The organizers of Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Transformative Power of Craft would be the first to admit it: the catchall category of arts and crafts has always left something to be desired.
Since ancient times. it seems, there has been debate about work that is both practical and decorative at the same time – where does function end and art-for-art’s-sake begin?
“There is a pull between what is art and what is craft,” acknowledges Mary Brunet, new executive director of Semiahmoo Arts, co-presenter of the collaboration with White Rock Museum and Archives (14970 Marine Dr.), where the exhibit opened last Friday and will run until Oct. 15.
The approach taken by the exhibit – celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Craft Council of B.C. – is to focus on materials, according to Brunet and Semiahmoo Arts president Barbara Cooper.
“The idea is that you can take the materials and craft them into something beautiful,” Cooper said.
During the exhibit, Semiahmoo Peninsula artists will demonstrate both tradition and experimentation in such media as fibre, metal, wood, ceramic, glass and vellum.
Participants include June Bloye, Aryn Bowers, John Butt, Roxanne Charles, Don Fleming, Suzanne Gerard, Elizabeth Glowacki, Don Hutchinson, Colin Hyatt, Lance King, Samantha Knopp, Robert Gary Parkes, Sharon Reay, Anne J. Steves and Diane Zwickel.
The historical context will be provided by panels created by museum collections, exhibits and programming director Amanda Sittrop, tracing traditions going back thousands of years – people were carving stone, firing clay and forging metal before the earliest cities were founded.
“We’re really excited about the show,” Cooper said. “It’s our first collaboration with the museum. We think it’s going to be a great experience – we could never have a display of this kind at Semiahmoo Arts, because our space is not set up for it.”
Artist Steves, a former Peninsula resident and Earl Marriott Secondary and Emily Carr student who recently completed her MFA at the University of Victoria, demonstrates in A Conversation With My Nationhood how crafting traditions and subtleties of artistic expression can be inextricably linked – even in such boundary-pushing conceptual pieces.
While much of her earlier art work focused on drawing, printmaking and painting, in this recent work she found that revisiting traditional sewing, knitting and crocheting techniques helped her reconnect with her Welsh heritage (born in Swansea, she came to White Rock at the age of 17).
“It’s a large fabric piece – a multi-national costume that depicts how my history and the place I came from are tied up in my work today,” she said, noting that it’s a variation of a central piece of traditional Welsh female costume, the bedgwn, or bedgown, which she has cut in the shape of the map of Swansea.
“The other piece is related to a photograph in the White Rock Museum and Archives collection – a picture of two girls sitting beside a tent in 1912. Using that as an inspiration, I have crocheted a tent-like shape.”
It’s only since finishing her master’s degree that she discovered that crafting techniques could become part of her work, she said.
“My own history with crafts was growing up with people who had always done them, and of making things with them.
“I suppose I’m also looking at why I rebelled against that, what my reaction was to that, and why it was so visceral,” she added, noting there is a little anti-craft twist implied in her work.
“My grandmother sewed her own clothes and knitted, and as kids we’d get all these horrendous hats and scarves. I learned how to crochet and knit, but i thought I’d forgotten all that. I didn’t realize, until I started using crafts in my work, how much I remembered – some things I seemed to remember innately.”
From 1 to 3 p.m. each Sunday during the exhibition, the museum will hold workshops and presentations in which many of the creators will explain and demonstrate their work.
For more details and full schedule of workshops, visit the museum’s website (www.whiterock.museum.bc.ca) or its Facebook page.