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Tracing Emerging Modes of Practice: Craft Sector Review

The craft sector in Ontario has changed tremendously in recent years, and practices have continued to evolve and transform contemporary understanding of crafts and their relationships with other sectors. In 2010 the Ontario Arts Council commissioned Jen Anisef to conduct a review of the craft sector to gain a deeper understanding of emerging craft practices in Ontario and related themes and issues.

Read the full report, Tracing Emerging Modes of Practice: Craft Sector ReviewPDF File

We conducted a literature review and interviews with thought leaders in the craft community, including representatives from Ontario, the rest of Canada and abroad. National and international perspectives provided the context for Ontario-based practice. The resulting report includes detailed findings, summarizes existing gaps and recommends ways to support and develop Ontario’s craft sector.

The report examined design-oriented craft practices, the use of digital technologies in crafts, creative collaboration and the DIY (do it yourself) alternative craft movement, among other issues and trends. Though artists engaged in more traditional modes of craft-making continue to be a vital aspect of the Ontario craft sector, the report suggests that OAC should recognize a much broader range of approaches in order to create a more comprehensive understanding of contemporary craft practices.

In response to the report’s recommendations, OAC has restructured the craft grant programs and expanded the range of eligible practices. Please see the program details here.

Because this report provides an in-depth exploration of emerging contemporary craft practices, we also offer it as a contribution to discussion of this field.

Key findings


Design

  • Contemporary craft artists in Ontario blur the lines between craft, art and design. The report identifies a shift toward integrating design practices in craft, including the adoption of a more commercial approach, particularly among younger practitioners.

Creative collaboration—expanding practice beyond the individual

  • Contemporary craft practice has become increasingly collaborative, interdependent and interdisciplinary. Creative collaboration takes many forms, including partnerships with industry and small-scale manufacturers and collaborations between craft practitioners and sectors outside of craft and with communities abroad.

Technology

  • Digital technologies are gradually becoming more integrated into craft design and production processes, serving as valuable creative and production tools and in some cases opening up broader employment opportunities.

DIY/Indie craft

  • The DIY (do-it-yourself) or indie craft movement is influencing many aspects of the culture of craft. The report discusses the trend, explores the areas of tension between DIY craft artists and the studio craft community and suggests ways in which both sectors could benefit from increasing cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge, for the sake of growth and financial sustainability in the craft community.

Social and environmental responsibility

  • The report identifies an increased dialogue about environmental sustainability in craft and design. Trends include creative re-use and a greater consciousness about the environmental impact of materials and techniques. Some emerging practitioners produce work with a social responsibility dimension, a practice that moves beyond the expression of the individual maker. As well, projects support economic and cultural sustainability among communities abroad and at home.

For more information

  • Lisa Wöhrle, Associate Visual Arts and Crafts Officer, 416-969-7419, toll free in Ontario 1-800-387-0058 extension 7419, lwohrle@arts.on.ca
  • François Boivin, Visual and Media Arts Program Assistant, 416-969-7455, toll free in Ontario 1-800-387-0058 extension 7455, fboivin@arts.on.ca