Starting at the SNAG Conference, Ending In the Thick of a Debate Over Bruce Metcalf

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We had an old boss who was way into astrology who used to say, “Mercury is in retrograde” whenever old friends start popping up again. We still don’t have any idea of what that means, but Mercury must be up to something, as we also heard from our old friend Andrew Wagner from American Craft magazine, who sent us a note about his first hand experience giving a presentation at the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) conference last week at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He was there to talk about the hipster craft movement, where that weird phenomenon has taken place over the last couple of years, getting the youngsters interested in things like knitting, and, generally, just making stuff purchased from craft supply stores (yeah, it still kinda boggles our minds too). What he got instead was, after having a successful talk at the conference, finding out that he’d landed right in the middle of a big debate among the craft-y community about a guy named Bruce Metcalf, a jeweler and artist who had helped put together the SNAG event and who, from reading Andrew’s report, is just about the most divisive figure living in that world today. If you’re at all interested in subcultures within the greater “design” blanket, it’s a great read. Here’s a bit from one angry person:

“How in the world does Bruce Metcalf have the power to make so many people from so many groups so pissed off? Bruce addressed the NCECA ceramics conference last year with a huge ‘the sky is falling’ speech that had smoke coming out of my ears. He was totally territorial about craft and preaching about how schools needed to circle the wagons in their ceramics, fiber and metal programs to keep the evil ‘artists’ away. He described an interdisciplinary circle of Dante’s Purgatorio in which evil Department Heads and Deans enslaved the Craft faculty as galley slaves in the service of dilettante students who wanted to dabble in craft in the same way they dabble in plaster, plexiglass or sausage casings.”