at his passing, but with joy in having known him, a memorial celebration of Robert’s life and his contribution to the arts will be held in September in Canberra. Friends and colleagues who would like to be advised of the venue and date, are requested to send their contact address, email and phone number to email@example.com
The largest import expo to be held in China will take place in Shanghai 5-10 November 2018. The Australia China Commercial Association(ACCA) as Official Authoriser represent China International Import Expo Bureau & as service provider represent China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG) are pleased to invite you to the 2018 China International Import Expo (CIIE)
About the CIIE
On the 5-10 November this year, China will host the first China International Import Expo (CIIE). The event will take place in Shanghai, the hub of trade in China today, and will feature exhibits in areas including Animation, Games, Sculpture, Painting, Music, Dance, Intangible Cultural Heritages, Intangible Property, etc.
Over 100 countries and regions are expected to participate in the event, which represents an important move by China to open up its market and promote international trade, whilst also serving as a platform for countries around the world to showcase their development achievements and discuss global economic and trade issues.
*Please note, there is a limit application allowed to attend this Expo*
HOSTED BY MINISTRY OF COMMERCE OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, SHANGHAI MUNICIPAL PEOPLE’S GOVERNMENT
The World Platform
Australia China Commercial Association (ACCA) would like to provide you with an opportunity to exhibit at China’s First International IMPORT Expo under a Cultural Classification. In corporation with the World Trade Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization and other relevant international agencies, The Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government will be working as the main sponsors of the event.
The total area of the exhibition area exceeds 240,000 square meters and consists of two main units: The National Trade and Investment Comprehensive Exhibition and the Corporate Commercial Exhibition. China International Import Expo and the China Arts and Entertainment Group have appointed ACCA as solo cooperation representor for the Cultural Exhibition.
The aim of the Corporate Cultural Exhibition is to showcase and promote a rounded Australian cultural experience to global citizens as affiliated to the Cultural Zone of the Comprehensive Service Zone. This is a unique commercial export opportunity to showcase Australian Culture at the Shanghai Import Expo in China, make connections and develop further commercial and service opportunities.
ACCA would like to invite Australian Aboriginal Culture Associations, Organization, Government involved in the Cultural Sector of Australian Industry and Enterprise to exhibit at the first China International Import Expo. Also the opportunity approved by China National Publicity Department, through the world platform to display Australian Aboriginal Culture, maybe you can obtain further commercial chance on display.
Tel. 61 3 9020 5885
FAX:61 3 9790 5203
Australia China Commercial Association
39-41 Overseas Drive, Noble Park North.
Melbourne, Australia. VIC 3174
WoCCA has a special relationship to Nepal. In response to the devastating earthquake of April 2015, funds were raised from members that enabled the reconstruction of potter’s workshops. This has made a big difference in the lives of the potters.
Now is a chance to get to know the Nepalese better with this inside view of their crafts. WCC-APR General Assemblies are rich events, involving a combination of ceremonies, demonstrations, forums, workshops, tours and plenty of local cuisine. There will be a focus on wood and fibre crafts.
For more information, please see the website – www.wccaprnepal.com
Here’s a wonderful chance to display your wares at one of the great craft cultures of the world.
Hamadan Holds 14th National Craft Fair and First International Craft Fair Coinciding Hamadan Recognition as the Tourism Capital City of Asia
Hamadanˊs Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization is holding its annual National Craft Fair this year. Craftsmen from all around the country participate in the event every year. This year considering Hamadanˊs being recognized as the Tourism Capital City of Asia in 2018 and regarding high capacities and the potential of the province being the heartland of a number of crafts like the Global City of Lalejin in pottery, Tuyserkan and Malayer in wood carving, and Hamadan itself in leather works and regarding the tourism attractions of the city like Ganjnameh inscriptions (Archamenian period), Avicenna mausoleum, Alisadr cave (the longest water cave in the world), Alavid dome (Seljukian period), Babataher tomb, the ancient city of Hegmataneh, Hamadan is holding this year ̓s fair internationally.
Supporting Hamadan and Iran original and local crafts and introducing these artworks as well as the city itself to the invited countries and on the other side introducing the crafts and artworks of the invited countries to the Iranian craftsmen and the public are of other purposes of holding the fair.
We are pleased to announce and warmly welcome the participation of our international guests in our 14th annual craft fair. The craft fair will be held at Hamadan International Exhibition from Tuesday, August 21st to Saturday, August 25th from 03:30 to 09:00pm. Set up is on Monday, August 20th at 11:00 and the building closes at 05:00pm.
A booth space will be free of charge. Booth spaces are approximately 3ˊ to 4ˊ wide by 3ˊ deep. The International Fair shall supply the vendors a table and two chairs. Double booth spaces are also available under your former announcement.
Our international guests will reside in a three star hotel to the vicinity of the fair and there will be VIP buses for transportation. Visiting Hamadan tourism attractions like Alisadr cave (the worldˊs longest water cave), Avicenna mausoleum, Ganjnameh inscription (Achaemenian period) and its tourism resort complex, Babataher tomb are also included in the program. We also hope we can host the WCC members while the fair is held.
For participation and more clarification, please contact directly the Deputy of Crafts Ms.Alireza Qasemi at +9834238704 (call or text) or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to the very knowledgeable and thoughtful Miranda Samuels, WoCCA members had an insider view of the Hermès exhibition in Melbourne. Monsieur Kamel Hamadou gave a wonderful exposition of the silkscreen printing process behind the iconic Hermès scarves, while the very skill Frederic produced a geometrically designed scarf before our eyes, with more than a dozen screens, without a blemish. We heard a long explanation of why this production is located in Lyon and the wonderful infrastructure of craft schools that ensure there is a new generation coming through to renew the tradition.
The discussion with Miranda was quite enlivening and touched on the ambivalence some Australians might feel about a luxury craft brand. We’re hoping that this Hermès tour will prompt us to consider our own heritage crafts and how we can give them a profile similar to those in France. Vive la république des métiers!