Igniting Citizenship – the 10th Annual National Craft Conference
Claire Shiplett, Program Manager, New Brunswick Crafts Council
Bringing people together to spark ideas, actively engage in discussions, assert their opinions, and listen to other perspectives is a wonderful approach to grow a strong community of individuals and organizations who are committed to working together to promote, strengthen and shape the landscape of Canadian fine craft. As Project Manager of the New Brunswick Crafts Council, I had the opportunity to participate in the 10th Annual National Craft Conference, Igniting Citizenship: Building a Collaborative Craft Community, held September 24-27 in Quebec City, Quebec. This conference was organized by the Canadian Crafts Federation, a national arts service organization which represents provincial and territorial Crafts Councils and the Canadian craft sector, in partnership with the Conseil des métiers d’art du Quebec.
Attending the conference were representatives of all provincial and territorial Crafts Councils, international craft organizations, craftspeople and artists, and interested members of the public. We participated in panels, group discussions, break-out sessions, networking activities, and social craft-related excursions. One topic that we focused on was the newly launched Citizens of Craft™ movement, a national campaign organized by the Canadian Crafts Federation and Crafts Councils, to deepen Canadians’ awareness and appreciation of Canadian craft. On the Citizens of Craft™ website, makers, retailers, and organizations who are members of crafts councils can post interactive profiles, the public can discover fine craft from all over the country, and anyone can declare themselves a Citizen of Craft™ to show their pride in this movement. This is an exciting, high-quality portal to the finest of contemporary Canadian craft. Igniting Citizenship: Building a Collaborative Craft Community gave participants the opportunity to discuss how we can move this initiative forward, how we can engage different sectors of the public with craft, and how we can grow as useful organizations for our members and the public.
When I read about the theme of this conference, I was intrigued and excited. To ignite is to set a spark ablaze. From that point, it grows brightly and freely to a sustained flame. As invested players in crafts & culture, we all have these sparks within us – the passion for the handmade, the authentic, and the original – and a love of the fine craft community as a whole. We work at personal and organizational levels to foster the creative endeavours and craftspeople of this country. But it’s when we’re together in one space, sharing our voices, issues, and ideas, that those flames truly have the opportunity to grow into something stronger. Citizens of Craft™ is created to spread the spark of craft even farther. Craft takes so many forms and touches everyone differently. The Crafts Councils and the Canadian Crafts Federation are working collaboratively to raise the public’s awareness of craft as a current, contemporary, and important player in Canadian identity, heritage, culture, economics, and future.
On the Citizens of Craft™ website, it reads, “the connection was not in the product but in the people.” My love of finely crafted objects is undeniable. However, at the end of the day, it is not these objects that fuel my belief in the Canadian craft industry. It’s my belief in the people, the maker who dedicates their time and energy to the manifestation of a concept, a feeling, a gesture, and whose aim is to share that part of themselves with others. In my position at the New Brunswick Crafts Council, I’ve known craftspeople to be some of the kindest, most interesting people I’ve encountered. Engaging with these makers, whether face-to-face or through their work, is always a positive experience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fellow craftsperson, a buyer, a retailer, an organizer, or a passerby. At its core, craft is a celebration of being human. We have the desire and the ability to create, and it’s important to take pride in that fact. Citizens of Craft™ takes this idea one step further. Not only is craft rooted in people, but it’s people who push craft forward. Citizens engage. Citizens stand together. Citizens are part of something greater than themselves. Citizens believe in something, and citizens are proud. This pride is reflected in the Citizens of Craft™ movement’s bold, fearless manifesto. We’re all Citizens of Craft™, and together we’re stronger.