Back to the makers page

This page contains the detailed report written by a retired academic/design historian from a British University.

Positive points of NEVAC material:

  • Craftspeople filmed in their home/studio environment.
  • Some of the videos show good close ups of handling work.
  • Some of the interviews encouraged craftspeople to explain things they would not otherwise have explained. The interviews have therefore generated material that would otherwise not be documented, (e.g. glaze on a pot).

Positive comments on the interviewing approach:

  • An interview such as the David Leach group has a varied approach, such as using different interviewers.
  • Some of the best bits were when two potters discuss a pot not made by themselves.

Critical comments on the interviewing approach:

  • The role of the interviewer is not clearly defined or specified. Sometimes, it is a fellow potter, sometimes an historian but we are not told what the different roles are.
  • Often an interviewer puts words in the interviewees mouth. This happens far too often and is bad practice.
  • There is not enough encouragement of potters to handle pots.
  • Is there a place for having a different approach if the interviewee is talking about their life history, etc. rather than referring to particular aspects of pots.

Criticisms of the content of the video:

  • I'm not sure if there is any reason for this choice of interviewees. Is the choice random?
  • What is the value of video if the potter is just sitting there and not making or handling a pot? There might be value for anthropologists or bahavioural scientists, but is there a value for potters or critics and historians.

General points about how the web-based video database may be organised:

  • At present the archive is primarily about people, but people through sound and vision, (not text). This is something very individual about the archive and should be retained and used, so NEVAC should make as much of this as possible.
  • It concerns me that there is a danger of the archive becoming unfocussed so that it ends up not being useful to anyone. There are so many different ways of structuring it for different users that the danger is that it falls between two or more stools and isn't useful for anyone.
  • At present there is no 'overt' critical side since Mike, [Mike Hughes: NEVAC's Director, died October 2000], was insistent that the videos were not edited. However, by the very choice of people and interest in people, there is editing, (for instance amongst the users we discussed how sculptural potters were not represented).
  • For the future, there could be more focus on the making process. This would be particularly appropriate bearing in mind the 'tacit' knowledge that is involved in any craft production process.
  • Since the demise of the apprenticeship system and the development of formal taught courses required by Universities, there has been a decline in 'learning by doing'. There is a place for this to be reestablished and videos could help do this.
  • There could be an element of the database that uses clips from the video in a critical way: since there is a dearth of critical writing on the crafts this could be a good opportunity to provide some.
  • At present the archive lacks direction. People need to know why they are looking at the archive, and by having different strands his would enable viewers to know which 'hat' they were wearing.
  • Any interface should have sound and video at the fore: to emphasise what the site is about.
  • When text is used on screen it should be simple.

Return to top of the page