Part 6 | Artist Lindsay Ketterer Gates Manifests the Personal in the Unexpected
With Ideas on Craft and the Craft School Experience from Kristin Muller, Executive Director, Peters Valley School of Craft
I began this series with a quote from the Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates: “Ars longa, vita brevis” which translates to “life is short, but art lives forever,” though its original meaning was more akin to “the life so short, the craft so long to learn.” And after six months of contemplating and conversing in-depth into the meanings of craft and creativity within the transformative style of craft school education, I find this to be even more true than when I started. The making of fine crafts is a distinctive kind of exploration, which patently relies on the integration of the heart, head, and hands; but, and perhaps most importantly, also depends on a life-long commitment to learning and practice within one’s chosen discipline. It is apparent that all of the above are true when it comes to the field of Craft and the Craft School Experience: the artists are extraordinary and the experiences immersive and life-changing – all resulting in impeccable, transformative works.
In my final interviews, I was seeking some closing revelations, some illuminating conclusions to tie the whole six-month conversation together, close the circle if you will. I began with Kristin Muller, Executive Director of Peters Valley School of Craft, who thoughtfully offered some of the most insightful and considered responses of the entire series. I started with the overreaching: What is craft? Muller paused and then concluded: “In a nutshell, Craft is Art you can touch, live with and ponder, executed with passion, skill, and imagination.” I asked her to elaborate: “Craft, both a verb and adjective, does not have a singular specific meaning. For me, Craft exists within a continuum of humanity’s creative development as makers of tools and objects to improve and enhance our lives. Depending on the affluence and abundance of a culture, craft can be a necessity to provide basic needs but as cultures develop and basic necessities are met; there is opportunity for further refinement. This is where I see the excitement in Craft in America today. Craft provides a broad field for artists, designers, artisans and fine craftsman, to work in one or more media and the freedom to explore utility, challenge it, apply it to industrial design, to the folk realm, to the conceptual and sculptural realms.” This was precisely what I was looking for: confirmation of my own suspicions that the settings for Craft are currently exploding beyond its traditional perimeters. Muller went further, “In a sense, the context for Craft is wide open [right now] because we are increasingly moving to conceptual work, sculpture and design using craft materials – this is exciting new territory.” While there will always be debate about the place for Craft, what is happening within the field is undeniably exciting and undeniably modern – both of which are celebrated at Peters Valley School of Craft.
Nestled amid the fields, forests and streams of the 70,000 acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Peters Valley is one of the best craft schools in the country, and not just because they offer intensive instruction from nationally and internationally recognized artists, or because they offer opportunities to refine traditional skills or learn new ones in state-of-the-art studios; but because they consider the themselves stewards of the creative process: from preparation, to incubation, to illumination. This is an important distinction: this mindset to promote the higher level of thinking that people develop while engaging in making, refining skills and concepts through processes that require precision and time to develop is exclusive to the power of the craft school experience. When I asked Muller to describe Peters Valley’s specific vision/mission towards craft education, she woos me with recurring words like exploration, experimentation, community, and immersive; but other more intriguing words that echoed throughout our conversation were vibrant, new, and joy. It is clear that in Peters Valley’s desire to function as a hub for focused creativity and exchanges (which it has certainly achieved), it has also successfully cultivated and carefully nurtured a unique framework that allows artists/students to evolve beyond just taking a simple workshop. It is a collective rebellion where they are invited to dig deep, to refine their skills in ancient and traditional techniques, to experiment with new technologies and materials; and they willingly do so, all in the pursuit of artistic, professional, and personal development.
So it is fitting that my final artist interview is with Lindsay Ketterer Gates: an innovative artist who harnesses that same underlying sense of revolution and evolution found at Peters Valley – the craft school that not only championed her artistically but also inspired her to join its ranks and continue its mission. With reckless abandon, Gates fearlessly incorporates unexpected and everyday materials with traditional fibers materials and techniques resulting in gorgeously subtle and graceful sculptures. As she obsessively gets lost in her work, repetitively looping and knotting, she finds the calm amid the chaos – and, quite often, much more. Our conversation was just as I suspected it would be, everything but ordinary…
Click here to read the interview at Louise & Maurice.
Visit a Craft School!