Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

208 × 156 mm
272 pages
70 illustrations
13 Nov 2017

The Shape of Craft  Ezra Shales

Today, the word ‘craft’ is linked to a vast array of items, from handmade objects to microbreweries. The term ‘artisanal’ is so overused that it can strain our credulity. But this also reveals that the value of craft remains compelling in modern life. In this cogently argued book, Ezra Shales explores some of the key questions about craft: who makes it, what we mean when we think about a craft object and how that shapes our understanding of what craft is. Along the way, he continually upends our definitions and typical expectations of what we think is handcrafted or authentic.

Shales’s discussion ranges widely across people and objects: from potter Karen Karnes to weaver Jack Lenor Larsen, glass sculptor Dale Chihuly to Native American basket-maker Julia Parker, as well as younger makers such as Sopheap Pich and Maarten Baas, and to the porcelain and cast-iron sanitary ware produced by the Kohler Company, the pottery made in Stoke on Trent and the people in Asia today who weave beautiful things for IKEA.

Engaging, pertinent and direct, the book ultimately encourages us to feel the shape of craft in our own lives.

‘A wide-ranging discussion of questions that shape our understanding of craft, who introduces his intriguing notion of “common craft” – the skills necessitated by quotidian items.’ – Crafts magazine

‘Smart hands indicate intelligence and sensitivity. Alert eyes identify works made with ingenuity. Ezra Shales' book sharpens our visual perception and appreciation of finely crafted objects and environments which have enriched our lives from the beginning of time.’ – Sheila Hicks

‘Steering the conversation towards anonymous artisans and the sort of craft that doesn’t usually end up on museum pedestals, Shales brings ‘making’ back down to earth where it can connect to our cities and everyday lives.’ — Theaster Gates

Show all

Ezra Shales is a Professor of History of Art at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He is the author of Made in Newark (2010).