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Building the prospector canoe : narrative inquiry in a life of craft Brown, Roderick Alexander Elliott

Abstract

The initial research questions were formulated to examine some of the root desires and discourses embedded in craft work and hand-building for the author - drawing parallels to these motivations for the broader culture as a whole. I am a teacher of Technology Education and, as such, a person expected to instill in young people an excitement and set of values in craft and handwork. What are the sources and experiences that act on the compulsion to create such items? What are the factors that act on the desire to create at all? Other questions formulated include: Is the experience of crafting a hand-made article an artistic experience? What are the cultures of communication that exist in the workshop and how do they influence identity building and motivation for the craftsperson in the shop environment? Why do canoe building and canoes hold such iconic sway over popular and Canadian culture? I chose crafts-based research (a modification of arts-based research) to address these questions because it lends itself as a set of tools to research the creative while creating— an investigation of one's own practice through that practice. The crafted article, in this ease a traditionally built, bent-cedar and canvas canoe, becomes a literal and metaphorical vessel that caries the researcher through the experience. The crafting and hand-building of the canoe and the canoe itself are expressions of the same experience, thus becoming an artistic and personally/culturally transformative event and art(ifact) piece/practice. Through journaling, extensive still photography and, most importantly, the canoe itself, the process of building and creating was documented. The research demonstrates that motivations for craft and hand-work are myriad and liminal, existing as diverse fragments of consciousness acting on the desire to build / create. I also found that this experience was fundamentally an artistic experience - one that built a new reality of social practice from snippets of inferences, ideals and icons. The findings, positioning shop work and shop culture in the realm of art making and art culture, justify this occupation and interruption of disciplinary turf. This research became an exercise of metaphorical map-making and served to reinvigorate my teaching practice in Technology / Craft Education with focus and purpose.

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