Farnham Maltings recently hosted a day of talks by craft makers and a representative of the Crafts Council on the maker's career and business development options.
I was very surprised at the low attendance - it was a free event and getting to ask the Craft Council questions and hearing of opportunities for development is not that common unless you count whatever is out there on the Internet.
Anyway, I quite like going to Farnham, it is always worth going to the New Ashgate Gallery and getting to see how makers had developed themselves and their work was worth a visit. Some of the makers at the talk were quite far down their career paths and were experts in their fields, in glass for example. There were perspectives from makers whose work went beyond borders, to North African filigree jewellery work, and there were young people who had graduate a few years ago. All makers had some connection to the University of Creative Arts, Farnham, and there were also an opportunity to learn a bit more about their MA so I was pleased to have gone, because that is one option I have been considering for some time in the future.
In the Q&A sessions topics such as working with galleries, how to develop your skills and what you can do to move on with your career were discussed. It is interesting how there is such a gap between the people who train in art colleges and people who do craft as a hobby. When I look at what some of my Guild colleagues make and look at what professional makers do there is sometimes very little difference in quality, but I guess one of the key factors is motivation - hobbyists are not necessarily wnatign a career in their craft, they may be at a stage in their lives that making is a way of developing themselves and their creativeness, and whilst professional maker are compelled by the same or similar motivation, they seek a lifestyle that will allow them to earm a living making. Certainly at the craft day the makers talking there were more keen on their own expression than commercial compromises, although there were gentle suggestions of thinking about what market niches your work fits into.
When you are as far down your life as I am am for example, having spent a fair bit of time in education already and now working, looking at taking up full time education in the crafts or arts would be such a huge step that it would need serious thought. But, working full time also means that developing your level of skill takes so much longer, and the benefit of being in a nurturing environment such as an art college, with all the materials and technology in easy reach are missing. Developing a critical slant to your work that is also enabling is difficult to establish when you work by yourself, and perhaps that best thing to do is to find some groups to join that are at the level or even just beyond the level you aspire to be at. At least there would be a social network behind your work, and as one of the speakers explained, being in a groups harnesses resources and helps get exhibitions and so on.
So there was a fair bit to inspire further thought, and also some pictures of fine works that the makers had made that were shared with us on the day. I try to find out as much as I can about cultures of making and getting a view form the insight of how to develop your professional life in the arts, and this day was a good introduction to some of the issues that arise on your way if choose that way.