Talk: What can be learnt from amateur craft practice? Stephen Knott PhD, Union Street, Maidstone, November 2012
Stephen Knott says:
Artists, craftspeople, designers and makers whose vocation is wrapped up within the constellations of creative practice have often sought to distinguish themselves from the amateur, dilettante or hobbyist. This is not surprising given the resources of time, money, and effort that individuals spend in ‘skilling-up’ through training, or research and learning required by art school education. An object produced in someone’s free time, maybe during evenings or weekends, reflects the threat of unschooled production, possibly lacking in technical competence, but more often than not reflecting the enthusiasm of the maker, a can-do attitude, and a disinterest in any sort of remuneration.
Drawing from my recently completed PhD about the history and theory of amateur craft practice, this talk explores some of the characteristics of occasional amateur production and what, if anything, contemporary art, design and craft practice can learn from this state of making. Within a context of continual incentives from media and retail outlets for everyone to express their ‘creative side’, improving technology that decentres production to people’s homes (for example the 3D printer), and reductions to arts funding from state bodies, the divide between professional and amateur is becoming more ambiguous and contested. How have artists already responded to the spectre of the amateur, what can be learnt from their endeavours, and how can we benefit from a new understanding of amateur practice in creating sustainable and financially viable art projects?