The Craft Factor - Better Booths

Vol 13, No 3 Fall 1988

Submitted in the Fall of 1988, the article "Better Booths" from set designer Michael Bantjes came at an oportune time, just before the Christmas craft show season. The article succinctly covers a variety of topics in respect to booth design and product display.

Read the full article

Craft artists face many challenges when selling at craft markets, not the least of which is that every venue is different - lighting, booth size, drape colour, market size and booth layout etc. Marketers need to be able to adjust to the pros and cons of each venue.

September 6th at the SCC building in Saskatoon, Susan Robertson will be leading a workshop on Booth Design. Susan will present a number of ideas about how to go about designing your booth for craft shows, some of the Do's and Dont's of booth display, and share some economical solutions for craft display! Friday September 6th 2-4pm at the SCC Boardroom, 3rd Floor 813 Broadway Ave
SCC Members $10
Non Members $15
Space is limited!
Attendees are encouraged to bring pictures of their own past displays/booths for feedback and advice on improvement.
DEADLINE to register AUGUST 26th email

Fine Craft and Fine Art: Function and Form

Submitted by: Maia Stark, Gallery Assistant

As a gallery assistant at Affinity Gallery, I often have the opportunity to engage in discussion with visitors or artisans about the current exhibit. Occasionally, the conversation turns to the definition of “craft.” Some visitors are confused or dismissive of some “non-craft” media which the Saskatchewan Craft Council accepts submission of, such as photography, printmaking, and painting. Others are excited by this more contemporary inclusion. This has not always been so: prior to the mid-1980’s photography, painting and printmaking were not recognized by the SCC. Since then, however, the boundaries defining Fine Craft and Fine Art have become blurred, as the requirements for what is to be considered “craft” become less about the medium or technique itself and more about the artistic endeavor.

Many individuals, artists and non-artists alike, have differing views of what encompasses Fine Craft versus Fine Art. The argument that I find most conversations tend to scrape down to is the comparison of “form” and “function.” This is a traditional distinction between Fine Craft and Fine Art, and one which I think tends not to apply so strictly in contemporary practices. In the case of form and function we see more and more that fine craft magazines, galleries, and councils accept works which seem to emphasize form over function: this is contrary to traditional models which focused on fine craft as functional, technical, quality work.

Contemporary fine craft is still about technique and quality; but an artisan can sometimes be more excited by the prospect of aesthetic form than the probability of someone using their piece for water, for food, to sit upon. Sometimes the choice to be non-functional is a comment on the idea behind the piece: contrasting the concept of comfort with harsh or sharp materials, for example. The pieces become not only fine craft pieces, but art objects. Some artisans seem to focus on both: making works which are intended for display and also making works intended for use. 

What makes something Fine Craft? Media or functionality? When does craft become sculpture, and in what sense?
Wedgwoodn't Tureen, Michael Eden, 2010

The question then, is, if the status of that individual is categorically changing as their intentions change? Is one only sometimes a fine arts artist, and then sometimes a fine craft artisan, and, need there be a difference? Can “artist” be the term for all of this? Well, that’s another blog post I suppose. Art has moved so far and beyond what was known before, in every generation or movement of art, that it becomes difficult to understand how any previously defined terms can stay relevant without flexibility. At the same time to deny any labels at all would be chaotic and would not serve anyone’s needs. However I do not think it necessary that fine craft be functional more so than formal, or neither formal more so than functional. The decision to lean towards form or functionality seems no longer necessarily indicative of the defining category of art, but instead is fueled by intention, expression, and creativity.

If you have an inquiring mind for the more traditional philosophy of aesthetics, check out this summation of R.G. Collingwood’s Aesthetics or John Dewey’s Art as Experience

Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival 1991 – Present

Submitted by: Amanda Bosiak, Member Services (on location from the 2013/40th Annual Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival)

Susan Robertson stayed on as festival coordinator in 1991, building on the success of various activities she had added to the market, including expanded children’s activities, and the kite making workshop (led by Mary Anne and David Baxter of Battleford).

In 1992 the SCC secured funding for a permanent staff position for market coordinator, and Lois Kurp was hired at half-time (increased to three-quarter time the next year). 

1993 saw the introduction of the Senior admission rate at $1.75 (regular adult admission was $3.50) and the distribution of free passes to the Handcraft Festival. Sadly for the residents of Battleford, this was also the first time that the juried exhibition, Dimensions, awards were not held in conjunction with the Handcraft Festival, after 20 years of the two events being tied together. (The awards would return to Battleford the following year, although the jurying of the exhibition would move away from Battleford permanently by 2003)

In 1994 a new volunteer committee joined in the planning of the Handcraft Festival, dubbed the Handcraft Festival Support Committee, and chaired by Rod McDonald of the Optimist. The committee would take on the duties of decorating the festival, providing volunteers for the courtyard (a rest and food area) and some promotion of the festival. In addition, the United Church stepped up to provide Pancake Breakfasts and Roast Beef dinners throughout the weekend.

The 1994 sale was also the first year that new jury standards were applied to marketers: the changes included separate standards for each medium, as well as the introduction of “juried status” where artists no longer needed to be juried for every sale.

No significant changes occurred with the festival in 1995, although it would turn out to be Lois Kurp’s last year as festival coordinator. Before she left, she suggested to her friend, Chris Jones, that he apply for the Marketing Coordinator position, and he accepted the job in early 1996.

Chris had a few years to settle into the position before the Silver Anniversary in 1998

L-R: Jenni Hambridge formerly of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Rusty and Ron Kurenda of Prairie Pottery  

In 1999 in the hopes of increasing attendance, the SCC began distributing $1 off passes to the market. The next several years saw a steady decline in attendance to the festival, though craft demonstrations, children’s activities and the number of booths remained. 

In the early 2000’s the market was moved from a 3 day event to a 2 day event (not open on Sunday) By 2004 decreases in the number of marketers began to become apparent, and in addition to the reduction of the sale to 2 days, issues about the heat in the arena began to arise. With Dimensions jurying moved to Saskatoon, and the awards ceremony moved to the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, the availability of the air conditioned Alex Dillabough Centre was too good to pass up.

The 3-day event in 2005 took place in the Dillbough Centre, and increases in both attendance and craft marketer sales were reported. The SCC continued to ensure that the previous year’s Dimensions would be on display in the Battleford area at the same time as the Handcraft Festival, and in 2005 there was also an exhibition of the previous 30 years of purchase awards for Dimensions from the Town of Battleford.

Publications and Reports from the SCC made a permanent shift from print to electronic formats after 2005, so history fans, you’ll have to wait a little longer for the rest of the story of the Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival to be told!  Right now, I’m sitting in the market office at the 40th Annual Handcraft Festival to get this report to you. But now I must return to my present duties! 

Coordinating a craft market requires a broad set of skills :)

CRAZY ART - Summer Art Reading

Submitted by: Vivian Orr, Communications and Publications Coordinator

In a creative drought? Feeling inspiration challenged?

Check out CRAZY ART by Chantal Allès (available through the Saskatoon Public Library, Fine Arts collection). It will kick start your imagination!

CRAZY ART blows away preconceived ideas about what constitutes “art” and demonstrates creativity, imagination and craftsmanship are not the sole domain of the painter, sculptor or photographer.

Filled with amazing photos and short write-ups on the artists and their works, you will flip through a wonderland of balloon creatures (Jason Hackenweth), Lego constructs (Nathan Sawaya), camouflage (Emma Hack) and illusion (John Pugh).

See works that range from delicate carved pencil tips (Dalton Ghetti) to monumental underwater sculptures (Jason de Caires Taylor). Jaw dropping pavement art (Kurt Wenner) and stunning recycled plastic sculptures (Aurora Robson) are featured next to SOOO NOT politically correct tattooed pigs (Wim Delvoye) and disturbing performance art involving raw meat (Zhang Huan).

Inspired by fantasy landscapes (Carl Warner), creatures which walk across landscapes (Theo Jansen) or paper cityscapes (Jeff Nishinaka) you will find all that and more in CRAZY ART. It is a fun, fast and fascinating summer read!

Published by Vivays Publishing in 2011. ISBN 978-1-908126-08-5

The Craft Factor - Sask Handcraft Festival 1980 - 1990

Our weekly Craft Factor post comes early this week, as we continue to look at the history of the Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival, which celebrates 40 years this weekend! July 19-21, 2013 at the Alex Dillabough Centre, Battleford.

In The Craft Factor, we find a wonderful record of the festival up to 1990. After this date, The Craft Factor shifted focus to devote more space to review exhibitions of craft, and reports on the festival moved to the SCC's member newsletter, The Bulletin, as well as briefs in Annual Reports.

As mentioned in the previous post, jurying of the craft artists exhibiting at the craft market began in 1979. The jury continued to refine this process in 1980, and came out of the selection of marketers with some observations and suggestions for future jury sessions.

Read the complete article Vol 5 No 2 June 1980

1980 also marked the first year that the Saskatchewan Craft Council took over organization of the craft market from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. June Jacobs of Meacham was the first SCC Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival coordinator.

LED Lighting in Galleries

Submitted by: Leslie Potter, Exhibitions and Education Coordinator

It's like Affinity Gallery is sucking in daylight from the outside!!!

This time last summer, we switched the halogen lighting in Affinity Gallery over to LED lighting. The switch happened right in the middle of fibre artist, Anna Hergert's exhibition, "Sharing Riches of My Soul"

LEFT: AFTER the new LED lights have been installed
Note how, unlike the light cast by the halogens in the image on the RIGHT, the LED lights do not change the colour of the floor, walls or artwork!

We are very pleased; the colours in the pieces pick up so much better, and with the variety of beam angles we've got lots to play with. 

I had three concerns about using LED: 
  • that they cast hard shadows; 
  • that they were not as soft as incandescent and therefore created “halos” around the art work, 
  • and thirdly, I was not sure how our dimmers would work
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the 60 degree beam angle LED was just as soft as the halogen. We are using these to light most of the works. When we require more of a “spot” we use the 45 and 30 degree beam angles. And, the fact that they are completely dimmable gives us ample control over how lighting works in the gallery even with our antique dimmers. 

We are also pleased with the 4000 K natural white; it illuminates colours in a most pleasing way. When we switched over to LED from halogen, every staff member at the Saskatchewan Craft Council remarked on how the pieces “came alive”. There were some colours and materials in just about all of the pieces that were not evident under halogen light. The fact that there are no UV rays emitted is also very much appreciated, because we often exhibit UV sensitive materials. As well, there is no infra-red spectrum (heat), so our air conditioner is working significantly less this summer! With our present usage I predict the lights will last over 20 years, (solid state circuitry lasts 45,000 hours) which is another saving over halogens which burn out quickly. We are now using about 400 to 500 watts; previously we were using upwards of 4500 watts!

It’s hard to imagine that you can have such beautiful lighting that will save you money! It’s definitely the way of the future. We are currently switching from fluorescents to LED to light our new SCC Fine Craft Boutique.

A big thank you to Andrew Geldart, Western Region Sales Manager at Lumicrest Lighting Solutions for his help in our conversion.

The Craft Factor - The Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival in the mid to late 70's

The Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival began in 1974, Sponsored by The Saskatchewan Department of Industry and Commerce and the Town of Battleford. The first couple of festivals/craft markets were organized by the Department of Industry in cooperation with a group of volunteers known as "The Battleford Committee"

1976 marked the first year that the newly formed Saskatchewan Craft Council took over the responsibility to organize the juried craft competition at the market (which would later go by the name Dimensions).

Excerpt from "Battleford Postscript" October 1976
Read the full article Vol 1, No 4, October 1976

In 1977 there were some problems with the exhibition space as the Town of Battleford was still completing work on the much anticipated New Arena. Also, craft artists reported problems with the camping sites (which most of them used over the weekend) including inadequate shower facilities. It is a testament to the commitment from the Town of Battleford even early on in the festival, that improvements were made by the next summer!

To Wholesale or Not?

Submitted by: Susan Robertson, Ceramic Artist

People often ask me about the why/how I ended up focusing on wholesale. Early in my career I followed the traditional methods of flogging my wares, weekend after weekend at craft sales. At the time, my three children were very young and I arrived home after the ninth weekend in a row away from home, to find my kids clinging to their father's pant leg in fear, not knowing who I was. It broke my heart. I decided then and there to find another way to continue practicing my craft and selling my work that would not require me to travel so much.

I started looking at wholesale as a viable alternative. Firstly and most importantly, it would allow me to stay at home more. It also had the added benefit of decreased speculation. I didn't have to make dozens of items and hope they would sell. I just had to make samples and produce them if and when they were ordered. The down side was that I had to sell my work to stores at half of my normal selling price.

I was fortunate in my timing to be able to take part in a program, the name of which escapes me at the moment, which was designed to help new wholesalers attend the Alberta Gift Show, for a minimal cash investment. It also provided me with guidance on promotional material. It was a great success and my venture into wholesaling was launched.

Over the years I have acquired and lost agents, ventured into the US market, survived the downturn in the economy and now find myself no longer needing to do retail craft markets, for which I am eternally grateful. I'm getting too old to haul, pack and unpack pots. 

Looking back, it was the right choice for me. Looking forward, with the diminishing returns of today's craft sales, I believe that this may be a good choice for others. Crunch the numbers, you may be as surprised as
I was to discover that your wholesale net income, when you include all of the costs, is not so different from retail.

The views in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Saskatchewan Craft Council.

À table! - On Now at Affinity Gallery

Submitted by: Amanda Bosiak, Member Services

"The table has been set, a feast has been prepared, and now - at last - we are called to gather to partake in the bounty being offered"
Panoramic View of A Table at Affinity Gallery
Check out the Interactive View
At first glance, Affinity Gallery looks a little bare right now. There is nothing on the walls, and the pedestals seem sparse. Come in however, and you will see that on the pedestals are intricate, whimsical and wonderful little worlds based around the preparation and consumption of daily meals.

Elizabeth Goluch
Dragonfly Bowl
Sterling Silver, 14k gold, gold plate, Argent sterling, metal dore

À table! is an exhibition from the Metal Collective, a group of Canadian metalsmiths, whose aim is to raise the awareness of Canadian metalsmithing. Among the artists in the collective are three Sayde Bronfman Award winners: Lois Etherington Betteridge, Chantal Gilbert and Kye-Yeon Sun. Gilbert also acted as a juror (along with Mel Bolen) for Dimensions in 2009. You can view the catalogue to learn more about the artists, and copies are available for purchase at Affinity Gallery while the show is up. Affinity Gallery is the only Saskatchewan gallery scheduled for the exhibitions tour across Canada.

The reception for À table! takes place Friday July 5, 7-9pm at Affinity Gallery, 813 Broadway Avenue, Saskatoon, SK. À table! will be on exhibit at Affinity Gallery until August 5th, 2013.

The Craft Factor - 25th Anniversary Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival

Vol 23, No 3, Winter 1998/99

Former Member Services Coordinator Chris Jones organized 14 Saskatchewan Handcraft Festivals during his nearly 15 years with the Saskatchewan Craft Council. In 1998, Chris submitted this article on the 25th Anniversary of the Festival, in his 2nd year with the SCC.

Excerpt from "Impressions from the Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival"

Read the complete article ...

Left: Winston Quan (will be at the 40th SHF in 2013)
Right: Zach Dietrich and Wendy Parsons

BOUTIQUE - Now Open!

Submitted by: Sydney Luther, Gallery Assistant

Welcome to the SCC Fine Craft Boutique!
The staff at the Saskatchewan Craft Council is extremely excited about the opening of our brand new SCC Fine Craft Boutique located in Affinity Gallery! The Boutique features pieces from over fifty Juried members of the SCC who have created a wide range of giftware and smaller handmade pieces. These include jewellery, wall pieces, small sculptures and carvings, hats, scarves, dishes, trinket boxes, magnets, and even some hand sewn postcards! Our aim is to mainly feature pieces in the price range of $20 to $120, but we have some small pieces as priced as low as $5 and a few select larger pieces worth upwards of $800. Our hope is to make Fine Craft accessible to people on any budget.