Troubled by the sense of an economy running ‘on thin air’, and by a trade system that routinely divides the design of a product from its production, a new generation of thinkers and makers are turning their attention to the human and material value of craftsmanship. Recent books on this subject include Paul Greenhalgh’s The Persistence of Craft (2002), Glenn Adamson’s Thinking Through Craft (2007), Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman (2009), Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working With Your Hands, and Tanya Harrod’s The Real Thing: Essays on Making in the Modern World (2015). This symposium is designed to explore and extend such debates.
We will discuss the big questions (What is ‘craftsmanship’, and what do craftspeople stand for? Is craftsmanship a matter of the hand and the eye, or can it work in partnership with machines and computers? Is craftsmanship a matter of nostalgia, or can it survive in the modern world?). But we will reflect also on these matters in their practical dimension, as we hear modern craftspeople discuss the opportunities and challenges posed by different materials, and by different qualities of finish. In this way, the event combines the insights of theorists and thinkers with reports on the continuing experience of making.
The event is inspired by the ideas and ideals of John Ruskin, a Victorian art critic and social prophet, whose views on the ethical and human value of craftsmanship inspired William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Ruskin was interested not only in the past of the crafts, but in their present practice: his stirring personal motto, ‘To-day’, is echoed in the title of this event. Organised by the Guild of St George, a charity for arts, crafts and the rural economy originally founded by Ruskin in 1871, it follows several successful symposia held in recent years:
- How to Build an Ethical Economy: A Practical Conference for Life in the 21st Century (Mary Ward House, October 2015);
- Education for Education’s Sake? (Toynbee Hall, October 2014)
- Who Pays for the Environment? (Art Workers’ Guild, February 2012)
- John Ruskin and the Modern World: Art and Economics, 1860-2010 (Art Workers’ Guild, February 2010).
Previous speakers have included Frank Field M.P., Prof. Dinah Birch, Melissa Benn, Sara Parkin, and Andrew Simms.
Programme Organiser: Dr Marcus Waithe, Magdalene College, Cambridge (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Event Organiser: Jenny Robbins (email@example.com).