Crafting our first issue

Norwegian Crafts director Hege Henriksen. Photo by Kaja Bruskeland

When Norwegian Crafts was established nearly ten years ago it was set up as an online magazine designed to promote Norwegian craft artists internationally. In the first few years the organisation, which was then known (at least publicly) as Norwegian Crafts Magazine, published themed issues on a quarterly basis, with titles such as “On Usership and Autonomy” (2015) and “On the Crafts Economy” (2014). Over the course of several years, Norwegian Crafts grew its programming portfolio to include exhibitions, grant schemes, seminars, residencies, and much more, and we left our days of magazine publishing behind – until now. Some issues of Norwegian Crafts Magazine are still public on our website, along with more recent artist interviews and essays we have commissioned since as part of our programming.

Craft-specific mediation and theory is important because it provides precise tools for artists, researchers, curators, and writers to discuss matters pertinent to a making practice, without borrowing too heavily from a fine art vernacular, which is often the risk. Materiality and materials, skills and the transmission of knowledge, functionality, and so on, deserve to be discussed as essential aspects of an artistic practice or craft discipline, not as accoutrements to concepts or aesthetics.

With The Vessel we aim to entice more people to immerse themselves in craft, making practices and material culture. We hope to do so by making the content we present here relevant to people from different geographies and backgrounds. That’s why we’ve opted to recruit new editors for each issue and leave the commissioning of articles and other content up to them. For this first inaugural issue we brought three people together: Káren Elle Gaup, conservator of the Sámi collections at Norsk Folkemuseum, Marte Johnslien, artist and associate professor at Oslo National Academy of the Arts, and Cameron Woolford, Kaitiaki Taonga Collection Manager at Te Papa Tongarewa in Aotearoa New Zealand. Tasked with finding common ground around the theme of “archives”, they have focused on how a handful of artists have used archives, museum collections, and knowledge-holders to resurrect endangered making practices, and how these making practices relate to identity, community, and land. The interviews and essays give a real insight into how contemporary craft practices continue to keep traditional knowledges alive and breathing.

The Vessel is published by Norwegian Crafts and would not have been possible without the support of our funders: the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Additional support for The Vessel has been provided by Kunsthåndverkernes Fond (Norske Kunsthåndverkere). Thank you to our fabulous graphic designers and programmers at Bielke & Yang. And finally, thank you to the editors and all the artists and contributors for taking a chance on this new endeavour.

Hege Henriksen
Director, on behalf of the Norwegian Crafts team
Living Archives

The inaugural issue of The Vessel focuses on how artists have used archives, museum collections and knowledge holders to resurrect endangered making practices, and how these making practices relate to identity, community, and land. The issue is edited by Káren Elle Gaup, Cameron Woolford and Marte Johnslien, and features interviews with Matthew McIntyre Wilson, Åsne Kummeneje Mellem and Hilde Hauan Johnsen, and essays by Tāmihana Katene and Susanne Hætta.

Photo courtesy of Åsne Kummeneje Mellem

On Fibre Optic Weaving and the Archiving of Landscape

In this film and interview by Ingun Mæhlum and Hilde Sørstrøm, artist Hilde Hauan Johnsen shares the background to her interest in plant dyeing and ancient weaving techniques, and for plant life around the world. Through her method of foraging plants and creating dyes, Hilde Hauan Johnsen’s artworks become archives of specific landscapes.

a picture of Hilde Hauan Johnsen's folder from school. The folder contains samples of plants and fabrics dyed with plants.
Ingun Mæhlum
Returning the Long Silent Voices of Our Treasures to the World of Light

In this text, Tāmihana Kātene (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Koata, Te Taoū - Ngāti Whātua) talks about his dedication to taonga puoro, and how he, through pūrākau, research, and deep dives into archival collections, is bringing these historical objects back into the cultural practices of his people.

Tāmihana Katene

Mahi ki te Awa Whanganui – Revival on the Whanganui River

In the following interview artist and weaver Matthew McIntyre Wilson talks with Te Papa Tongarewa curator Isaac Te Awa about how he came to work with the museum's collections and the people of Whanganui to revitalise the weaving of customary hīnaki eel traps.

Preparing kiekie. Photos courtesy of Matthew McIntyre Wilson.

In Search of Käsityö

Åsne Kummeneje Mellem is a young artist whose art practice focuses on Kven crafts, known as käsityö, and identity. In this interview with writer and artist Maija Liisa Björklund she discusses what Kven craft is, has been and could become, within the context of contemporary art.

Photo by Susanne Hætta. Varanger museum/Monica Milch Gebhardt.

Memories in Archives – Archived Memories

In this essay, the writer and photographer Susanne Hætta travels through parts of Sápmi, from Guovdageaidnu to Kárášjohka, Sohpparjohka and Várjjat. Along the way she meets duojárat and professionals from Sámi and Kven museums.

Living Archives
by Káren Elle Gaup, Cameron Woolford and Marte Johnslien
On Fibre Optic Weaving and the Archiving of Landscape
A film and interview with Hilde Hauan Johnsen by Hilde Sørstrøm and Ingun Mæhlum
Mahi ki te Awa Whanganui, Revival on the Whanganui River
An interview with Matthew McIntyre Wilson by Isaac Te Awa
In Search of Käsityö
An interview with Åsne Kummeneje Mellem by Maija Liisa Björklund