Crafting the social: craft, collaboration, and skill
Conference paper
This paper explores collaboration in the handicrafts as a type of skill. Drawing on discourse in craft, contemporary art, sociology, communication studies, and social network theory, this paper considers strategies privileged by contemporary artists — with an emphasis on those working with fiber processes — that harness the handicrafts in the service of collaboration. By bringing diverse publics together to participate in the act of crafting, these strategies reinvigorate traditional skills and recuperate social aspects of making. Here, craft serves not only to create participatory art works, but also to enact the social, to foster social bonds, and to create community. Sociologist Richard Sennett identifies cooperation as a skill that has been eroded in society at large, and that must be revalued and strengthened. This paper posits the deployment of participatory and collaborative craft strategies as a type of reskilling in craft as well as in the realm of social relations more broadly.

Part of the %Craft After Deskilling& panel organized by Dr. T’ai Smith, College Art Association Annual Conference, New York City, 2013.