TAITMAIL Wimbledon’s acting lesson

TAITMAIL Wimbledon’s acting lesson

Wimbledon College of Arts is turfing out its fine arts operation so that it can teach acting. In three years or so, if things go according to plan, half of the thousand students in the leafiest corner of the University of the Arts London (UAL) empire will be performers; the other half will be costume or set designers.

City scope: putting culture alongside housing

City scope: putting culture alongside housing

Last week we brought you the report of the Cultural Cities Enquiry which could shift the base of arts funding in this country. But what does it mean? Jonathan Todd, chief economist at BOP Consulting, was part of the research team that led the UK-wide consultation process and provided the year-long enquiry with its essential data

RA picks Axel Rűger as new CEO

RA picks Axel Rűger as new CEO

Axel Rűger, director of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, is to succeed Sir Charles Saumarez Smith as secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy.

Fatoş Üstek next Liverpool Biennial director

Fatoş Üstek next Liverpool Biennial director

The new director of the Liverpool Biennial is to be the Turkish-born curator and writer Fatoş Üstek.

Making an art school for actors

Making an art school for actors

Can - should - an art school teach acting? The University of the Arts shares its plans for Wimbledon with Simon Tait

Arts ‘treading water’ on diversity

An Arts Council England report published today shows that its National Portfolio Organisation clients are not progressing enough with implementing diversity.

Darwin ‘Origin’ page may be sold abroad

Darwin ‘Origin’ page may be sold abroad

A temporary export bar has been placed on a handwritten page from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

Laurie Sansom is new boss of Northern Broadsides

Laurie Sansom is new boss of Northern Broadsides

Northern Broadsides has appointed Laurie Sansom as its new artistic director and CEO in June this year.

TALK OF THE TOWN HALL  Council of despair?

TALK OF THE TOWN HALL Council of despair?

Patrick Kelly hears the latest municipal whispers

First steps

First steps

The National Youth Dance Company is in rehearsal for its seventh professional new production – with it seventh new troupe. Simon Tait talks to the company’s general manager Hannah Kirkpatrick

New trust to give London artists affordable studios

Private and public funding are coming together to create an independent trust to provide affordable workspaces for artists in London.

MA warns of ‘highly damaging’ No Deal

Association fears museums face substantial losses

The real Mary Queen of Scots

The real Mary Queen of Scots

A rare and frank portrait of the teenage Mary Queen of Scots goes on display at Hever Castle on Friday, February 8, the anniversary of her execution in 1587.

‘Culture key to cities’ growth’ – report

‘Culture key to cities’ growth’ – report

Investment in culture is the key to our cities’ growth, according to a report published today.

How reviving Bodies makes theatre magic

How reviving Bodies makes theatre magic

The husband-and-wife team of Tricia Thorns and Graham Cowley, who operate as Two’s Company, rediscover a forgotten 20thcentury theatre masterpieces and produce them. Their latest, as Simon Tait discovers, is a James Saunders gem

Jerwood fall-out threatens Hastings gallery

Jerwood fall-out threatens Hastings gallery

A “family” row is threatening the future of the award-winning Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, with the venue’s sponsors, the Jerwood Foundation, withdrawing its collection of British art and financial support.

Cinema audiences boom from UK productions

Cinema audiences boom from UK productions

UK cinema audiences have reached record numbers, with the second highest spend on film and TV production in this country.

Maritime museum chief steps down

Maritime museum chief steps down

Kevin Fewster, director of Royal Museums Greenwich since 2007, is to stand down having transformed the former National Maritime Museum with muliti-million-pound developments.

TAITMAIL The Grand Old Dame of York

TAITMAIL The Grand Old Dame of York

By Patrick Kelly

It’s always a privilege to watch a master at work, and audiences at York’s Theatre Royal were honoured to witness Berwick Kaler’s 40thand final season as panto dame. The season, as usual, has been a complete sell-out as theatregoers trampled on each other to acquire tickets for this last opportunity to see a superb craftsman go about his business.

Ex-BBC White City centre to be theatre complex

Ex-BBC White City centre to be theatre complex

The BBC’s former media village at White City in West London is to become a large-scale pop-up theatre, opening this summer.

Survey reveals massive council cuts

Council spending on museums, libraries, arts, and culture has been slashed by nearly almost £400m since 2010.

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM    Image of the month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

Beyond the Deepening Shadow, The Tower of London, November 2018, by Jeremy Selwyn

‘Their finest hour’ becomes Biggin Hill museum

‘Their finest hour’ becomes Biggin Hill museum

Biggin Hill Airfield, one of the main stations flor the Battle of Britain in 1940, is having its  timeless story told in a museum that opens today.

DEA BIRKETT     But seriously – welcome!

DEA BIRKETT But seriously – welcome!

In the latest in her series marking the 250th anniversary of the circus, Dea Birkett – the official Ringmaster of Circus250 – finds that media misuse of circus language shows disrespect of a gentle art

THE WORD The art of the artisan

Alberto Cavalli, director of the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship, and author of The Master’s Touch: Essential elements of artisanal excellence, believes that craftsmanship and artistic creativity go hand-in-hand

In his Bauhaus Manifesto of 1919, Walter Gropius wrote: “Architects, sculptors, painters – we all must return to craftsmanship! For there is no such thing as ‘art by profession’. There is no essential difference between the artist and the artisan. The artist is an exalted artisan.”

The artist as an exalted artisan, or rather, the artist and the artisan as two sides of the same coin, working together in harmony to achieve a level of excellence that manifests itself in difference, uniqueness and competitive advantage: a perspective which, even after almost one hundred years, is still extremely seducing and challenging. Because it brings us directly into the heart of that galaxy of competences, passions and expertise which the contemporary master artisans should possess, if they want to bridge their time-honoured manual dexterities (often imbued with precious artistic skills) into the future.

A future where the concepts of rarity, beauty and perfection will be constantly challenged by the advent of new hyper-technological possibilities, and where it will be more and more important to share a common language, precise and alive, to cultivate a taste for those beautiful and carefully crafted objects, whose cultural meaning blends design and history, form and function, inspiration and vision.

With The Master’s Touch. Essential elements of artisanal excellence, published by Marsilio Editori with the support of the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsman- ship, we wanted to try to lay the groundwork for a common language to describe the distinguished work of master artisans everywhere, hoping that these criteria will be the start of a serene, constructive and relevant conversation around the definition of quality in craftsmanship.

Our idea was to take a close look at what determines excellence in craftsmanship and identify the key qualities shared by some of Europe’s nest master artisans. Through systematic research and analysis of relevant terminology, legislation, public opinion and in-depth interviews with master artisans, we have distilled 11 specific criteria for excellence and developed a corresponding assessment tool that can be re ned with use over time. Authenticity, competence, craftsmanship, creativity, innovation, interpretation, originality, talent, territory, tradition and training: these are the words that were found, analysed and contextualised in the field of fine and creative craftsmanship. They constitute the “bricks” necessary to edify a solid conceptual base not just to de- ne “quality”, but to look of this quality in an objective, constructive way. Once the criteria were identified, we tested their practical application through in-depth interviews with recognized masters in Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Switzer- land, and the United Kingdom, which allowed for the further testing of the terms, proving them to be robust and meaningful across these different cultures. The 22 European masters interviewed represent a broad range of high-quality craftsmanship, from ceramics and violin-making to fine tailoring and jewellery by way of metal sculpture and cabinetmaking. Asked to speak to the importance of the various criteria in their work, their testimony grounds the criteria in lived experience, affirming and enhancing their relevance. These artisans, who have devoted a significant portion of their lives to achieving mastery, were able to provide specific examples to ground the terms, ensuring that they apply to a full range of ne crafts – from ceramics to violin-making – as well as to a diversity of cultures.
The distinctiveness with which only a real “master” can imbue an object, and which is deeply linked to the concept of excellence and to the cultural significance of this expression, is a distinguishing trait that creates value. But we have to find an appropriate way to communicate this “difference”: not only by giving master artisans back the central role that they deserve, but also by rediscovering those methodological paradigms that can provide a holistic and up-to-date image of the sector of ne craftsman- ship. Seeking to establish an objective assessment of excellence can prove to be an effective communication tool, bearing in mind that, given its complexity, the artistic crafts system can- not be reduced to a few basic, finite and simplified components.

Attempting to attach a mathematical formula to artisanal excellence would be misguided. Rather, we should try to de ne as clearly as possible the attributes that an “excel- lent” artisanal product must possess. Such an exercise would serve a dual concrete purpose: that of improving the creators’ visibility and that of presenting their method as a set of rules, practices, knowledge and experiences essential to the attainment of the “character” that is the main ingredient of artisanal excellence. The master artisans’ work, in fact, rarely receives the acknowledgement it deserves. If we are to recognize this work – and to advance the field as a whole – we must be able to understand exactly what it is that makes a master. We must be able to identify our master artisans and distinguish the qualities that constitute excellence in craftsmanship.

By developing criteria for excellence, we are creating a common language that aims to set the “gold standard” that can inspire new generations of young artisans and to which all artisans can aspire.

All language is alive, which is to say that it is constantly changing to reflect new realities, perspectives and imperatives. As such, with this book we tried to anticipate that the criteria for excellence will evolve over time and with use: assessing excellence should be a fluid examination of measurements and visions that are continuously evolving.

This is why we designed a matrix for how to work with the criteria in a way that allows it to be re ned as it is put to use in new contexts. It is our hope that a reasoned and objective assessment of excellence, based on the construction of a shared and common specific language, will act as an incentive to preserve, improve and rediscover that extraordinary array of competences, abilities, skills and passions that underpins the very best of artisanal production, in the forms of those objects that make our lives better, our homes more beautiful, and our future more human.

The Master’s Touch. Essential elements of artisanal excellence, by Alberto Cavalli with Giuditta Comerci and Giovanna Marchello. Venice, Marsilio Editori, 2017. Published thanks to the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship.

 

 

 

 

 

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