Kristine Wessel, chairwoman of Norwegian Crafts, looks back on the organisation's evolution over the past ten years: from an online magazine to a multifaceted institution working to connect artists and art professionals across the craft field.
Norwegian Crafts was founded by the Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts, a membership organisation for artists, in 2012.1 What a genius move by the association, in my opinion, as it turned out to be a solid investment into the further internationalisation of contemporary craft from Norway. Rather than having international work as one department out of many, in a busy and complex artists’ members union, Norwegian Crafts was set up as a separate organisation. A small organisation, but so efficient, professional, and with great international impact. Norwegian Crafts has proven to be so important in contributing to international opportunities for craft artists based in Norway.
It started twelve years ago, when the Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts established Norwegian Crafts Magazine to promote the activities of Norwegian craft artists to an international audience. The magazine published interviews with craft artists, as well as articles and essays discussing different movements and trends within the field.2 Before long, the association decided that there was potential for a more dedicated effort into the internationalisation of Norwegian contemporary crafts: theory development – publishing a magazine and publications on craft – could make up one part, with international support programmes for artists, residencies, and exhibition programmes making up the rest of the programming.
The formation of Norwegian Crafts was inspired by organisations like NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad), Office for Contemporary Art Norway, and Music Norway, all of which are part of the network Norwegian Arts Abroad (NAA), of which Norwegian Crafts is now also a member. The NAA’s seven members all have a formal agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), where the NAA organisations both administer support schemes for their respective art fields, as well as act as advisers for the MFA. The collaboration also enables Norwegian Crafts to support artists directly through a support scheme. Since 2012, Norwegian Crafts has supported more than 400 international exhibition projects by and with Norwegian and Norway-based craft artists.3
Norwegian Crafts has a lot of activity and results to show from the past 10 years. In addition to their work with online mediation and theory development, they have produced 11 publications on craft theory, including five books in the Documents on Contemporary Crafts series and, more recently, Duodji Reader.4 They have initiated and coproduced international exhibitions in collaboration with prominent museums and galleries like the National Ceramics Museum Sèvres, Die Neue Sammlung, Patrick Parrish, and Villa Stuck, and participated in some of the most important international craft and fine art fairs in Milan, Miami, Paris, and London. During the pandemic, they focused their efforts on digital storytelling and voyaged into filmmaking for the first time with the series Studio Visits. So far, Norwegian Crafts has produced 12 films that give an insight into an artist’s way of working in the studio.
The Vessel is another result of the organisation having time and resources to develop a new platform for dissemination of craft and duodji from Norway. This is a continuation of the theoretical work that has been done by Norwegian Crafts since the very beginning. Central to these endeavours by Norwegian Crafts is the emphasis on using them to ensure a benefit to the artist community in Norway. And just as important, to secure networks and opportunities for curators, gallerists, and writers within the craft field. Through international collaborations, they have been able to use these projects to create opportunities for the craft field that stretch beyond the initiatives of the organisation.
Norwegian Crafts has put great emphasis on theory development from the beginning. With Norwegian Crafts Magazine the organisation has produced an impressive number of online articles, interviews, and essays on crafts from Norway in English. More than 130 articles were produced between 2010 and 2020, out of which 45 are being republished in this issue of The Vessel. The selection is made by the Norwegian Crafts’ team, the members of which have served as editors for this issue. I urge you to learn more about their selection in the editorial.
An anniversary is an obvious time to look to the past, but equally a great time to look to the future – the future for crafts and for Norwegian Crafts as an organisation. Norwegian Crafts’ most important mandate is to support craft artists from Norway in their international activity, which means looking at the whole ecosystem around the artists – the curators, galleries, institutions, and other art professionals in Norway and abroad. Here’s to 10 more years of opening doors, connecting people in the crafts field, and continuing to create more opportunities for craft artists and duojárat based in Norway.