Crafting Utopia and Dystopia: Future of Crafts in Museums

Photo from Heidi Bjørgan's exhibition at Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum
27 October 2017
Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, Trondheim

How can museums be significant institutions for craft exhibitions, for facilitating public encounters with craft, and for producing and mediating knowledge – not only today, but also in the future? And how can we as artists, curators and critics contribute to that process?

Contributors: Åshild Adsen (NO)   I   Kim Paton (NZ)   I   Shannon Stratton (US)   I   Edith Lundebrekke (NO)   I   Petter Snare    I    Anne Szefer Karlsen (NO)   I    Love Jönsson (SE)   I   Scrotum Clamp (UK/NO)    I    Lars Sture (NO)

Moderator: Namita Wiggers (US)

Contemporary craft and material-based art practices seem to be everywhere these days; in everyday life, in luxury goods, in design and fashion, and in various exhibitions – from artist-run spaces to contemporary art fairs and biennials. Makers are experiencing a new interest in craft skills and the qualities of handmade objects. Craftsmanship and materiality are being reinvestigated both ethically and aesthetically from within the field and beyond.

Despite the growing popularity of contemporary craft, its future in museums seems to be challenged.

One concern is funding. Over the past few years, many craft museums have experienced severe budget cuts and have been forced to reduce their activity dramatically. In some cases they have been forced to close, and their collections have been dispersed or transferred to other institutions.

The restructuring of public museums has resulted in many craft museums being absorbed into larger consolidated institutions. The risk is that this could diminish specialist academic expertise on craft, or that it will no longer be treated as a field of investigation.

Another concern is linguistic in nature; some museums have stopped using ‘craft’ or ‘applied art’ in their names. With the erasure of these words from museums names, are we seeing a shift in focus and/or activity?

In this seminar, we challenged the speakers to speculate on the future, to describe the dream situation for crafts in the future of museums.

Namita Wiggers, moderator of the seminar
Overview from the seminar in Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum
The seminar was developed in close collaboration with Namita Wiggers, who moderated the seminar, the Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts and the National Museum for Decorative Arts and Design in Trondheim (Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum).
Scrotum Clamp on standby for their performative lecture
Edith Lundebrekke giving her lecture


Namita Gupta Wiggers (US) is an writer, curator and educator based in Portland, Oregon. She is the director and cofounder of Critical Craft Forum and the founding director of Warren Wilson College’s new Master of Arts in Craft Studies.
Wiggers has been in close collaboration with Norwegian Crafts in developing this exciting international seminar. Wiggers also served as the Curator and Director of Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, where she curated and organized more than 65 exhibitions, hundreds of programs, commissioned critical writing for online and print projects including experiments with interactivity and performance.

Petter Snare (NO) is the new director at KODE Art Museums in Bergen. Snare is an avid art collector with a collection comprising of more than 250 pieces of art. His essay on collecting art can be found in our publication,Documents on Contemporary Crafts No. 4: On Collecting. In addition, Snare is the board chair of KUNSTKRITIKK, Bergen Kunsthall and Bergen Assembly. 

Edith Lundebrekke (NO) is an artist working with diverse materials such as wood, glass, brick and metal. Her works are housed in a several major institutions in Norway, including Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum. In addition, Lundebrekke has been granted a number of commissions, including hospitals, schools and government representational facilities. Over the years, she has also worked as a curator and an art consultant. Lundebrekke is the jury leader for the annual exhibition of Norwegian contemporary craft, Craft 2017.

Kim Paton (NZ) was appointed Director of Objectspace, Auckland inn late 2015. She comes to the position from an academic role as Research Leader at Wintec’s School of Media Arts and curator and editor for RAMP. She is a member of the curatorial panel for Urban Dream Brokerage, Wellington and Mesh Sculpture, Hamilton. Kim holds a first-class honours degree in Sculpture from Massey University in Wellington and a postgraduate diploma in Management from Waikato University. Paton has curated a dozen projects for galleries throughout New Zealand including Objectspace, Whakatane Museum, RAMP Hamilton, Waikato Sculpture Trust, Waikato Museum and Te Manawa Palmerston North.

Scrotum Clamp (NO/UK) is a punk band consisting four jewellery artists. Scrotum Clamp’s roots are as much in jewellery as they are in punk music. They were formed by Hovis (vocals), Bunny (drums) and Big Si (bass) at Epsom School of Art, while the three were studying for an HND in jewellery there. There has been a consistent flow of jewellery musicians in the various line-up changes over the 30 year duration of the band, which presently features the jewellers, Scratchy aka Felieke van de Leest on violin, Witchy P aka Petra Bishai on bass, Hovis aka Timothy Information Limited on vocals and Bunny aka Harvey Stephens on drums. They make jewellery, they wear jewellery and they play jewellery.

Åshild Adsen (NO) was appointed the director of Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum in 2013, after workingwith the museums dissamination programmes since Adsen has a MA in Metalwork and Jewellery from Sheffield
 Hallam University (1999) and a BA in 3D Design from Manchester Metropolitan University. Her long-standing interest in craft has made many international collaborations possible at the museum.

Anne Szefer Karlsen (NO) is a curator and writer. She was the previous director for Hordaland kunstsenter from 2008-2014, where se curated a number of exhibitions. Szefer is an editor for the series Dublett (Hordaland Art Centre, 2013-2015) and the third anthology in Open Edition’s Occasional Tableseries titled Self-Organised with Stine Hebert (Open Editions/Hordaland Art Centre 2013).

Shannon Stratton (US) is chief curator at the MAD Museum of Arts and Design in New York. As a curator, writer, researcher and artist, she has a specific interest in fiber/material studies. Recent exhibitions include the exhibition Sonic Arcade: Shaping Space with Sound, that Stratton curated, along with curatorial assistant and project manager Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy. From 2003-2015 she was the Co-Founder & Executive and Creative Director in Chicago.

Love Jönsson (SE) is a freelance critic and curator that has taken part in the critical discourse on crafts since the late 1990s and has contributed to some 70 books and catalogues, including Craft in Dialogue: Six Views on a Practice in Change (Stockholm: Iaspis 2005), NeoCraft: Modernity and the Crafts (Halifax: NSCAD Press 2007), and Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft (Chapel Hill: UNC Press 2013). Jönsson recently left his position as acurator at the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg (2011-2017).

Lars Sture (NO) oversees the exhibition programmes at Norwegian Crafts. Sture has a 25 years of experience as a freelance curator and artist. His curatorial work includes DKUK Presents Jóhanna Ellen: Digital Retreat dot com at gallery Entrée in Bergen; Julie and Jimmy go dogging at Hordaland Kunstsenter;TREKK – Contemporary Art in Iceland for Sogn og Fjordane Kunstmuseum; and Paradigm, a travelling exhibition by The Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts in collaboration with The Ministry of Foreign Affairs.