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President's Message

President's Message Nov-Dec 2014

I recently found myself in a conversation with a group of people about selecting art for a show. The topic of “art and craft” came up and I found myself saying: it’s art when the hand is not certain of where it is going before it starts. Otherwise it’s craft.
Carl Nelson

It seemed to make sense and yet so much was left out. Whose hand? Going where? Starting when? Where did I get such a notion? Why does it matter?

On reflection, I realized my point of view is synthesized from Denis Dutton’s The Art Instinct,The Principles of Art by R.G. Collingwood and talks with Batya Friedman and Lee Gass. Collingwood’s point was that skilled work is purposefully directed toward a final product or designed artifact. The craftsman knows in advance what the end product will look like while the artist, still requiring skill and technique, does not know, when starting out, what the end state of the finished piece will be.

While Dutton said, We pay craftsmen to paint houses or repair clocks because of the dependability of learned techniques: these people know what they are doing. But in the sense of using skill to produce a preconceived result, creative artists strictly speaking never know what they’re doing.

Assuming skills and technical ability are the same, the distinction is about intent and goal of an effort.

In an email exchange with Lee Gass his summary was: … a difference between an artist and a craftsman is that the craftsman knows, and can know, the desired outcome. If so, it would mean that a craftsman could plan things in detail. List steps. Make a recipe. Follow it. At least to some extent, according to this idea, an artist must discover the pathway while he walks it, as Antonio Machado suggested about life in general.

In the Artist/Craftsman way of thinking, where does the designer fit in? This question comes to mind, because I have been working with Batya Friedman to set up the January 17th evening workshop: Art, Design, and Intention – All to What End?  She speaks of two different worlds:, …the designer is  intentionally interventionist with a goal of effecting change of some sort, be it imagining a new "thing", a new technology, or a new social structure; in contrast the artist is accountable to form and beauty — magic in the universe. Artists may or may not choose to engage with social or political change. Both designers and artists typically remain open throughout their processes to the direction their work may take them. They are often surprised by what emerges in the end.

Lee Gass thinks we are all designers and some of our work is art.  Where, in your work with stone, do you see your Art, Design, and Craft?  

I leave that as something for you to ponder while you work with your stone. May the coming months be ones of discovery and magic.



President's Message Sept-Oct 2014

The winter months are coming up and for some stone carvers it's the time where they hunker down in their studios and get a bunch of stuff done, for others they take advantage of the longer nights to read, relax, plan and contemplate. I fall somewhere in between.
Carl Nelson

Lately I find myself in the studio, motivated by having attended Silver Falls, visited Corky's Olivine quarry and, recently, the Abstract on Orcas weekend. See Michael Yeaman's presentation online.

Additionally, I have just finished reading Denis Dutton's book, "The Art Instinct". And since, have had several wonderful conversations and email interchanges with Lee Gass. As a biologist, Lee has great insight into the evolutionary aspects of Dutton's ideas. I find myself thinking about Dutton's book on what constitutes art and those qualities by which great art should be judged. If you are new or unfamiliar with art criticism, which I am, watch his TED Talk.

His ideas are starting points for many good discussions (remember, he's looking at ALL art and he's an art critic), I'll throw them out for you to contemplate.

In his opinion, great art has: complexity, serious content, emotion, purpose and distance.

Even more detailed in his "constellation" of what we should consider as constituting art:

Direct Pleasure, Skill and Virtuosity, Style, Novelty and Creativity, Criticism, Representation, Special Focus, Expresive Individuality, Emotional Saturation, Intellectual Challenge, Art Traditions and Institutions, Imaginative Experience.

I believe, in the context of his "art instinct", the words in this "constellation" need to be refined, or regrouped, so as to provide a more succinct accessible and useful vocabulary stone sculptors could use to talk about their work.

I hope these ideas will give you something to contemplate while you are carving or when relaxing. Let me know what you thnk and if it might be a workshop you would attend.



President's Message July-August 2014

A big THANKS! to all those who gave on May 6th to the GiveBIG campaign. Because of your generosity, a total of a little over $2,670, including the match from the Seattle Foundation, was raised. THANK YOU! Your giving helps fund the running of the symposiums, the tools, scholarships, and some basic administration of the organization. Our July Camp-B board meeting will review and discuss the highest and best use of your contributions. Again, THANK YOU! to all who gave. Carl Nelson

By the time you read this, Camp B will be over and Silver Falls will be about to occur. If you can make Silver Falls, I strongly encourage you to come participate, there is much to learn and a great gathering of instructors.

This coming fall we will once again ask what you would like to see for workshops, so look for an email survey. In preparation for the survey, and as an elaboration from last year’s responses, I’d like to ask for your help with ideas for discussions we could hold, either at people’s studios or other venues, on thought provoking topics.

Some examples:

  • When nudity becomes nakedness, what’s the difference? 
  • What does Darwinian Theory predict about what we value in Art? (From Denis Dutton’s The Art Instinct)
  • Art(ifacts) to What End?
  • Man or Machine Made – How and when does it matter?

Please add your ideas to this list by sending me a topic or an idea that you think would be worthy of an evening or afternoon of discussion.           

Finally, are there workshops from last year you would want held again? We will be holding a polishing workshop and one or more figurative workshops. Let me know so we can get it on the survey and plan.          

Looking forward to seeing you at Silver Falls and the fall workshops.

Carve On!