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Finishing School; real life begins
The phrase "Finishing School" conjures up images of Chateaus in France or Switzerland where the daughters of the untitled upper class merchants are dumped, like rough stones into a rock tumbler, to acquire the polish and veneer required for marriage, ideally to the son of a titled European. Here they are taught etiquette, elocution and deportment along with the right amount of knowledge of food to be able to plan a luncheon, a dinner for 64 or even a ball. They are encouraged to take up water colours, china painting, flower arranging, singing or piano playing so as to appear cultured with out being artistic. Perhaps develop a Sapphic relationship to sustain them through the dull times of the loveless marriage their mother has already planned out for them They also are given the needle skills as to benefit occupying their leisure time in between leaving a calling card and social engagements. Embroidery or perhaps cross stitch but not mending -- the latter is something someone below stairs does. That is what Hollywood films, TV and some literature has led us to believe.
Not today. Finishing school is when you start racing the clock to a way to start paying off your student loan. It might be a time to look back at the 3, 4 or more years you have spent in school studying something that might gain you employment. In the case of a fine arts education you may have found a medium or material you want to work in and or with and now its time to figure out how to generate an income that pays off your debt and still affords resources for the practice you wish to become known for.
Each year since fibreQUARTERLY began I have given space to craft and fine arts students to present themselves to the readership. With a limit of 700 words and six images and no editorial advice other then "don't write in the third person," I sit back and wait. This year I was able to attend Concordia's MFA Open Studio weekend in Montreal, OCAD University's Open House, Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning's graduate exhibition "The Shape of Things" at the Ontario Craft Council's gallery in Toronto, ACAD University's year end exhibition in Calgary and " generation whY" exhibition at the Alberta Craft Council's gallery in Edmonton which feature the work of crafts people under 35 years of age.
This year, chatting with students and photographing their work to post in facebook albums at these events, and putting out a call through facebook to other schools across the country, has resulted in this first "Finishing School" issue. As I am chatting with these young people I get around to asking whether they consider themselves "Makers" or "artist". Some hem and haw and eventually decide its a trick question and responded "artist" others instantly respond "Makers" with pride that suggest the question isn't a valid one. Given that you can not receive a diploma or degree in Textiles or even Crafts in Canada it is a very valid question. As enrolments in Fibre or Material Arts and Design programs have been increasing at some schools internationally, other programmes have been shut down, and some institutions have dropped the word Craft from their name, it is important to insist there is a difference between fine arts and Crafts production. Textiles in particular have a history as long as humanity; they have been the driving force behind much of the economic and political development of the world. It is time to accredit the study of both the history and manufacturing techniques in the same way that History, Political Science, Literature and even Fine Arts are degree granting subjects. Textiles are equal to but separate from Fine Arts and those students studying them need to see them as legitimate not the lesser but now a days acceptable alternative. The works presented in this issue and the thoughts behind them address and answer this question.
Joe Lewis wearing Keiley Stewart 's Lion's Head Size: 60cm x 40cm Medium: Felted; coopeworth, camel, 2011. Photo take at the opening of Shape of Things, Sheridan College 2011 Graduate exhibition