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Kara Bargmann

MA work

Manifesting Destiny: The American Craft Council, the Society of North American Goldsmiths and the influence of craft communities on the contemporary jewellery practitioner 1939–1984

In 1939 American philanthropist Aileen Osborn Webb founded the Handcraft Cooperative League of America from an affiliation of East Coast regional craft groups. This national organization would become the American Craft Council: a community of craftsmen and educators that would mold the very definition of craft in America, going on to found The World Craft Council, the American Craft Museum (now the Museum of Art and Design in New York) and the School for American Craftsmen; the blueprint for post-secondary craft education in the United States. The Council fostered within emerging craftsmen the values of material mastery, efficiency in design and production as well as intelligent marketing and responsible pricing: principles which the organization’s leaders believed would insure the survival of the American craft tradition.

The Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG), founded in 1969, formed, like the Council, from an initiative to insure the survival of a discipline— now within the fine art institution. SNAG quickly became a driving force in the rapid development of the contemporary jewelry practitioner within the fine art paradigm by encouraging critical discourse between makers, educators and the public.

Craft practitioners today face a dominant fine art institutional and art theoretical narrative that favors discussion of craft as ‘an idea’—robbing the craft practitioner of his agency and alienating him from his own practice while feeding a stigma surrounding commercial success and cooperation with industry, isolating the craftsman from the market. At what point in the history of craft in America did the need arise for craft’s legitimacy to be proven within the fine art narrative? This dissertation seeks to combat the dominant craft theoretical narrative by addressing contemporary craft from a historical perspective in order to expose the institutional myth-making that has become such a critical impediment to the emerging contemporary practitioner.



  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2016

  • Having studied jewellery design and metalsmithing at undergraduate level, I am interested in the interactions between practitioners, educators and academics. I hope help reintroduce the voice of the maker into contemporary craft discourse and consider it in a new more broadly accessible language. I like to explore the many perspectives at work in contemporary craft theoretical discourse through objects, interviews and personal accounts and would like to explore curating and exhibition as an outlet for expanded discussion of the issues facing emerging craft practitioners.

  • Degrees

  • BFA Jewellery Design and Metalsmithing, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 2011
  • Experience

  • Intern, Comfort Station, London, 2015; Exhibition Designer-History of Design, RCA Graduate Exhibition, London, 2016
  • Exhibitions

  • Tangents, The Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2011; Flux, Seeds Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2010