Art Festivals

The World's Master Craftspeople Are Coming to This New York Festival

Take a workshop and celebrate the art of crafts this weekend at Brooklyn's Craft in Focus Festival.

by Abby Ronner
Jun 3 2017, 11:50am

Still Life Ron Mueck © Gautier Deblonde

Makers from all over the world will descend on Brooklyn this weekend for the Craft in Focus Festival, a celebration of handmade traditions and a life in craft. Craft in Focus began as a small film festival in the Netherlands in 2013 after founder, filmmaker Wendy van Wilgenburg, became interested in the cult of craft following her first film about the life of a luthier. "I was intrigued by the bodily knowledge of the luthier," she tells Creators. "The repetition of a certain movement, with tools that seemed to be an extension of his hands, the muscles that knew exactly what to do, the ears that could listen to the sound of the wood, the eyes that observed the grain, the nose that smelled the resin. All working together in a delicate balance to make the perfect instrument."

Faber Navalis © Maurizio Borriello

Engraving © ElsbethPilz

Over the last four years, the festival has drastically expanded to include not only screenings, but also live craft demonstrations, masterclasses, lectures, and booths where makers sell their handmade wares. This weekend marks the festival's NYC debut and to celebrate they've partnered with leaders in the NYC craft movement, including the Textile Art Center, Makeville, and 92Y. Highlights include a masterclass by Christiaan, the pioneering celebrity hairstylist behind the 70s-era asymmetrical bob and the undercut of the 80s; demonstrations by Hästens, Swedish master bed-makers who make each mattress by hand using a tradition that dates back to 1852; a corset-making masterclass; and, for kids of all ages, a clay workshop with the master model maker from Aardman Studios, creators of Shaun the Sheep and other recognizable characters. There are also more traditional craft workshops in printmaking, weaving, metalworking and more.

Riveted spoons BK Metal Works

Woodworking © ElsbethPilz

A $15 General Admission ticket gets you access to all of Saturday's makers' booths, with tickets for individual workshops, lectures and film screenings sold separately (hint: get them in advance online). All of the activities end at 6 PM, but make sure to stay for the courtyard party with live music and refreshments. You'll leave the Industry City event with a greater appreciation for makers and a life centered around the tradition of craft. Van Wilgenburg stresses this as the central mission of the festival: "Children are swiping their smartphones, they build things in Minecraft, but no longer with their own hands. They do not see craftsmen anymore, because the studios have relocated to cheaper parts of the cities, outside of the residential areas. And craftsmen have a hard time finding successors." She feels that craft is a lifestyle in jeopardy, that people are losing touch with those innate physical skills that engender a slow and rejuvenating life. "In my opinion," she continues, "it is therefore extremely important and urgent that we revalue the skills of craftsmen, that we teach children the joy of making something beautiful with your own hands. That we spotlight master craftsmen, and that we bring them in direct contact with a large audience, to inspire them, to share their skills and passion, and to perhaps find a successor or customer."

Stained Glass © Ernest Porcelli

De Huisman © Wendy van Wilgenburg

Find out more about the festival at the Craft in Focus website.

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