My second day in San Francisco was spent at the American Craft Council/California College of the Arts symposium called "Craft Forward-ing", an event aimed at students and new graduates with a view to giving them an introduction to the world of business and suggesting ways of actually making money out of craft practice. This objective should be borne in mind...
I walked to the venue from Fisherman's Wharf, following the map to the optimistically-named "Creative District", an area of derelict industrial units under elevated roads. The CCA campus where the event was held is in a converted Greyhound bus depot, and an excellent conversion it is, but the only other signs of creativity in the creative district - apart from the creative use of the word "creative" in the name - was the warehouse given over to "Adobe", and I am not sure that doesn't count as "tech"! To get to the campus, I had to walk through swarms - actually dozens - of street-people aimlessly pushing the shopping-trolleys which house their worldly goods. They must be used to "creatives" wandering about; not one of them acknowledged my presence in any way. I am almost ashamed to say that their lack of attention came as a relief.
When I got to the venue, I met Curtis Arima (from CCA), Brigitte and Chris (from the ACC).
In brief, only Brigitte Martin and Philip Wood addressed the issue proposed by the theme of the symposium, discussing ways in which they had progressed from education into business. Brigitte talked about the need for PASSION and the importance of being focused on the business aspects as much as anything else. Philip - a very fine and well-known furniture-maker - talked a bit about how his online retail website Citizen:Citizen worked but got a bit lost in the nebulous politics of it all. Additionally, he never really detailed what had made him change from maker to manager/curator. Citizen:Citizen, however, offers an interesting look at ways in which an artist may seek to market small-run multiples in addition to their existing practice.
The other two speakers were an organisation called "Future Farmers" - Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine - and Tanya Aguiniga. Both of these speakers were interesting in their own way, talking about their post-art school practices but neither of them offered anything terribly useful to the theme, both of them detailing practices which were either subsidised or which they admitted lost them money. Future Farmers, in particular, were miles from the point and presented us with a fragment of a 1920s Czech play...
On one hand, it was unfortunate that there were not more students in the audience - which seemed to be made up of large numbers of ACC and CCA people -and that the audience halved over lunchtime. The day was of interest to me as an educator and should have been of interest to students in their final years of study. I am not clear why some of the speakers were chosen: Brigitte, obviously, because she runs Crafthaus, Philip because of Citizen:Citizen, but the others... well, I can think to name Boris Bally off the top of my head as being more suitable and if he were too busy or too expensive, there have got to be more.
Perhaps oddest of all was that the reception afterwards was held in a gallery which works as a real-world version of Citizen:Citizen, working with artists to get them to make multiples and selling them. Why was a representative of that gallery invited to speak?
Apart from getting to hang out with Curtis and Brigitte, perhaps the highlight of the day was finally meeting the author of "Ask Hariette", Hariette Estelle Berman. Charming, funny, cheeky, outspoken. Everything you would expect!
That evening I went out for something to eat on my own, wandering about in Chinatown and the Italian quarter, taking photographs. I think that this tailor's shop could learn something from the people at the symposium:
This is an actual window-display for what appears to be a tailor who is - somehow - still in business!
It is strange how symposia change the way you think about things for a while. I also noticed this:
A Chihully knock-off! We all know the problems that Boris Bally and 2Roses have had with counterfeiting and that would have been a good topic for the day's discussion too.
Ended up having a coffee and some ice-cream before visiting City Lights bookshop and browsing through the endless editions of "Howl"!