Craft and Design in the USA, 1945 to the Present

This seminar examines the shifting boundaries of craft and design in the United States from World War II to the present. In the postwar era’s expanding consumer economy, studio craft and industrial design flourished, and the terms ‘craft’ and ‘design’ were materially and rhetorically interwoven within academic, museum, and commercial settings. But their meanings increasingly diverged during the 1960s and 1970s, as craftspeople seeking cultural authority and economic viability sought to position themselves as artists. During the 1980s, in turn, design practitioners re-engaged with craft as commodity via high design. These fluctuating professional parameters coincided with widespread amateur engagement in aesthetic production, often absent from design history. Contemporary makers continue to grapple with these issues. Topics include modes of production, consumerism, modernism and postmodernism, popular culture, social movements, political discourse, disability studies, and sustainability vis-à-vis craft and design. Interpretive frameworks include feminism and intersectionality. Individual designers, craftspeople, firms, and groups will be discussed, along with thematic case studies. Sources considered include objects, exhibition catalogues, period writings, and recent criticism. The course’s final assignment is to conduct an interview with a maker for the Bard Graduate Center Craft, Art, and Design Oral History Project ( 3 credits.