what / why
As a graduate student at Tyler, I have investigated the use of the
computer as an environment for the design and creation of craft objects.
I see the use of these new technologies as a natural, and necessary,
progression for the field of metalsmithing and for the crafts in general. The
metalsmithing revival of the 1960s and 70s was fed by the investigations of
individuals during the 1940's and 50s. Their research and experimentation formed the
technical foundation that allowed so many people to turn to a vital, expanding field of
crafts in the decades that followed.
Initially, the technologies presented were re-discoveries of ancient
processes, like granulation, and traditional processes imported from Europe, like
silversmithing. During the 1960s and on into the 1970s, these re-discovered
techniques were refined and have since become commonplace. At the same time, processes and
materials that were truly new to the history of metalsmithing were being imported from
heavy industry. Techniques like electroforming, photo-etching and anodizing were
introduced. New materials like plastics and titanium were added to the metalsmiths
growing palette. The work that resulted from the introduction of these new items refreshed
the field and helped maintain a healthy progression.
There has been little of this technical innovation since the early
For a field endangered by stagnation and homogenized design, I see CAD-CAM/RPT as a potential source of new blood.
This technology is a fresh means to, hopefully, a fresh end. I am not looking to re-invent
or re-define craft, but to be a part of its re-vitalization.
New technology, new techniques, encourage new aesthetics.
Craft was once the creation of everything, now it's a Kosy Korner at the
mall. Craft survives (barely) as the creation of, not things in general, but things in
particular. Craft, once the production of the necessary, is now the production of the
accessory. Yet this new role does not call for the cessation of technological advancement.
While craft is certainly associated with its traditional materials and processes, it is
not wholly defined nor limited by those traditional qualities. Furthermore, it is
difficult at best to classify craft as simply hand work. How close does the hand of the
maker need to be to the work to qualify it as craft? Is the proximity of a body part to
the work really what defines it as a craft object? I would suggest that it has far more to
do with the intent of the maker.
This can also be phrased as a craft vs. industrial design debate. So often
it is craft vs. art, but the introduction of such obviously industrial technology as
CAD-CAM/RPT has shifted the focus in some minds to crafts vs. industrial design. I believe
that what distinguishes the two approaches is the intent of the maker. Why is the
object being made, and for whom? In simple terms, the craftsperson designs and
creates a particular object for an individual. While the industrial designer has many of
the same concerns as the craftsperson, they're also concerned with efficient production
for a mass audience. The industrial designer designs an object and its manufacture to
create one of general appeal to a general consumer.
Craft was once the pinnacle of production technology, a position that
industrial design and manufacturing now holds. Why should a craftsperson avoid advanced
technology now? Among the general crafts population, it seems there is a regressive fear
of this progressive technology.
A large segment of society fears computers. The fear and the distrust that
people have for these beige boxes (now available in smoky grey) seems to be centered
around the dehumanization of our lives. So much daily interaction that once occurred face
to face, hand to hand, or voice to voice now is handled by magnetic stripes, touch pads,
voicemail, e-mail, and various sensors. I am concerned with showing another possibility.
To engage these new tools in ways that humanize and individualize the products of that
engagement. Hopefully some of the fear and distrust can be countered by evoking a more
humanistic, and individualistic, potential of these technologies.
These methods of design and production are becoming commonplace and the
idea of mass-customization is being adopted by more and more industries. It seems
logical, and important, that craftspeople, long-time purveyors of customized goods, should
take an active part in this new industrial revolution. Who better than a craftsperson to
attempt to impart a more humanistic sensibility to computers and the machines they
seemingly control? Computers touch so much of our lives, wouldn't you want some of that
touch to be guided by a craftsperson?
Our culture is in a constant state of flux. For the crafts to maintain a
sense of modernity, to be valid and valued members of society, there is a periodic need
for the introduction of new approaches, like the efforts of the innovators of the 50's,
60' and 70's.
I would not be so bold as to suggest that the work that I am presenting
here is the paragon of these ideals. This is in many ways a new direction for my
colleagues and me, and for the crafts as a whole, but it is also simply a continuation of
natural exploration and discovery. We are all moving toward a goal that is constantly
being re-defined, and so we'll never get there. Happily, getting there is half the fun.
CAD-CAM/RPT: computer-aided-design and
manufacture / rapid prototyping technologies [return]
re-vitalization: It's perhaps important to note that
this new technology is to be an addition to the field of crafts, not a total replacement
for more traditional processes. Some early responses to the use this new technology seem
to expose a fear that the proponents of computer-aided-craft intend to
absolutely replace hand-made-craft (both terms are misleading). The
incorrect assumption is that the field can choose only one or the other, and not both.
Crafts is a very open and diversified field. It has room for many approaches, and depends
on the introduction of new approaches to remain healthy. [return]
what / why