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are paintings ok in a craft gallery?

updated thu 23 oct 03


Jennifer Boyer on wed 22 oct 03

Hi all,
Sorry to bring up the art/craft thing AGAIN, but we need some help:

Most of the craft galleries I sell in (in Vermont) display photography
and prints(not reproduced commercially) as well as clay, wood,
weaving, glass etc etc. A few of them exhibit paintings as well. I am a
member of the Artisans Hand Cooperative Craft Gallery and our jury
criteria exclude paintings. We feel a need to maintain a focus on
craft, not branching into fine art such as paintings and sculpture. I
feel that crafts(functional mostly) are left out of most art galleries
I know and the Vermont Arts Council definitely wouldn't consider a
production potter like me for a grant. SO I feel strongly about drawing
a line between art and craft (however amorphous) when it comes to the
jurying in our gallery. The Vermont State Craft Gallery is breaking
with this philosophy and broadening it's collection of paintings. I'm
worried that it will reduce the exhibit space for crafts.

I'm curious how others have dealt with this issue:

Do any of you have access to policy guidelines from Craft Galleries
that define what they will accept re paintings/prints/photography?

never pass on virus warnings or emails with checking them at:

Jennifer Boyer - Thistle Hill Pottery
Montpelier, VT 05602

Hollis Engley on wed 22 oct 03

From: Jennifer Boyer
Subject: are paintings ok in a craft gallery?
> Do any of you have access to policy guidelines from Craft Galleries
> that define what they will accept re paintings/prints/photography?
> Jennifer
Hi, Jennifer: Woods Hole Handworks, the craft cooperative that I belong to
on Cape Cod, is made up of 15 area people who make pottery, tiles, jewelry,
soap and other body-cleaning concoctions (really), weavings, tie-dyed and
knitted goods, photography, greeting and post cards, prints, watercolors.
We're open May to October and jury new members in late winter. As you can
see from the diversity of media, there are no particular guidelines other
than high-quality work. That said, I can't remember selling a single
watercolor this past summer, and only a few photographs. The photographer
and painter sold lots of cards and prints made from their work and very few
"originals." The big seller is a woman who makes very high quality ceramic
tiles, trays and mirrors with colorful images of fish and insects. The
next-biggest seller is a woman who makes lovely (and expensive) jewelry from
sea glass.
Here on Cape Cod and on nearby Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, there are
lots and lots of places for people to see paintings. Relatively fewer places
feature crafts. I don't think we'll ever have a lot of paintings or
photographs in the gallery, but there's something about having them on the
wall that kind of gives the shop a more complete feeling.
Hollis Engley
Hatchville Pottery
Falmouth, Mass.

Janet Kaiser on thu 23 oct 03

I think the differences between fine art and craft art are
blurring so much, it is very difficult to draw lines in the sand
anymore, Jennifer. Especially for "the Establishment" (any sort
of state funded organisation) who are having to be seen to be
promoting work by their young graduate population. If that body
of artists and craftspeople are now "multi media" in all they
do... Well how can there be any "simple guidelines"?

If you look at any edition of "Crafts" magazine, published by the
British Crafts Council during the past 10 years, you will see
what I mean. The many "installations" (for example) in various
media are prized as exemplary "craftsmanship"... I usually
disagree, but there you go. I get my knickers in a twist about
something in every edition... The last time was "peg dollies"
made of wire apparently becoming a craft form!?!?! What we used
to make in kindergarten... But now about the level of expertise
coming out of degree level art colleges... (ohps... different
thread/rant there again...! :o)

Don't get me wrong... There is a lot of good innovative and
exceptional work being made as well. I just think that the choice
of some art editor or chairperson often sucks as it gives the
impression that "anything goes", which simply is not the case.
How is a graduate to pay their way from making peg dollies sold
for many pounds, which are not too dissimilar to what Tinkers
sell door-to-door for pennies?

The Chapel of Art is a gallery which exhibits anything EXCEPT
installations (and peg dollies), yet we have as much "craft" as
"art" on exhibition at any one time. But being a specialist
ceramic gallery from the beginning, the breadth of "craft" has
suffered a little through lack of available space as well as
inclination... Indeed, most galleries have some bias which is
normally based on the interests and expertise of the curatorial
staff. The only way out of that, is to invite different people
in at different time, or hire a touring show. Both expensive

Stuff hung on the walls here at The CoA tends to be paintings of
course, but can also be woven, textiles, prints (lino, woodcut,
etc. NOT repros!!), glass, ceramics... Anything "hangable"
including the poor Cinderella scorned by both the Arts and the
Crafts and bought by few in the UK -- photographs! (You think
potters have a hard time... Try being a photographer in a country
where everyone who owns a camera thinks they are star
photographers and would never dream of BUYING a photograph...)

And for the first time I have accepted computer generated images
this year (somewhat against my better judgement) and as it
happens, not one has sold in over two months. The digitally
manipulated photographs we exhibited last year didn't either, so
I will not be accepting more...

There is also a lack of affordable yet high quality work right
across the board so "Beggars cannot be (curatorial) choosers" if
they want to fill an exhibition space. Now the North Wales
Potters Association have set up their own retail outlet, we are
also getting far fewer local potters submitting their work and
therefore fewer "pots" (= both functional and sculptural ceramic
work, but little domestic) to exhibit. We cannot sit here with an
empty gallery, so slate (another local product) will probably
replace much of the exhibition space formerly reserved for

And to be quite honest, the UK ceramic market in general is
pretty saturated by other public events nationwide. Hatfield
House, Potfest in Penrith, Potfest Scotland, CPA Oxford and the
likes attract all the buyers who are interested in Studio
Ceramics. I believe that there will be fewer and fewer galleries
taking any ceramics as they also realise that potters are "doing
their own thing" or have been hi-jacked by the "speciality fair"
organisers who have huge advertising budgets... And why visit
countless little galleries around the country, when one visit to
a large event like that offers so much variety? It makes sense
for both makers and customers, but it squeezes out the galleries,
even those who have been open to any "crafts" including
"ceramics" in the past.

So, to answer your question... If it is a maker run gallery, you
will be able to afford to continue exhibiting whatever you chose,
but if you are having to bow to economic and other pressures, I
am afraid that the rules are changing. Just look at your own
American Museum of Craft (or whatever it was called) in New York.
Their change of name to REMOVE the word "craft" is a sign of the
times on your side of the Atlantic... I bet they exhibit peg
dollies too!!


Janet Kaiser

>Do any of you have access to policy guidelines from Craft
>that define what they will accept re
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