Front & center
Interview with Ali McGhee
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Ayumi Horie; Photo by Yoon S Byun, part of @EmersonCollective's #AmericaSeen series
Why are craft histories and scholarship so important, and why have we decided to launch the Center for Craft Archive Fellowship to support them? The short answer: Because hearing from voices that have too long been underrepresented – and even silenced – means that we can finally center these experiences now and for the future.
We asked potter Ayumi Horie, who seeded the idea of creating the Craft Archive Fellowship and was one of the advisors that collaborated with us to develop and fund the fellowship, to share her perspective on the importance of craft histories and scholarship. Ayumi, a queer artist of color based in Portland, Maine, is known for uniting creativity and activism. She’s the founder of Pots in Action, an Instagram account that challenged conversations about global ceramics, and the co-founder of The Democratic Cup and Portland Brick.
The new scholarship that will be made possible by this fellowship will be critical for “reexamining craft narratives that have been stuck for 75+ years,” Ayumi says. Awardees will “create scaffolding for future research,” illuminating material that might otherwise be overlooked, and highlighting – and changing – narratives to examine stories from multiple or non-dominant viewpoints.
For Ayumi, the importance of craft history lies in the fact that “the past is the present.” She points to the need for a “reclamation of craft history” that “expands representation, opens access, and addresses systems of power within craft.” She illustrates the complex and problematic history of studio cultures through the example of the GI Bill, which many point to for systematizing racist and misogynistic attitudes in much of the craft world. “Most of us have either taken those values for granted” or “normalized bad behavior,” she says. These legacies “continue to impact, in a tangible way, the lives of makers today” as they try to navigate spaces that have too often been exclusionary.
The fellowship “will have profound significance,” she adds, “because it works within the existing system to change the narrative. What is most game-changing is that material will be citable, so that sources like Wikipedia entries can be updated to include more complete and accurate narratives about the past.”
Ultimately, she says, “Archives are a reflection of a value system. Up to this point, those judgment calls about what is worthy of being preserved and celebrated have not been made by a plurality of individuals representing intersectional and diverse viewpoints.”
The steps artists and scholars take today will support the future of making. For Ayumi, it’s a pivotal moment. “In the Studio Craft movement, we’re in a race for time to hear oral histories from first-hand sources, whether they continued on in the field or were pushed out,” she says. “We’re finally at a crossroads in craft where we’re beginning to blow apart assumptions and misrepresentations so that all of us can see ourselves reflected, and rejoice in better truth-telling.”