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Lost Gloves: A Theory of Left-Handed Design

Issue 3: Ockham Lectures Pocket Edition

Thinking through JPEGs

'Art historians only read picture books.' That was the running joke about us, art history students, made by colleagues from the philosophy department at the university in Barcelona in the early 1990s. It suggested that illustrated books were not to be taken as serious academic stuff, since images were interpreted as intellectual crutches. For a long time, art history concentrated on telling the story only of those works which had been photographed, according to André Malraux's statement in his Museum without Walls.1 What probably irritated our neighbours in philosophy was the fact that in the classroom we were not grappling with the interdependence between image and text in a critical way. And certainly not considering choice and exclusion from an intersectional perspective, which was at the time unthinkable. The conditions of production, selection and distribution of images as a primary source for making art history were just not part of the programme. Therefore, throwing down a gauntlet to those who believed that ideas only exist when verbalised, or to the ones who defended the idea that an image is already an idea in itself, could only end in a catch-22 situation and a round of drinks at the end of the day.

Today, the cultural diatribe about the supposed supremacy of the verbal over the visual apprehension of the world continues resonating in the alleys of academic institutions and (mis)informs current debates on artistic research. Vilém Flusser summarised the struggle of writing against the image as 'historical consciousness versus magic'.I sympathise with Flusser's description since thinking with and through images involves indeed a certain act of enchanting reality. I can't write without having images in mind. I like taking pictures of situations, people and objects that feed personal obsessions related to my profession of writing, lecturing and curating on craft and design as critical practices. For example, at flea markets and second-hand shops I photograph the megalomaniac and often politically incorrect fantasy of industrial brands that baptised homewares and small electric appliances with names such as 'Future' snap buttons, 'Monument' pans, 'Florida sun' tanning lamps or 'Laundress' washboards. These objects remind me of the urgent task of de-modernising and de-patriarchalising the attitudes that will shape our material environment in the future. Probably, the way I am taking pictures is more driven by epistemic than aesthetic impulses, even though some philosophers of art would deny the possibility of making such a distinction. Images help me to approach contingent realities too complex to be deciphered on the spot, even though the picture never freezes the 'real' event but rather a composed scene designed in tandem with my smartphone. I wonder if I can still call it 'photographing', when the main technical affinity with a camera must be its pre-recorded shutter sound. Later on, the resulting JPEG files sorted out with an inhuman accuracy inside the brain (or stomach?) of my computer will lie in wait, ready to ambush me and trigger off a theme for an exhibition, accompany a text for an academic journal, or pop up in a theory seminar for my students at the HSLU Lucerne School of Art and Design in Switzerland.

In the past few years, insights shared in publications, conversations, curated exhibitions and lectures have become the subject of my ongoing doctoral work. I am researching the recent history of craft and design exhibitions, mostly in Spain, in order to articulate
a particular theory of cultural in-betweenness that has characterised international craft discourse since the early 2000s. With this invitation by Objectspace to write a piece for their Ockham Lectures Pocket Edition series I have an opportunity to test thoughts under construction. For this essay I am going to establish a dialogue with a selection of images that show lost gloves portrayed in the location
I saw them. In the most literal sense these images will give me a hand to sketch a theory on craft and design from a 'glove perspective'.


Lost Gloves

Back in 2012 Norwegian craft historian Jorunn Veiteberg invited me to conceptualise and co-organise with her a seminar on curating craft for the Bergen Academy of Art and Design. We knew each other from the Think Tank group3 and we shared a special interest in how exhibitions articulate debates around craft. We conceived the seminar as a closed two-day event by invitation and brought together guests who were active across the disciplines of art, design, craft and architecture and who could speak from differentiated standpoints and approaches: institutional and independent curators, artists and practitioners, gallery owners and exhibition designers, historians and cultural theorists. Three main aspirations led the sessions: first, to pay scholarly attention to the exhibition as a fundamental vehicle for creating theoretical discourse on craft. Secondly, to identify relevant examples in the history of exhibitions dealing with craft that could map a landscape of good practices and define a possible specificity of the craft exhibition. And thirdly, set up the basis for an international platform that could host regular exchanges on the topic.

During the seminar each of us gave a short position paper on our own curatorial experiences and also presented examples of exhibitions, past and present, in order to build a common pool of references. Some of the guests were reluctant to call the works and practices they were presenting in their shows 'craft', and preferred to call the shows 'art' or 'design' exhibitions, suggesting that there was no specific craft discourse manifested through exhibitions. Others argued the contrary and identified the crafts as a specific area of cultural production.
The challenge consisted of transforming the obvious divergences on the table into operative insights that would allow us to understand if and how the exhibition as a medium played an essential role in craft theory making. The example that brought a wave of fresh air in a discussion otherwise dominated by a British–Scandinavian axis, was the exhibition Extreme Crafts,4 presented on by the German artist Ulrike Solbrig, one of its curators. The exhibition's format – curation by three artists instead of the usual individualist figure of the curator-connoisseur – was already very promising and the poster of the show even more: a photograph by Ingrid Book & Carina Hedén depicting a group of UN Blue Helmets, bending down in a field during an UXO5 clearance mission. The quiet tension in the situation and the caring labour embodied in that anonymous but life-saving manual activity was as striking as that in Millet's painting The Gleaners (1857); it was transmitting a powerful message for craft in the twenty-first century. The uncompromising curatorial statement for the exhibition stated that craft should be understood as a method to bring 'productive confusion within the normal hierarchy of cultural prestige',6 and to engage in broader societal issues. The exhibition displayed works by artists using documentary methods to reflect on the subject of craft, skilled craftsmanship from Indigenous communities, DIY workshops to involve the public, free introductions to the craft of Thai massage and, yes, amongst this unusual congregation, there were also objects by craft artists in the modern sense of the term, i.e. those who have mastered a material as artistic medium, while connecting to the tradition of the applied arts. Why didn't the specialist craft world explore such debates more often? Since in many craft organisations the ideology of the white cube was still the main reference for curating, the scepticism by some guests towards curatorial models inspired by relational, social or educational turns was understandable, as much as the enthusiasm shown by others, who welcomed the radical approach conveyed by the Extreme Crafts example.

On the second day of the seminar I spotted a lost glove, soaking wet (as it was raining), lying on the doorstep of the seminar building. It was a sports glove from the Craft brand, its name in capital letters printed in black against a reflective background. The finding was somehow tragicomic, like meeting an uncool guy who tries to enter a club but unfortunately doesn't wear the right socks (or gloves) and has to stay outside. I took a picture as a token. I interpreted the visual association in a rather negative way, in the mood of only seeing something abandoned, left behind and not valued. At that time, I could not think differently, and still less about posing the crucial question: where is the other glove? But more on this later. At the end of the seminar it became clear that it would be impossible to wrap up the discussion and secure a common ground for the next step. My collaboration with the project ended there. Since then I have been taking pictures of lost gloves and mittens that I have seen on the streets in different countries. It is a type of casual visual diary that accompanies my thoughts about the status of craft in today's world.
Some gloves are brand new, others proudly worn out or barely recognisable, in an advanced state of decay. Lost gloves are accidentally exhibited in the public sphere, most times 'solo'. Their display strategies vary – from lying in situ where they were dropped, to collaborative displays involving passers-by who relocate the gloves into elevated locations in the hope of helping owners find them again. These upgraded locations include parking meters, traffic bollards, hedges, tree branches or shop windowsills, among others. My collection contains around 120 pictures, which have mostly been taken in Switzerland, where I live, but also in Spain, Norway, Sweden, Germany and even New Zealand. While preparing this essay I found out that the cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz, based in New York, has also been attracted by the melancholy of the lost glove and started picking them up and storing them.7 She names the neurological phenomenon that leads to the fatal departure of one of these handy companions as 'active loss', being a simultaneous combination of attention and distraction. Contrary to her approach, I'm not interested in owning the lost gloves I encounter or saving them from their fate; I rather recognise their public exposure and try to capture what they 'see' and how they transform the surrounding space with their bare presence. Lost gloves are very expressive: they greet, they stroke the wood of a public bench, shamelessly wave a middle finger, await a 'give me five' from the top of a wrought-iron fence, point in many directions, or even seem to sleep. Hand gestures convey human emotions in a very effective way; and humans in turn convey a high emotional status to the hand, an idea which is very much embedded in the rhetoric of craft. An example of synecdoche – the figure of speech that allows a term for a part of something to refer to the whole of it – 'the hand' equates to wider craft discourse. But whose hands are we talking about? Whose hands are missing? I ask myself this question while leafing through a coffee table book entitled Die Weisheit des Handwerks (the wisdom of craft). Drawings, paintings and photographs from the Middle Ages until an undefined present show gestures of making and depictions of trades. I notice that 90 per cent of the portrayed hands are white and male, and get internally angry with the editors of the book for their discriminatory choices. To calm down I watch for the nth time The Connected Hand,8 a TED talk by the much-missed craft scholar Sandra Alfoldy, where she uses synecdoche not of the hand but of the beard to ironise about male supremacy in craft discourse. Not amused, but in a humorous way, she walks the audience through the beardy genealogy of craft prophets from Ruskin and Morris to today's hipsters, brewing their own beer.

Bearded or not, a wide number of scholars discussing the crafting hand have been too occupied with what craft historian Ezra Shales calls 'the spectacle of contemporary art',9 ignoring other equally active hands operating in other contexts. But increasingly, craft scholars are embracing a more complex and diverse horizon of practice. Since the early 2000s the field of craft discourse has blossomed in an unprecedented way in a broadening that has been described as 'the most consequential for craft scholarship in living memory'.10 The progressive academisation of practical knowledge has resulted in the emergence of a new generation of reflective practitioners, theorists and curators, who engage with craft as a subject from a critical, feminist or decolonial perspective in different parts of the world. The material turn in design history, which was predicted by design historian Judy Attfield11 back in 1999, has reached craft discourse as well. The shift is attracting scholars from anthropology, history of technology and everyday life studies, leading to a superimposition of their fields of study and methods. While design history de-industrialises its narrative, craft history de-artifies its own position – and in doing so, both disciplines engage in the study of until-now-marginalised forms of making and designing.

Another synecdoche for craft appears when zooming into the hand and amplifying the fingers: here we encounter the 'digital'. Just as the hand was gendered by traditional craft discourse so too were the fingers: always mentioned in the plural, graceful and laborious, to suit female stereotypes. The iconic heroism of the single hand is reserved to the right hand for historic reasons. Dexterity, a synonym of skilfulness, means nothing else than 'right handedness' (from dexter, Latin for 'right'). In Spanish, a word for training is adiestrar ('to bring to the right side') and diestro is a person skilled in doing something. On the contrary, there is no hierarchy amongst the buzzing community of fingers: they work together and in interdependence. It is no wonder that the digital revolution in manufacturing is having a great impact on craft discourse, involving issues of de-skilling as much as the democratisation of skill, and a shift from the makers' perspective to that of the matter or those of other non-human actors. The makers movement has favoured a resurgence of the collective, with an artisanal identity, overcoming the individualistic 'industry of one' model.12 Some practitioners now prefer the word 'fabricating' instead of 'crafting', as a way to reclaim the black box of industrial production.


In Transit

Peeping through street gutters, having a break on the curb, mimicking leaf litter on a forest trail, pointing at a crossroad, halfway down the subway stairs, on margins and in alleys: here is where most lost gloves live. Like that of the hand, a rhetoric of passages and transitions is also recurring in craft's self-definition. Since the beginnings of industrialisation, craft has claimed to occupy a liminal space in cultural production, which has been perceived as a privilege (productive friction between aesthetics and politics, autonomy and use) as much as a burden (neglected aesthetic, the weak cultural authority of the minor). Several authors have written about craft as a discursive space in between. For example, Jorunn Veiteberg in her book Craft in Transition13 formulated an idea of craft as occupying an intervening space, using the framework of postcolonial theory. Tanya Harrod characterised craft as a borderland in her study of twentieth-century crafts in Britain. Italian designer Michele de Lucchi, a former member of the Memphis group, described craft as a rite of passage, a laboratory of experimentation at the antechamber of industry.14

A careful look to recent historiography of craft and design shows that the discussion about in-betweenness has been very much focused on institutional struggles and quests of cultural legitimation and less occupied with the actual in-betweenness of aesthetic practices per se, which can apply equally to craft, art or design. Aesthetic practices is a term that combines in its name aspects of philosophy and sociology (the emphasis on praxeological approach) in order to break with the disciplinary isolation of art history and visual studies and establish a relation with anthropology and archaeology. This conceptual frame can be useful for discussing craft and design, which are also at the crossroads of material culture, art and technology. Aesthetic practices15 can be described as those competences of shaping, creating and experiencing the world with the aim of endowing matter with meaning. As such, they are characterised by three aspects: aesthetic practices are always sensually conditioned, meaning they explicitly take on board affects and bodily experiences; second, they are self-reflexive in the sense that they not only reference but also embody that which is presented; and third, aesthetic practices are regarded as anti-fundamentalist epistemologies and therefore as critiques to the prevailing rationality in the age of so-called 'age of knowledge' cultures. From this perspective, aesthetic practices always presuppose a contingent appreciation of the world, and are therefore 'in transit'.16

The emergence of the liminal in craft discourse has partly occurred because of the use of catego- ries such as art, craft or design in an essentialist form. In no way are these concepts clearly cut against a neutral background, like when my gloves are posing for a picture. Art critic Robin Metcalfe has observed that the quest for categorisation is often led by material interests, like gettin access to same economic resources (grants) and forms of cultural recognition (presence in museum collections, etc.). He states that the craft community behaves in this sense like a repressed minority group in order to get more attention.17 Speaking from his own experience in gay activist groups
he warns about the dangers of essentialism and stiff identity politics. In a similar vein, design theorist Claudia Mareis has identified a problem with the naturalisation that usually accompanies essentialist discourses. In the field of design, which also concerns craft, she warns that statements about design understood as a third knowledge culture (next to the scientific and humanistic ones) have to be cautiously analysed, avoiding the romantic narrative of the Homo faber, and the belief in a kind of natural intelligence that would consider everybody as a born craftsperson/designer.18 These narratives obscure the fact that making and designing are not innate talents but rather the temporary result of a complex process of historical negotiations and social interactions between individuals, institutions, technologies, materials and practices of disciplining the body.

There are latent meanings of the in-between beyond normative accounts that are waiting to be reconsidered. Donna Haraway warned in her definition of situated knowledge that binary thinking creates a false illusion of dealing with symmetric components on both sides, or the assumption that the categories at stake are always stable. I look at my lost glove pictures and notice that unwittingly I have been reproducing a very traditional painting genre known as fondo y figura (background and motif) which represents the kind of binarism that I just criticised. But this is my problem, not one of the actual glove. The glove perspective is that of messy ecology, which relies less on art theory and more on decolonial thinking. Third world feminist scholar Chela Sandoval defines the borderlands as a 'shifting place of mobile codes and significations'.19 For her, the liminal, as the marginal and silenced, cannot be reduced to solely a position of resistance, but it has to allow heterogeneous individuals and communities to move between and among ideological positions. In tune with this understanding of borderlands, interdisciplinarity in the arts could be understood as the state of being in transit, moving between, among and across spaces, where the chosen paths aren't necessarily productive, transgressive or finalistic: a sustained, generous and open-ended entanglement. The following statement by the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco summarises this attitude:

'Creo que es muy limitado cuando analizamos la obra solo en relación a la historia del arte. También cuando se considera que traigo conmigo mis experiencias de viaje para imponerlas en algún otro lado. Me parece extraño, porque traer consigo implica un centro, y en mi caso no existe ningún centro del cual o al cual traer nada: no traigo o llevo nada conmigo a ningún lado. Andar por ahí significa hacer cosas por ahí.'20

'I think it's very limited when we analyse the artwork only in relation to art history. Also, when it is considered that I bring with me my travel experiences to impose them somewhere else. It seems strange to me, because bringing with you implies a centre, and in my case, there is no centre from which or to which to bring anything: I don't bring or carry anything with me anywhere. Walking around means doing things around.'21

There is no other option than to keep moving. I take a break from writing and go out for a walk, with my smartphone in my trouser pocket: you never know.


Left-handed Design

At some point it also happened to me: I lost one glove. It was 21 December 2017, while strolling Zurich's old town streets together with my mother-in-law. I know the exact date because on the same day I took a picture of a lost glove, an ordinary one in stretchy black wool. The setting was predictable, the picture not sharp. I didn't give a damn about taking a better picture of my find, as I was still too upset. We tried to find my own lost glove and retraced our steps, but after two hours of erratic pre-Christmas strolling reconstructing the path was difficult. No trace left. It felt like a spell. Did I offend the lost-glove community by portraying them without permission and now I was paying for it? I really loved that pair of gloves that would never be a pair again. They were fingerless gloves with a mitten flap from Estonia, handknitted in a traditional beige-grey colourwork and pattern. According to Horowitz, I lost my left-hand glove because I am left-handed, this being my dominant hand and therefore the one that I carelessly freed to do who knows what, back in 2017. According to statistics, only about 10 per cent of the world's population is left-handed and as mentioned above, it is not the left hand which is endowed with positive connotations. Even ambidexterity, meaning being equally skilful with both hands, is etymologically connected to 'having two right hands'. The bias is further reinforced in the German saying 'zwei linke Hände haben', 'having two left hands', which means being a miserable handy(wo)man. The left hand is the evil hand. Full stop.

Impurity, misfortune and clumsiness build a bad reputation that extends through many languages, religions and cultural traditions across the globe. Out of all possible explanations it is an essay by Michel Leiris, a French poet and ethnographer from the surrealist circle, which inspires my attempt to sketch a left-handed design theory. In 1939 he wrote 'De la Littérature considérée comme une Tauromachie', literature considered as a bullfight. There, he explains that in the crucial moment, when the matador (in Spanish also called diestro) is closest to the bull and about to perform the kill, he will slightly bend his body, bringing himself 'to the left' (in French, gauchir) which means deviating as much as failing or disguising. In doing so, he will fleetingly transform into a bailaora (female flamenco dancer), in order to avoid a sacred, sexual and ultimately lethal fusion with the beast. Leiris saw in that gendered metamorphosis a liberation of his own repressed homosexuality. In this left-handed moment Leiris identifies the artistic gesture, and for him the essence of literature.22 If the essence of the aesthetic is about 'almost doing it wrong' a theory of left-handed design would focus on moments not of giving but of disguising, losing and distorting form. It would articulate a practice that fabulates matter, misspeaks and alters it. A jewellery artist like Gemma Draper turns to the left when she makes a neckpiece with a metal loop that tries in vain to frame a breast and titles it 'It is almost the perfect shape'. Or the WWIAFM craft-based design collective, whose projects mock the figure of the professional artisan and designer and through a childish aesthetic call for a critique of the homogenisation of consumer culture. These left-handed designers might feel at home in the territories described by the philosopher Jacques Rancière, 'sabotaged by inferna trouble makers that will mingle words, art forms and mundane objects'.23 With his unusual definition of designers as trouble-makers instead of problem-solvers Rancière defies the canonical understanding of the modern designer and reconnects her to a genealogy of critical makers who are not alienated by market imperatives.

But is that all? Who and where are the left- handed designers of the world? What about those operating outside the Euro-American historical area of influence? Designers working from colonised countries, or from an Indigenous tradition? They tend to be referred to in plural (like the fingers, and not the hand) and hardly mentioned by name. But emerging histories of designing otherwise are changing the game, like when a historian tells the story of the Roma silversmith Rosa Taikon, a designer that of the Catalan homeless carpenters Aurelio, José and Nicolai or a public gallery shows an exhibition by Tuvalu fibre artist Lakiloko Keakea.


Found Gloves

At some point it also happened to me: I got the COVID-19 virus. It was the end of February and in Switzerland hardly anyone was infected. Friends came for dinner, coughing. Three days later my husband, daughter and I were all ill. During lockdown everything changed: home office, home schooling, home nursing, home everything. Mobility was dramatically reduced: no trips to the favourite bakery at the other end of the city or trips to Barcelona to visit my family. The annual conference of the Design History Society for which I was part of the convenor team had to be postponed to 2021. The theme and title we had chosen could not be more apt for the situation: Memory full? Reimagining the relation between design and history.24 Every day of the week felt like Monday, an unpopular day blessed with good intentions and an unrealistic to-do list: put washing on before or after first Zoom meeting, respond to e-mails, cooking, writing article for journal, recharge paracetamol supplies at the pharmacy... But 'suddenly' it was midnight and not even half of the tasks had been completed. And the next day looked exactly the same, caught in a time loop, like the reporter from Groundhog Day. Yes, I confess, I baked bread during the lockdown, too,25 something that I had last tried decades before; but it went wrong, very wrong: an indelible memory from primary school, a hard, pale and tasteless clump that we insisted on calling bread. And yes, I also got carried away by botanical hype and tried to germinate anything I had, from lemon pips to avocado stones. But I swear: I didn't attend any digital meetings wearing pyjama trousers. Teaching via video conference felt like speaking from inside a glove. Numb, distant, less expressive, but warm enough to still make the sessions engaging. And afterwards to continue talking and listening, beyond the strict teaching time, when someone needed extra care to cope with the isolation blues. I missed the real time in real space performance of teaching. The stereotype of Mediterranean people talking with their hands totally applies to me, but I could not compress my natural talent within the 13 inches of the laptop screen. I had a lot of time to think about what teaching means for me. The lockdown situation made me revisit the readings and material produced for a research project at the ZHdK Zurich University of the Arts called 'Aesthetic Practices after Bologna', where the effects of academisation in art and design education at Swiss institutions of higher education were examined. Using a praxeological and cultural-critical approach, we had addressed the question of how aesthetic practices were mediated, one of the issues being digitalisation.26

The e-teaching experience reaffirmed my conviction that teaching history and theory of design to future practitioners is not about making propaganda of a particular canon, or providing canned knowledge as a kind of superfood to improve their performance. It is much more about transmitting a certain attitude towards history, a critical awareness, in order to develop one's own voice in shifting contexts. I still can hear the cultural theorist Kristin Ross shouting 'stop having a pedagogical relationship with the past!' during a doctoral seminar in Vienna. The past teaches you nothing; it is you who through knowing the past will ask better questions of the present.

Since the learning situation was secured through a stable internet connection the next priority was for me to introduce an aspect of unlearning. This term, which originates in postcolonial theory, asks for a critical engagement with how knowing occurs as opposed to what one knows. In the words of Gayatri Spivak – the central thinker of postcolonialism in relation to aesthetic education – unlearning means reflecting on one's own privilege as a loss.27 In other words, it is about recognising that ways of thinking and worldviews that developed from one's own privileges can have a disabling effect. During the lockdown it was important to add this level of reflection to the encounters with the students: what is essential? What do we miss? What was too much and what do we value more than before? For me, the simple act of going for a walk felt both a privilege and a transgression. I knew that my relatives in Barcelona were not allowed to go out at all, unless for urgent needs or with written authorisation. In the social networks videos of ridiculous situations in Spain started to circulate, like one of a man wearing a training outfit who would get fined at the bakery, under the accusation that he was actually jogging to get there. Individuals could move across public space as long as they were acting like consumers, but not as citizens. We didn't need corona to understand that for years the fundamental right of occupying public space has been deteriorating. On my walks, just in case, I would take a shopping bag as a prop in order to make a longer detour in my neighbourhood and reach the cemetery, the only park that was open. And of course, keep my eyes open for gloves. The very few I spotted were sanitary gloves made of latex. How to take a picture of them? With concern, sorrow, fear? Rancière has reflected on how some images are unbearable to look at, not so much because of what they crudely show, but because they have become unacceptable due to a regime that restricts the viewer's actions to feelings of shock or guilt when looking at them. He suggests that we should ask how we relate to those images and what we want from them, before we put them on trial.28

Since the first JPEG file of a lost glove until today, my views on craft have evolved. Reading decolonising and de-modernising literature on design and fruitful conversations with colleagues convinced me that a lost glove is a found glove as well, like a skill in stand-by, an invitation to take action. Lost gloves remind me that there is always a corresponding one somewhere else. Or to tweak the Chinese proverb: 'When a wise glove points at the moon the fool looks at the finger'. The privileged thinking hand has to acknowledge its paired hand, the one that is holding other hands, designing otherwise. Gloved communities have engaged in making, building and repairing, caring or casting a spell, not only in turbulent times but unconditionally, since forever. The metaphor of the lost/found glove can inspire craft and design practices to move towards new horizons of social relevance and planetary interdependence. Be careful, this is hot stuff, wear gloves.


Mònica Gaspar is a curator, writer and lecturer based in Zurich. Her background is in Art History (University of Barcelona), Cultural Studies (Zurich University of the Arts) and Jewellery (Escola Massana Barcelona). After working for several years as a curator for the first public collection of art jewellery in Spain at the Design Museum in Barcelona, her hometown, she moved to Switzerland, where she teaches design theory and craft studies at the HSLU Lucerne School of Art and Design. Her experiences as a freelance curator and expert participating in seminars, juries and publications, together with a longstanding engagement in the international discussion about the status of craft in the contemporary world, are informing her current doctoral research on craft discourse and the aesthetics of the liminal at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. She has been a member of the platform Think Tank: A European Initiative for the Applied Arts, and currently she is part of the board of trustees at the FHD Design History Foundation (Barcelona) and the NDG Design History Network (Zurich).


1. André Malraux, 'Museum without Walls', in The Voices of Silence, Princeton University Press, 1978, p. 17.

2. Vilém Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography, Reaktion Books, London, 2000, p. 11.

3. The Think Tank: A European Initiative for the Applied Arts was a group of independent scholars, curators and writers who gathered on annual basis between 2004 and 2013 in Gmunden, Austria. The group produced a series of discussions, publications and exhibitions fostering critical discourse on craft. Tanya Harrod, one of the founding members, dedicated a commentary about the group in the Journal of Modern Craft, vol. 12, issue 1, March 2019.

4. The temporary exhibition Extreme Crafts, curated by Ulrike Solbrig and Jole Wilcke from Germany and Hilde Methi from Norway, was at the Freies Museum, Berlin, 4–31 August 2012. The name of the venue plays with the weight of tradition associated with the museum institution, but it is actually an exhibition space with an infrastructure for artistic production.

5. UXO is the abbreviation for unexploded bombs and explosive remnants of war.

6. Curators' statement for the press release of the exhibition:

7. Nick Paumgarten, 'One Glove', The New Yorker, 19 January 2004, www. (accessed 15 August 2020).

8. Sandra Alfoldy, The Connected Hand, TED Talk, 18 April 2018, com/watch?v=m_-kn1XZviY (accessed
15 August, 2020).

9. Ezra Shales, 'The Politics of Ordinary Manufacture and the Perils of Self-Serve craft', in N.R. Bell (ed.), Nation Building: Craft and Contemporary American Culture, Bloomsbury, London, 2016, p. 210.

10. Nicholas R. Bell (ed.), Nation Building: Craft and Contemporary American Culture, Bloomsbury, London, 2016, p. 12

11. Judy Attfield, 'Beyond the Pale: Reviewing the Relationship between Material Culture and Design History', Journal of Design History, vol. 12, issue 4, 1999, pp. 373–80.

12. Industry of One: Designer-makers in Britain 1981–2001 was the title of an exhibition curated by Louise Taylor and David Redhead at the Crafts Council, London, 2001.

13. Jorunn Veiteberg, Craft in Transition, National Academy of the Arts, Bergen, 2005, p. 87.

14. Interview with Michele de Lucchi by Clara Mantica, 'Craftsmanship as Experimental Phase',  in Fabien Petiot and Chloé Braunstein-Kriegel (eds.), Crafts: Today's Anthology for Tomorrow's Crafts, Editions Norma, Paris, 2018, p. 178.

15. The definition of aesthetic practice has been freely adapted from the following two sources: Corina Caduff et al. (eds), Art and Artistic Research, Verlag Scheidegger und Spiess, Zurich, 2010; and Elke Bippus et al. (eds), 'Ins Offene: Gegenwart: Ästhetik: Theorie', Das Magazin des Instituts für Theorie,vol. 18/19, ZHdK, Zurich, 2012.

16. 'Aesthetic practices' is a phrase widely used in the context of artistic research in German-speaking countries, but its straightforward translation in English, as a quick internet search demonstrates, is not yet an established term. The reader will probably be redirected to webpages for plastic and aesthetic surgery. If this happens to you, apologies for the possible irritation and enjoy the hilarious digital drift.

17. Robin Metcalfe, 'Writing Craft: An Interdiscursive Approach', in Jean Johnson (ed.), Exploring Contemporary Craft: History, Theory and Critical Writing, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, 2002, p. 105.

18. Claudia Mareis, Design als Wissenskultur: Interferenzen zwischen Design- und Wissensdiskursen seit 1960, Transcript, Bielefled, 2011.

19. Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed, University of Minnesota Press, 2000, pp. 32 and 57.

20. Gabriel Orozco interviewed by Benjamin Buchloh, Los Angeles, 4 June 2000, published in Birnbaum et al. (eds), Textos sobre la obra de Gabriel Orozco, CONACULTA – Turner, Madrid, 2005, p. 148.

21. English translation by DeepL Translator.

22. Leiris attended only a few bullfights in his life, the first one in 1926 in Frejus (France) accompanied by Picasso. The cruel spectacle made him vomit, but his will to join the group of Surrealist intellectuals that were fascinated by the risky fusion of erotism and death was stronger and therefore he wrote the essay

23. Jacques Rancière, 'The Surface of Design', The Future of the Image, Verso, London / New York, 2007, p. 99

24. For more about the next DHS annual conference, taking place at the Academy of Art and Design, Basel, 2–4 September 2021, see:

25. For more about baking see Henry Oliver, Oven Spring, Ockham Lectures Pocket Edition, vol. 2, Objectspace, Auckland, 2020.

26. Some insights of the Aesthetic Practices after Bologna research project (SNF funded, 2013–2017) have been published here: Elke Bippus and Mònica Gaspar, 'Inquiry-Based Learning in the Arts', in Harald Mieg (ed.), Inquiry-Based Learning – Undergraduate Research, Springer, Cham, 2019, https://doi. org/10.1007/978-3-030-14223-0_21 (accessed 15 August 2020)

27. Gayatri Spivak, 'Strategy, Identity, Writing', in S. Harasym (ed.), The Post-Colonial Critic, Routledge, New York / London, 1990.

28. Jacques Rancière, 'What Makes Images Unacceptable?', lecture at the ZHdK Zurich University of the Arts, 6 October 2007.

Fig. 01, On the way to KHIB, Bergen. 000_Bergen_ Nov 2012.jpg

Fig. 02, Consell de Cent, Barcelona. 106b_ConselldCent_27Jun2019.jpg

Fig. 03, Parnell Road, Auckland. 06_Auckland_Okt2016.jpg

Fig. 04, Hohlstrasse, Zurich. 047 _Hohlstrasse_Dez2017.jpg

Fig. 05, Schmūck, Munich. 112a_ Schmuck Munich_16Marz2019.jpg

Fig. 06, On the way to Ausvika beach, Bodø. 065_BodoNorwegen_1Aug18.jpg

Fig. 07, Zebra glove, Rapperswil. 002_Rapperswil_March2016.jpg

Fig. 08, Close to Konsthandverkscentrum, Stockholm. 073c_Soedermalm_30Nov2018.jpg

Fig. 09, On the way to Kobi and Patricia Bosshard, Dunedin. 007 _DunedinbeiKobi_Okt2016.jpg

Fig. 10, On the way to Sentimatt, Lucerne. 054b _Luzern_21Jan18.jpg

Fig. 11, Duttweiler bridge, Zurich. 061_Duttweilerbruecke_Mai18.jpg

Fig. 12, Migros, Zurich. 082_ Migros_30Jan 2019.jpg

Fig. 13, Lake Bohinj at night, Slovenia.89b_ BohinjSeeSlowenia _31Juli2019.jpg

Fig. 14, Albisriederstrasse Zurich. 068_ Albisriederstrasse_19Oct18.jpg

Fig. 15, Uetliberg house mountain, Zurich. 069a _Uetliberg_11Nov18.jpg

Fig. 16, Central Station, Zurich. 080a_ZhHB_17Jan2019.jpg

Fig. 17, Heiligfeld Park, Zurich. 083a_SchlottiPark_2Feb2019.jpg

Fig. 18, Coop Central, Zurich. 105_CoopCentral_5Jun2020.jpg

© All images by Monica Gaspar, except Fig.2. by Joana Gaspar