Community Crafts: Workshops, lessons, connections

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I never saw myself much as the crafts type: In my somewhat-narrow view of crafting, I had no interest in gluing together paper and glitter, or scrapbooking, or patchworking a blanket.

After hearing an illuminating talk from Executive Director of the American Craft Council Sarah Schultz, however, I came to view crafts in a whole new light – and realized the importance and impact of crafting, especially in a digital age.

Sarah Schultz spoke at the last CreativeMornings event on the topic of ‘Craft’ and opened with the question: “What does craft mean?”

The connecting power of crafts

For Schultz, ‘craft’ means creating connection (certainly a far cry from my vision of stickers and glitter). And this connection can be with yourself, with family, friends, a community, or strangers, as, “Everyone,” Schultz says, “has a craft story.”

Schultz recalled her own ‘craft story’ in which she attempted to knit scarfs for her friends using her grandmother’s old yarn and tools. It certainly was an attempt, as Schultz got as far as creating a scarf only long enough to wrap around half your neck. She never finished the scarves, but in creating and making, she formed a connection with her friends and honored the memory of her grandmother by using her materials and the skills she had passed on. 

The unfinished craft projects, the teaching, sharing, and experimenting, creates lasting memories, relationships, and emotional ties to moments and times throughout your life. The virtues of crafting also extend to the actual practice of making and creating something using your hands. Crafting requires you to slow down, to focus. You can’t be browsing the internet while knitting or binge-watch Netflix while glass blowing. Crafting can help relax and recenter your busy life and also bring immediate gratification when you see you have created something new out of raw materials. This is what craft can accomplish and what Schultz is bringing to her role at the American Craft Council (ACC).

Before working as Executive Director at the ACC, Schultz worked as the Director of Education and Curator of Public Practice at the Walker Art Center launching the projects Open Field – a space where artists hang out and share ideas, Artist Designed Miniature Golf, and the Internet Cat Video Festival. (Amusingly, Schultz admits she grossly underestimated the popularity of cat videos when the expected hundred or so people turned into thousands of people coming out for the cat festivities.)

Now at the ACC, Schultz is creating a craft community helping to bridge the amateur in their basement to the professional artist. Through workshops, classes, and craft fairs, everyone is able to participate, learn new skills, and share their knowledge and their work. The role of making, creating, and crafting looks different for every individual. But whether your craft is ceramics, woodworking, jewelry-making, or metal work, you will find your place in this generous and open community. Schultz certainly convinced me to aspire beyond my feeble glitter scrapbooking skills.

If you’re new to crafting (as I am), the ACC hosts events and programs throughout the year. Two upcoming events are:

In Conversation: Cynthia Bringle and Jason Busch: A discussion of the ongoing influence of ceramics in the fields of craft and fine art. Friday, July 13 at 6:30pm.

Fermentation 101: A hands-on workshop learning the basics of fermenting foods. Tuesday, July 24 at 6:00pm.

You can also check out the dozens of workshops hosted throughout the Twin Cities at the American Swedish Institute, Edina Art Center, Minnetonka Center for the Arts, and many more.

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