Almost Lost Arts: Traditional Crafts and the Artisans Keeping Them Alive

Date: 

Oct 16, 2019, 6:00 pm

Location: 

Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Discussion and Book Signing

Emily Freidenrich
Author and Journalist

Josh Luke and Meredith Kasabian
Founders, Best Dressed Signs

Margaret Shepherd
Calligrapher and Author

Narayan Khandekar
Director, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, and Senior Conservation Scientist, Harvard Art Museums

What does it mean to be a maker, artist, or artisan in the twenty-first century? In her new book, Almost Lost Arts (Chronicle Books, 2019), Emily Freidenrich explores the work of twenty artisans from points worldwide who practice their craft using traditional techniques and analog technologies. Three Boston-based artists who specialize in calligraphy and handmade signs engaged in a conversation with Freidenrich and museum curator Narayan Khandekar to discuss the rewards and challenges of using slow, intentional processes in a fast-paced digital world, and to explore the significance of the human presence in objects or artwork.

Emily Freidenrich is a researcher, author, and art lover living in Seattle with her creative director husband and energetic Corgi. Her background in art history, archaeology, and museology informs her approach to modern and contemporary art, illustration, design, folk art, craft, and what it means to be an artist today. She is also the author of The Art of Beatrix Potter (for Chronicle Books, 2016, as Emily Zach), and works by day in book publishing. 

Narayan Khandekar is the director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies and the director of the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at the Harvard Art Museums. He received a first-class honors degree and Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Melbourne, followed by a postgraduate diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings from the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has worked at the Hamilton Kerr Institute of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University; Melbourne University Gallery; and the Museum Research Laboratory of the Getty Conservation Institute. He has a long-standing interest in the materials and techniques of artists and is an author on over sixty publications.

Margaret Shepherd was born in Ames, Iowa. She studied brush painting in prewar Saigon before graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in 1969. Today, she lives in Boston with her husband, David Friend, and has not only authored but also hand-lettered fourteen books about calligraphy. Her basic book Learn Calligraphy is now a classic in the field. She has participated in many exhibitions and lectured about topics related to her field. She takes special interest in encouraging beginners and nonartists to try calligraphy and learn about its history. She has taught workshops in Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and Finland. Building on the revival of interest in pen and ink, Shepherd has also written three books about communication in general. The Art of the Handwritten Note continues to inspire people today, more than fifteen years after she was told: “that’s a dying art.”

Best Dressed Signs is an all-by-hand sign painting company located in Boston, Massachusetts. Dedicated to the craft of hand-painted signs, custom lettering, logo design, gold leaf, and mural painting, Best Dressed Signs offers quality and attractive hand-crafted signage and design. In addition to designing and painting, founders Josh Luke and Meredith Kasabian also curate and participate in gallery art shows, conduct sign painting demonstrations, and give lectures on historical and cultural contexts of sign painting. They also co-founded the Pre-Vinylite Society, a loose network of sign enthusiasts and advocates for a renewed interest in the aesthetic-built environment.

Free and open to the public. Presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.

Free event parking at the 52 Oxford Street Garage

This event will be livestreamed on the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC) Facebook page and the HMSC website. A recording of this program will be available on the HMSC Lecture Videos page approximately three weeks after the lecture.

accessibility icon We encourage persons with disabilities to participate in programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation please contact us in advance at lectures@hmsc.harvard.edu.