Craft Cooee – Wood in Australia

Collaborators Damien Wright and Bonhula Yunipingu

Join the World Crafts Council – Australia board for a conversation about wood. We are blessed by some of the most beautiful timbers in the world. What we make of this gift is a sign of our national identity.

Australia has an incredibly wide range of wood crafts, including Aboriginal carving, fine woodworking, sculpture, guitar-making and boat building. Let’s think about how we might link all this together.

Speakers include Andrew Carvolth (JamFactory), Ashley Ericksmoen (ANU), Damien Wright (pictured above with Yolngu collaborator Bonhula Yunipingu), Andrew Denman (Tasmanian boatbuilder) and Linda Nathan (Australian Wood Review).  The host is WoCCA board mamber Niklavs Rubenis (Uni Tas).

Tuesday 31 May 2023 at 5pm Eastern, 4:30pm Central, 3pm Western
Register on Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAsdu2qqj0qEtE6SxnxxiRN2bdx6siXqwCE

23. May 2022
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Vale Robyn Daw

One of many admirable qualities possessed by Robyn Daw was a generosity of spirit, a widely appreciated openness to give professional advice to anyone in the art world. There was also an ability to celebrate the success of others without prejudice. And it is certainly true to say that she had a broad range of rich experiences in the art world to draw upon, as an artist, arts writer, curator, art museum educator, program manager and policy developer.

Robyn had integrity and intelligence and she resisted compromise. You couldn’t easily get away with much with Robyn without, rightfully, the validity of what you were saying being questioned. In this way she invited responsibility and conversations were lively and enjoyable.

Robyn’s joy and enthusiasm for art and life were infectious, she was witty with a finely tuned sense of humour, she was a thoughtful leader and mentor, and she was elegant and stylish. (As we all noted: alluring jewellery and clothes, especially shoes.)

Many of us within and without the art world admired her for these professional and personal qualities. Women in particular say she gave them confidence when they were beginning in the arts. All of these attributes resulted in a wide circle of professional associates many of whom became close friends. In short, as colleagues have repeated, Robyn was a beautiful person.

We admire her for her exhibition curating in, and prolific writing on art, craft and design — contemporary and historical — and for her leadership roles at Craft Australia and Craft Queensland (now Artisan), and more recently at Arts Queensland (for five years).

For the last decade Robyn was Creative Industries Program Leader at Logan City Council, where she worked to invigorate cultural engagement and development in that community.

Previously, for a collective period of 10 years, Robyn worked in public programming and education at the National Gallery of Australia, QUT Art Museum and Queensland Art Gallery.

A strong interest in the art and culture of textiles led her to work as a weaver at the Australian Tapestry Workshop in Melbourne (city of her birth) from 1986 to ’89, followed by a French government scholarship to research textiles in France. In 2001 she curated the much respected ‘Material Witness: 15th Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial’ for the Tamworth City Gallery. A large tapestry by her, Speed 2001, is held in the collection of Ararat Gallery/Textile Art Museum Australia.

While Robyn believed in the power of art for a better life, more broadly she was passionate about people, her garden, music and good food — the latter often supplied by her long-time partner and artist, Ian Friend.

It was with Ian that ‘ArtBunker’ was formed in 2006 and, working collaboratively, a range of projects were produced including a QUT billboard project, When I leave the clouds, and together with UK group Original Field of Architecture, ArtBunker’s Note to Architect was a finalist in Australian Tapestry Workshop’s ‘Tapestry Design Prize for Architects 2021’.

Robyn’s legacy to arts and culture in Australia lives on.

Ian Were, Brisbane, January 2022 (republished from his website)

03. March 2022
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Legends of Australian craft

We’ve just published a compilation of Wikipedia entries for Australian craftspersons here. Who’s missing?

17. January 2022
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A tribute to George Lucas

One of the kindest and most generous men you could ever meet.

George was born in Australia in 1933 to Greek migrants Anthony and Evdokia who had arrived in 1920. His was a large and happy Greek Family who got together regularly. George, who trained as a French polisher met and married Linley Linton daughter of legendary silversmith Jamie Linton. He soon became Jamie’s apprentice and by 1966 a partner in the Linton Silver business. He made much of the Linton silver and was so busy he did not have time for many designs of his own.  

In the 1970s George studied at the Sir John Cass College in London where due to his skill he was a prize-winning student. After his father-in-law had retired he was in partnership with his brother-in-law John Linton for a while before he set up the shop Argenta (with his workshop below) in partnership with English silversmith and London gallery owner Gill Dutfield who came out regularly to visit. Argenta, in Leederville sold the work of Western Australian and English jewellers and silversmiths.

Argenta in Leederville

George became a guest lecturer at WAIT where he taught raising and to see a mug rise miraculously in a few hours was joy to behold. It was a skill he passed on to those who cared to learn. George generously shared his studio with me at a difficult time in my life and also took many WAIT graduates under his wing over the years. 

He was a professional silversmith who loved his work. He made major commissions and exhibited in a few national exhibitions but mostly lived the life of a committed craftsman. He loved to make and even after he sold Argenta he kept making for the sheer joy of creating. His other love was classical music, the strains of which thankfully were appreciated by his cat Mozart who guarded the workshop. 

George died on august 12th 2020. His generous spirit is sadly missed by all who knew him.

G. Lucas Cass Box 1975 120 x 60mm ss, enamel, gold plate

Dorothy Erickson

04. November 2021
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How to help Indian artisans

Masters of their craft: Dr Ismail Khatri and Liz Williamson

Hello everyone,
 
Like me, I’m sure you were saddened by the devasting catastrophe that occurred in India in early 2021 with the second wave of the pandemic. Sadly, now several months on, artisans are still suffering from reduced markets and few local tourists and no foreign visitors. As many know I’ve had a long engagement with artisans in India through my own practice, teaching Cultural Textiles courses and most recently Cultural Textiles tours to Gujarat and the Northeast. I’m longing for another visit but since returning in February 2020, my plans for a future trip have shifted from late 2020 to 2021 then 2022 and now most likely late 2022 or early 2023.
 
Last year, in place of organising a tour, I contacted everyone that had joined me on a tour in either Gujarat or the Northeast and together we raised over $A5000 for artisans. Everyone was very generous in supporting groups in Maheshwar, Gujarat and Assam. Since then, a colleague has made and sold masks to raise funds for the Antaran ‘Gift of Loom’ program in Assam – sending enough for five new looms for weavers in the local Kamrup area. Together we have supported 8 new looms for weavers in this area – a great program that can be supported at https://www.antaranartisanconnect.in/footer/giftofloom
 
More recently, the Cultural Textiles Gujarat December 2019 group has donated funds for our wonderful guide in Gujarat, Nirav with his efforts to support his family, provide food relief deliveries to the needy and oxygen supplies for those with the virus following the sad death of his mother due to no oxygen being available. 
 
I am now writing to others who may be are interested in donating to artisans suffering due to the pandemic. For over a year, they have lost income due to difficulties in getting supplies, accessing markets and no local or foreign tourists who visit their workshops and local shops; now so many are sadly infected by the virus, needing food, vaccines and oxygen. 
 
If you are interested in supporting artisans directly, I recommend these organisations who I know and can be trusted to support artisans families, communities and those in need. There are many other organisations but I can vouch for these. 
 
Dastkar –  artisans support fund. 
https://www.dastkar.org/donation/
 
Delhi Craft Council – Covid-19 ‘Artisans’ help fund 
http://www.delhicraftscouncil.org/covid19/2020/5/9/covid-19-artisans-help-fund
 
200 Million Artisans is calling for funds to supply oxygen and medical where needed.
https://200millionartisans.org/fundraisers

Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), headquartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat with their production unit and Hansiba shop and the Hansiba Museum in Ranhanpur in northern Gujarat. SEWA’s appeal for funds is a link from one of their news items on their home page – a link to a pdf with details, banking details etc. 
https://www.sewa.org

Alternatively, if you would like to send funds to me, I’m happy to forward them to colleagues in Ahmedabad and Bhuj in Gujarat directly to support local artisans. Please email me at liz.williamson@unsw.edu.au

I hope that you can join me in supporting artisans and colleagues in India. 

19. July 2021
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Vale Helge Larsen

Helge Larsen and Darani Lewers

Australia mourns the loss of silversmith Helge Larsen. Australian craft owes such a huge debt to Helge Larsen. Alongside Darani, he was not only a master silversmith but a great community builder.

According to WoCCA board member Liz Williamson:

Helge Larson was an outstanding jeweller renown internationally who made a significant contribution to the Australian craft and design sector with his leadership, mentoring and advocacy. He will be remembered for his creativity and technical expertise in his practice, his generosity of spirit and willingness to share; a sincere, kind-hearted soul with a pleasant, engaging manner. Our thoughts are with his family as we send our condolences.

The following is an extract from: Skinner, Damian, and Kevin Murray. 2014. Place and Adornment: A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.: Bateman.

In 1959, after training with Ots, Darani Lewers was encouraged by her father, the sculptor Gerald Lewers, to travel to Denmark . She arrived in England but found it difficult as a woman to obtain a position in the jewellery industry. After working for a while in costume jewellery, Lewers visited Copenhagen where she met Helge Larsen.

Larsen had completed an apprenticeship with Viggo Wollny, a master of the guild in Copenhagen. While he appreciated the skills he obtained there, Larsen could not relate to the ornate style that was featured in the workshop. In 1953, he had successfully undertaken the course at the Guldsmede Hojskolen (School of Art and Design). Then, in 1955, Larsen was awarded a two-year scholarship from the Danish American Foundation to study and work with the silversmith Stig Gusterman, who was producing ecclesiastical ware in Colorado. Larsen gained further experience with the University of Colorado, but of greater importance was his involvement with the Navajo jewellery scene. For a time, Larsen worked in Santa Fe, teaching jewellery skills to local Navajo people. On return to Denmark in 1957, he established his own business, Copenhagen Solvform. Larsen took Lewers on as a trainee in 1958 and 1959. Their work came to the attention of English curator Graham Hughes, who included it in the International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890–1961 at the Goldsmiths’ Hall in London. Lewers was the only person living in Australia who featured in this exhibition, which brought together 1000 objects made during the previous 70 years, focusing particularly on artists making jewellery and on studio jewellery. Solvform broke up in 1960. In 1961 Larsen migrated to Sydney and set up a workshop with Lewers.

According to Patricia Thompson, their initial jewellery was influenced by Scandinavian craft traditions: ‘Their early work involved the simple hammered forms that originated in Scandinavia, and then they became interested in folk jewellery – “Large forms became many small forms linked together”.’ But this evolved into more geometric forms, exploring kinetic effects. The Scandinavian influence was particularly marked in Sydney in the 1960s, where Georg Jenson had opened a shop and the Swedish Baron Axel von Rappe ran Scandinavian House (1961-1967), which included jewellery and hollow-ware.

On the year of their return they had their inaugural exhibition together at Macquarie Gallery, the gallery’s first ever exhibition of this kind. The recognition of Larsen and Lewers by Goldsmiths’ Hall had secured their place in the emerging field of modern jewellery, and the exhibition was consecrated by Sun-Herald art critic James Gleeson:

The exhibition is as stimulating as a collection of fine sculpture. Indeed, many of the necklaces, pendants, rings and brooches reflect in miniature the highly wrought sophistications of the world of Arp or Brancusi . . . sensitive taste, high craftsmanship and an active imagination have been combined to make these objects into works of art.

The exhibition strengthened the aspirations of jewellery as a new form of the visual art then emerging in the Sydney scene.

While subtle, there were local references within these modernist forms. According to Judith O’Callaghan:

While rough pitted surfaces were meant to evoke the texture of the landscape, a number of pieces incorporated materials such as abalone shell and wood that Helge and Darani had collected on bush walks. Some designs were actually based on natural forms, for example, the oxidised silver pendant which suggests the shape of an explored pod, that outer shell opening to reveal a cabochon star sapphire. Local stones, such as sapphires and agates were used quite extensively but like shell and wood they were treated as a formal element complementing the metalwork, rather than as a precious point of focus.

In the early 1970s Larsen’s and Lewers’s work began to reflect more urban themes. They replaced geometric forms with designs of medieval towns, schematic urban plans and architectural features. On return to Australia, they began to focus on the local manmade environment. Their brooch, The Australian Dream, depicts the typical Australian suburban home, and they also made Harbour Bridge and Opera House pendants, engaging with national identity at a symbolic rather than a personal level. Instead of employing natural materials, they inserted photographic elements into these works.

Their approach to nature was quite experiential – as jewellers, one of Lewers and Larsen’s principal contributions was to forge an artistic attitude toward nature. Their horizon is a world based on an order flowing from, rather than imposed on, nature. In their own words:

Societies seek to order the forces of nature, while nature has its own organic structures which in turn influence societies. Our way of working involves a planned and structured approach – to create a sense of order and determine the content. We respond to and explore the imprint left by cultures on the environment as well as the order which exists in nature.

This approach represents an ongoing concern in Australian contemporary jewellery to find a language of making that enables a better understanding of the land on which European civilisation has been transplanted.

17. June 2021
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Vale Dr Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi

A tribute to the President of the World Craft Council, who passed away on Thursday 1 April 2021, by Dr Kevin Murray.

The World Crafts Council community is grieving the loss of Dr Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi, whose Presidency of the Asia Pacific Region instilled such pride in craft heritage. I had the good fortune to work alongside Dr Ghada as her Senior Vice-President and editor of her flagship encyclopedia project. I offer these reflections as a contribution to the many tributes that are flowing in.

Four years ago, after lunch in her Kuwait home, Dr Ghada kindly agreed to tell me some of her background. I had intended to conduct a more formal interview during her upcoming Presidency, but that sadly will not be possible. I do remember a key point of her life story.

Dr Ghada told me about the Qaddumi village in Palestine from which her family had to leave during the Nakba in 1948. It seemed an idyllic time, redolent of the fragrant orange groves.  She remembered particularly that her mother was not able to realise her potential in life, which made Dr Ghada determined to focus on her own studies.

In the early 1970s, Dr Ghada studied Arabic Literature at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Soon after, in the 1980s, she was curator at the Islamic Art Museum “Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyya”, Kuwait. She completed her PhD in 1990 at Harvard University in the History of Islamic Art and Architecture, titled “A Medieval Islamic Book of Gifts and Treasures”. In the early 1990s, she took the position of Researcher at the Kuwait National Museum. Then in 1994, she became Deputy Director for Culture, Department of Antiquities and Museums.

Dr Ghada played leading roles in the Kuwaiti government. In 2000 she was made Director, Department of Publishing and Distribution, National Council for Culture, Arts & Letters, then in 2001 she became the Founder and Director of Research & Cultural Studies.

In 2004, she returned to Harvard for a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Islamic Art. From that year she also commenced her involvement in the World Crafts Council, Asia Pacific Region, as Senior Vice-President for West Asia. This culminated in a rare two-term Presidency (2013-2020) during which she oversaw the growth of the World Craft Cities program, Award of Excellence and personally instigated the Online Encyclopedia of Crafts for the Asia Pacific Region.

I was witness to the warm reception to Dr Ghada by the many craft communities that she visited. Her presence and support for the crafts were keenly appreciated, reflected in the bounty of floral bouquets presented to her and pride in displaying craft treasures. Dr Ghada was extremely careful to give each their due and was quite tireless in meeting their demands.

Dr Ghada also worked behind the scenes in using her authority to ensure that governments gave craft its due. Many events such as the World Crafts Council General Assembly in Isfahan 2016 and Inaugural Festival of Handicrafts in Kokand, 2019, would not have occurred without her support.

Dr Ghada was a shining sentinel for the World Crafts Council. Despite the rigours of travel to remote regions, she would always appear immaculately dressed and bearing her magnificent smile. She was extremely diligent in acknowledging all the dignitaries present and inevitably incorporated a poetic jewel into speeches. Her personal presence was a key ingredient in the official support for crafts.

Underlying Dr Ghada’s tenure as President was a deep commitment to fairness in the dealings of the council. She invited artisans from all six regions to Kuwait for events to promote their work. She was adamant about each region having its due and expected us all to work for the benefit of our region, not just ourselves.

Dr Ghada was at heart a scholar. She was passionate about the history of materials and techniques across the region, particularly along the Silk Road. She had particular expertise in precious gems. I remember particularly her very learned discourse on turquoise in Mashhad, Iran.

The encyclopedia will be one of her enduring legacies. When explaining the project initially, Dr Ghada introduced me to the Arabic concept of sadakha jeriah, or perpetual donation, which referred to a gift that keeps giving, such as a water fountain. The encyclopedia is certainly one of those gifts that we will continue to enjoy into the future.

Dr Ghada had great compassion for the plight of artisans affected by disaster. She herself gave generously and steered the support of the WCC-APR. We are grateful in Australia for the support offered to those whose workshops had been destroyed by the catastrophic bushfires, and particularly sad that she never had the chance to visit the South Pacific region.

Dr Ghada inspired great devotion in those around her. She was ably supported by Ranga Al-Ghossain-Qubbaj, Girija Sudhakaran and Mark Umbreta. And, critically, she had the support of her family, Saad and Nabila.

Dr Ghada’s departure is a dreadful loss, especially as she was about to take on the Presidency of the World Crafts Council – International. But the strength of her commitment will help guide those who will attempt to fill the gap. When faced with inevitable difficult ethical issues, we can find an answer in the question, “What would Dr Ghada do in this situation?”

The President of World Crafts Council – Australia, Jude van der Merwe comments:

“Dr Ghada had an extraordinary wisdom and generosity of spirit. She was enormously kind to me when I first met her in Nepal and again in Khon Kaen, Thailand for the World Ikat Conference. Our world is poorer without her but her example shines through.”

Layla Walter from Mahi ā Ringa – Craft New Zealand Aotearoa comments:

“With the passing of Dr Ghada Qaddumi comes a tear in the fabric of the international craft community. Condolences to her family, WCC colleagues and makers across the world. The absence of Dr Ghada in her new role as President of the World Craft Council International, her experience and connection to others will require something of us all – to connect more to mend this gap in our community. With our actions may we continue to weave a strong fabric between us all. Thank you for your work Dr Ghada.”

06. April 2021
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A forum on the crisis in Australian craft education

Monday 30 November 5pm (AEDT)

The strength of a culture depends on a diversity of stories and skills that are sustained over generations. Civilisations develop institutions to help preserve and develop those skills, including musicianship, dance, drama, art and craft. Craft has a particular value in the way it engages a full range of senses and gives meaning to everyday life. Without institutional support, Australia risks losing its capacity to make useful objects of beauty and meaning.

Being a manual skill, the teaching of craft can be more intensive than abstract knowledge work. Thus it is often targeted by managers of large institutions who seek to apply a standardised funding formula. But in no longer passing on that skill, we will have seriously diminished our culture.

There are recent proposals to cut tertiary craft courses at Griffith University and the Australian National University. If successful, others might be encouraged to follow.

In response to this threat to Australian culture, WoCCA has organised a forum to develop a collective plan to support craft education in the face of this challenge.

This is a public meeting. A wide range of perspectives is encouraged.

Registration

Agenda

24. November 2020
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Save jewellery at Griffith University!

On 2 November 2020 Griffith University released the Proposal for Workplace Change Roadmap to Sustainability (R2S), advising that they plan to cut the Jewellery & Small Objects course, along with the printmaking and other fine art studios.

The justification is a $700m shortfall this year.

J&SO and printmaking have the highest student satisfaction ratings within the QCA. But the courses were identified as high cost with specific spatial and technical requirements.

No doubt, it would be cheaper to teach Photoshop in a computer laboratory. But we need to consider the long-term implications of this loss of specialisation.

President World Crafts Council – Australia, Jude van der Merwe, urges for a reversal of this decision: “The World Crafts Council Australia urges the university to reconsider this course of action and commit to a serious investigative study about the resulting employment, directions and profiles of graduates in these courses.”

The J&SO program is the only university course of its kind in Queensland and one of only five nationally. According to Dr Kevin Murray, author of Place and Adornment: The History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand, “The Queensland jewellery course is a national leader. It has a unique role in engaging with jewellery students and academics in our region, particularly Indonesia.”

The closure of this course will immediately lead to the loss of teaching and technical jobs. Queensland students will no longer have a pathway to future jobs in the jewellery and creative industries.

The skills and understanding of materials gained through specialisations like jewellery can benefit careers in other fields. The globally famous Australian designer Marc Newson first studied jewellery at Sydney College of Art.

Jewellery has a special value in Australia given the wealth of minerals from which the nation benefits. According to Dr Murray, “Despite humble origins as a convict colony, settlers found themselves on a land of great mineral riches. But we are left with more than holes in the ground. Australian art jewellery has gained a reputation on the world stage for its innovation and meaning. It proves that we are a country that can make things.”

The J&SO workshop at Griffith has taken years to develop. The loss of equipment and technical knowledge will be hard to restore in the future.

This decision goes against the grain of education elsewhere. RMIT University is about to implement a new craft specialisation program, led by its jewellery department.

According to Dr Murray, “Jewellery is one of the most dynamic art forms of our time. As wearable art, it offers an immediate and personal platform for creativity. Globally, art jewellery draws on democratic values that seek to transform a traditionally elite form into a medium for a diversity of experiences, including gender, colour, class. It has become a particularly important medium of expression for first nation peoples, especially in Australia.”

We urge you to sign this petition to help reverse this destructive decision.

12. November 2020
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East Gippsland Craft Map

The Kangaroo apple is native to East Gippsland and is considered a “pioneer species” that heralds regrowth after bushfire. Image from http://www.elster-creek.org.au/solanum-laciniatum-large-kangaroo-apple.htm

World Crafts Council – Australia supports makers of handmade products that add pleasure and utility to our world. Works made by hand reflect an understanding of materials and the dedication of skill. These objects tell us stories that reflect our values.

But there’s a problem. Where can we find these handmade objects? Many makers live regionally, where they can find a slower lifestyle and proximity to nature. But this also makes them more difficult to find. 

To meet this challenge, WoCCA is developing an Australian Craft Map. East Gippsland has been selected as a pilot region. 

This is partly to support bushfire recovery. We have already been able to support re-building workshops, thanks to our generous World Crafts Council network. Now we are seeking to promote makers to a broader audience.

The COVID lockdown means that many have abandoned plans for overseas travel this year. East Gippsland beckons as a destination for Melbournians to leave the city where they have been confined most of the year. 

This is a time when we are keen to support local communities to recover from the twin disasters of bushfire and pandemic.

We are developing a website and app that has information about where they can find handmade products in East Gippsland. This will include ceramics, jewellery, weaving, furniture, glass, painting, printmaking and photography with a handmade element. This can also include ephemeral products such as soap, which also reflect care and skill. 

We are working in partnership with the Phoenix Trail, which is producing printed materials. Our component involves a website and smartphone app. 

The hope is to establish something like a Wine Itinerary that can guide travellers to places where they can connect with locals. 

The information provided can include specific times for studio visits (or by appointment), galleries or shops where works can be purchased and classes/events for the public. 

To participate, you need to fill out your details in an online form. This information will be checked regularly for accuracy, to give you the opportunity to make changes. This will be monthly initially, then every three months after that. 

This project is part of One Village One Product, a movement that began in Japan and supports local regeneration through specialisation. It is supported by a DFAT Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grant.

For more information, send an email to gippsland (at) wccaustralia.org.au

Below are some of the participants in the craft map:

12. October 2020
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