The Hand of Craft is a site-specific installation created by Shake-n-Make for exhibition at the Cotton Factory (a refurbished cotton factory now housing artists’ studios and small businesses) in Hamilton, ON, which opened to the public on November 3, 2017. Large scale (8’ x 5’, 6’x5′, and 4’x5′) aluminum panels featuring monumental line drawings of hands in various acts of needlework are suspended from the ceiling and arranged to create an enclosed space. Within this space hangs a 16’ x 5.5’ quilt top, entirely hand-sewn using the English paper piecing technique, which spells out the word Labour in contrasting fabrics.
Highlighting the amount of often unseen labour involved in artistic creation, the quilt top connects a contemporary art practice with traditional crafts and seeks to elevate domestic and often debased craft to a place within fine art. At the same time, the large-scale drawings are meant to overwhelm the viewer, echoing how many contemporary makers and crafters feel social pressure to “make everything by hand” as a hipster expression of authenticity.
The two main components of The Hand of Craft also offer contrasting notions of artistic production. While the hanging aluminum panels draw attention to the primacy of the individual artist’s hand, the quilt top represents communal work via both the art collective Shake-n-Make as well as the numerous individuals who have contributed to the piece through participation in free workshops offered by the collective. All contributors, as well as guest sewers, were credited in the presentation of the installation.