Craft: An American History

Bloomsbury. Jan. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9781635574586. $30. HIST
Craft was there from the beginning. The first European settlers in the United States depended on craft skills to keep them alive, fed, and clothed. Adamson (Head of Graduate Studies, Victoria & Albert Museum; The Craft Reader) shows how, during the American Revolution, Paul Revere and Ben Franklin were “professional artisans” who practiced craft for the beautification of daily life. This narrative continues to the modern era, with an exploration of Martha Stewart’s crafting empire. Whether traditional skills or modern iterations like 3D printing, crafting has defined identity, politics, and livelihood throughout American history. It has even courted controversy when utilized as a tool for the oppressed or to promote social reform. Adamson seeks to unite the disparate published works on American craft into one comprehensive volume. Starting with the first colonists to the present decade, he profiles people of note, significant movements, and museums that would come to hold craft collections. He also considers how craft has been used to uphold utopian communities, and their values of virtue and control.
VERDICT The history of craft is framed as the history of America in a dense compendium. A comprehensive volume perfect for academic use or ambitious novice readers.
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