Focus Craft

BY CAROLINE SÜESS
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How do art and design education go together with craft? There is no simple answer to this question. The workshops at Zurich University of the Arts magically attract students — as an essay by Peter Truniger and Stefan Wettstein demonstrate. Students engage with old techniques and bring them into the digital present — as Anna Laura Klucker has done with the Graubünden cross-stitch. Or they work tirelessly on their skills, because in classical ballet, for example, perfecting one’s craft is a prerequisite for artistic expression.

The historical roots of ZHdK lie in craftmanship, and even today art schools are a haven of knowledge about techniques, tools and materials. Franziska Müller-Reissmann from the Material Archiv tells astonishing stories about leather. Hardly anyone knows more about hands and their individual characteristics than Horst Hildebrandt at ZHdK’s Hand Laboratory. The contribution offers further insights into these miracle-working tools.

Despite all the enthusiasm for craftsmanship, the view that craftsmanship and art are clearly distinct prevails at ZHdK, as it does across the western world. Cultural geographer Dagmar Reichert, who passes on her knowledge to continuing education students taking the Arts and International Cooperation Programme, knows that this may also be seen differently.

The artist and the craftswoman — an unequal pair in many respects. Swetlana Heger-Davis, director of the Department of Art & Media, reconciles these two hats with one another. Both, she says in an interview, create objects of desire — and often work closely together. So perhaps there is a simple answer to our initial question: art and design education has a multifaceted, fruitful relationship with craftsmanship, one that is far from over.

Further contributions on craft

Caroline Süess (caroline.sueess@zhdk.ch) is head of PR and Media at ZHdK University Communications. She learned her craft during 5,000 hours in a smoky newspaper editorial office in Eastern Switzerland.
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