The Bronfman Collection 
Virtual Gallery

Masters of the Crafts

Canada has become one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world and its society not only retains elements of traditions born in other places and times, but also gives birth to new cultural patterns. Craftspeople, as much as other creative Canadians, have acted as conduits for cultural transmission and as interpreters of the process of cultural change.

Until the last few decades, the crafts in Canada were adrift, not yet integrated into the arts in the minds of most Canadians. The practitioners of the handmade and the well-made often had to settle for professional marginality, but that situation has changed dramatically. Craft's historical links with architecture, design and fashion are being re-established.

Among the dedicated group who have helped to restore the status of craftsmanship in Canadian society are the eleven recipients of the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in the crafts during its first decade. The masters honoured here reached a wide audience and had an important influence on a new generation of craftspeople. It is partly through their vision and that of the people whose imagination they stimulated that works of craft are now featured in public buildings, art galleries and museums.

Mrs. Saidye Bronfman and 
Robin Hopper
Mrs. Saidye Bronfman presenting
the first Award for Excellence in the
Crafts to Robin Hopper, 1977
Courtesy of Robin Hopper

This survey of the recipients of the Saidye Bronfman Award reveals different experiences and approaches in lives devoted to craftsmanship. Yet, a consideration of their individual careers also goes a long way towards tracing the primary directions of the modern craft movement in Canada. Through their work we sense the strength of regional attachments, the complex interaction of various cultural traditions, and the interplay between Canada's cities and its vast hinterland. All are now acknowledged as masters of their craft.
Using as examples phases from the careers of the first decade of Bronfman Award recipients, Masters of the Crafts surveys how craft skills are acquired; how a direction becomes established; and how a craftsperson continues to develop and move forward. Through the experiences and choices of these masters, we sense the multiplicity of sources upon which contemporary craftspeople draw, the variety of circumstances in which they choose to work, and the ways in which they transmit their skill and knowledge.

The experiences of all of the Bronfman Award recipients encompass many of the challenges and opportunities facing any craftsperson in Canadian society.

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