For over ten years, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts has organized a summer conference to look at craft in a broader context. The conference is intimate in scale and encourages an active exchange between participants and presenters. Mornings are spent in presentations and lectures with afternoons filled with group discussion and studio based workshops that provide a way of exploring ideas through materials. This event has always been an important part of the work we do at the school, and supports our belief in creating an environment that values reflective thinking within an inclusive and creative community.

This yearʼs conference, the thing that makes the thing, brings together eight inspiring presenters from a variety of creative disciplines. Focusing in the areas of art and design, architecture, education, engineering, documentary film making, and critical writing, their work models the potential for creative practices to make meaningful connections between people and to serve as a catalyst for change. This year we are also pleased to welcome back Neil Gershenfeld, as a visiting scientist, to Haystack, where he will be working in the fab lab, and during the conference, presenting a talk on his work. 

Participation is limited to sixty participants and people from all backgrounds and skill levels are welcome.

Conference Schedule with
Presentation Descriptions, and
Presenters and 
Workshop Leader Bios

Sunday July 9
2:00-6:00pm       Arrival and check in
6:00pm                 Dinner
7:30pm                 Welcome and orientation by Paul Sacaridiz, Director
8:00pm                 Presentation: Ayumi Horie

Give Me More Than Virtuosity
In this lecture, potter Ayumi Horie, will give an overview of the projects she’s worked on in the last decade that create frameworks for craft to move beyond the singular object and how they intersect with social justice. These include fundraisers for politicians and disaster relief, Instagram feeds, public art projects, and collaborative social practice projects with other artists, including Nick Moen, her partner in The Democratic Cup. 

Monday, July 10

8:00am                  Breakfast
9:00-10:30am      Presentation: Sarah K. Khan
In/Visible In the Story

Working as a documentary filmmaker, storyteller and photographer, Sarah K. Khan will discuss her work with migrant communities through several international projects. She will discuss how she has engaged with Indian women farmers and spice porters of Old Delhi based on her photography and co-creation of graphics/block-printed scarves with Delhi artists, Sutanu Panigrahi and Meeta Mastani.  Concluding this talk will be a focus on the origin, evolution, and creation of the Queens Migrant Kitchen short film series – a project whose goal is to make the invisible visible, bear witness, and relay the stories of migrants, through the lens of food with photography, film, interactive maps and story. 

10:30am              Presentation: Shannon Stratton

Bursting at the Seams: Expanding Craft via the Curatorial
Focusing on past projects and future strategies in her curatorial practice both independently and as Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, Shannon Stratton will discuss expanding the discourse around craft through exhibition subject, concept and design. She will also talk about the curatorial importance of working with both historical material and leading contemporary artists.
12:00                    Lunch
1:00-4:30pm      Studio sessions and discussion groups
6:00pm                Dinner
7:15pm                 Presentation: Amy Franceschini 
Seed Time and Situational Intelligence 
Amy Franceschini founded Futurefarmers in 1995 as a way to bring together multidisciplinary artists researchers, designers, architects, scientists and farmers with a common interest in creating frameworks for exchange that catalyze moments of “not knowing”. This talk will highlight a variety of participatory projects undertaken by Futurefarmers that often provide a playful entry point and tools for participants to gain insight into deeper fields of inquiry – not only to imagine, but to participate in and initiate change in the places we live.

8:30pm                 Overview of the day/group conversation

Tuesday, July 11


9:00-10:30am      Presentation: Allan Wexler
Absurd Thinking: Between Art and Design
Allan Wexler’s career resists easy classification. In the late1960’s he was an early member  of a group that defined themselves non-architects or paper architects and questioned the perceived divide between art and the design disciplines. Focusing on drawings, multimedia objects, images, and installations that alter perceptions of domestic activities this presentation will look at the potential for everyday activities like eating, bathing, sitting, and socializing to function as both ritual and theater.
10:30am               Presentation: Carole Frances-Lung
Crafting, Organizing and Collaborating
Carole Frances-Lung engages in a practice of careful listening, problem solving, skill sharing and community building. Through the visual and written vocabulary of fashion and textile design, production and consumption her work pays homage, through a feminist lens, to textile and apparel manufacturing histories and contemporary systems.  This talk will present methodologies for diverse organizing, collaborating, radical engagement and service using, the hand, machines, and technology to generate installations, 
performances, and social sculpture.
12:00                     Lunch
1:00-4:30pm        Studio sessions and discussion groups
6:00pm                 Dinner
7:15pm                 Special Presentation: Neil Gershenfeld
8:30pm                 Overview of the day/group conversation 
Wednesday July 12
8:00am                 Breakfast
9:00am                 Presentation: Amon Millner
How to Make Room for (Almost) Anyone
Acquiring materials and machines to establish spaces for making in a given environment can be challenging. One set of often unaddressed challenges that can prevent a community from reaching its making potential involves creating spaces that are inviting and inspiring to people with diverse desires, backgrounds, interests, and abilities. Amon Millner will present stories from several Fab Labs to illustrate approaches to addressing and solving some of these challenges.
10:30am               Presentation: Shelia Pepe

On route to ‘”Hot Mess Formalism”
Sheila Pepe is an artist and educator, and a prominent cross-disciplinary artist, whose work employs conceptualism, surrealism, and craft to address feminist and class issues.  This talk will focus on an overview of her work, across media, discipline and time in advance of her upcoming mid career exhibition Phoenix Museum of Art.

12:00                     Lunch
1:00-4:30pm        Studio sessions and discussion groups
5:00-6:00pm       Walk-through    
6:00pm                 Dinner
7:00pm                 Closing discussion
Thursday July 13
8:00am                 Breakfast
9:30am                 Departure




Amy Franceschini creates formats for
exchange and production that question and
challenge the social, cultural and environmental
systems that surround her. In 1999 she founded
Futurefarmers, a rotating group of artists, activists, farmers and architects who work together to animate the possible within a particular time and place. The work of Futurefarmers has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Walker Art Center, and MAXXI in Rome, Italy. Currently, Futurefarmers are the lead artists of Flatbread Society, a permanent public artwork in Oslo, Norway and their most recent project, Seed Journey,
takes the form of floating school moving by sail between Oslo and Istanbul.


Ayumi Horie is a studio potter in Portland,
ME, who has worked on various socially engaged
projects. Portland Brick and currently The
Democratic Cup, a project that seeks to catalyze
civil political discourse through collaborative
cups, both use ceramics as a vehicle for community participation. In 2015 Horie was named a Distinguished Fellow in Crafts by United States Artists. She runs the ongoing Instagram feed called Pots In Action, which features ceramic art from all over the world and has attracted nearly 100,000 followers, and has also organized multiple online fundraisers including Obamaware in 2008 and Handmade For Japan in 2011. She is currently on the board of the
American Craft Council and her work is in various
collections throughout the United States, including the
Museum of Art and Design New York City.


Sarah K. Khan spent over twenty years
researching Asian and Middle Eastern nutrition,
public health, medicine, and traditional ecological
knowledge systems. Her work derives from
rigorous academic, clinical, and ethnographic field research that intersects migration, climate change, environmental degradation, and gender and race discrimination. Recently returned from her second Senior Research Fulbright-Nehru Scholar Fellowship in India, Khan is in post-production creating the Indian women farmers film series and has also launched the Migrant Kitchen Series to make the stories of
invisible migrants in Queens, NY visible with articles,
photography, maps, and films. She holds degrees in
Middle Eastern history and Arabic from Smith College,
two Masters degrees in public health and nutrition from
Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in plant sciences,
from the New York Botanical Garden and City University
of New York. Sarah lives and works between Madison, WI
and New York City.


Carole Frances Lung is a soft guerilla activist,
artist, and Associate Professor at California State
University Los Angeles. Through her alter ego,
Frau Fiber, Carole uses a hybrid of playful activism, cultural criticism, research and spirited crafting of one of a kind garment production performances investigating the human cost of mass production and consumption, addressing issues of value and time, through the thoroughly hand-made construction and salvaging of garments. Her performances have been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Sam Maloof Foundation, Craft in America Study Center, Jane Addams Hull House Museum, and
the Center for Craft Creativity and Design, and the Ghetto Biennale, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, among others. Currently she maintains the Institute for Labor Generosity Workers and Uniforms, Frau Fiber’s headquarters and experimental factory in downtown
Long Beach, CA.


Dr. Amon Millner is an Assistant Professor of
Computing and Innovation at Olin College, directing the Extending Access to STEM Empowerment (EASE) Lab. He specializes in developing tangible interactive systems, technology, and community platforms to facilitate learners becoming empowered to make a difference in their neighborhoods. Dr. Millner has authored computing curricula for K-12 classrooms and has established local and international hubs for learning, making, and digital fabrication, shaping the ways in which networks such as Computer Clubhouses and Fab Labs have evolved. He co-created the PicoBoard,
while helping to invent the Scratch programming
language, and also co-founded, the start-up, Modkit
that produces a graphical programming interface to
the VexIQ robotics system. Dr. Millner is a patent
holder and TEDx speaker and received a Ph.D. in Media
Arts and Sciences from MIT. His mantra is: make things;
make a difference; make your way.


Shelia Pepe is best known for her large-scale,
ephemeral installations and sculpture made
from domestic and industrial materials. Since
the mid-1990’s she has used all means of
feminist and craft traditions to investigate
received notions concerning the production
of canonical artwork as well as the artist’s
relationship to museum display and the art
institution itself. Pepe has exhibited widely
throughout the United States and abroad in
solo, group exhibitions, and collaborative
projects at venues including the Smith College
Museum of Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum,
PS1/MoMA, Contemporary Art Museum Houston,
Texas, and Artisterium, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
Recent commissions include works for the 8th Shenzhen
Sculpture Biennale, and the ICA/Boston’s traveling
exhibition Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present. She is
working on a book and exhibition with curator
Gilbert Vicario of the Phoenix Museum, AZ. Both
are due out in the late fall of 2017. Pepe is currently
a Resident Artist at the Sharpe-Walentas Studio
Program in Brooklyn, NY.


Shannon Stratton became the William and
Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator at the Museum of
Arts and Design in 2015. Prior to this appointment she spent twelve years as founder and executive director of Threewalls, a Chicago-based contemporary arts organization, and co-founded Handin-Glove and Common Field, a conference and national network for artists and organizers. Stratton is also an independent curator and researcher with specific interest in fiber/material studies and artist-run organizations. Her writing on craft has been included in Collaborations Through Craft,
(Berg Publishing, 2012) and Craft on Demand: the
New Politics of the Handmade (Bloomsbury, 2017).
Some of her recent curatorial projects include:
Binary Lore: Edie Fake & MSHR, Philip Feldman
Gallery + Project Space, Portland, OR; Resonating
Bodies, The Soap Factory, Minneapolis, MN and
Gestures of Resistance: The Slow Assertions of
Craft, The Portland Museum of Contemporary
Craft, Portland, OR. Recent exhibitions at the
Museum of Arts and Design include Atmosphere
for Enjoyment: Harry Bertoia’s Environment for
Sound, In Time: The Rhythm of the Workshop, and
Coille Hooven: Tell it By Heart, all 2016.


Allan Wexler has worked in the fields of architecture, design, and fine art for forty-five years. He is represented by the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York City and has exhibited, taught, and lectured internationally. Wexler’s career resists easy classification. In the late1960’s he was an early member of the group of architects and artists who questioned the perceived divide between art and the design disciplines, referring to themselves as non-architects or paper architects. The subject
of his work is the built environment. He creates
drawings, multimedia objects, images, and
installations that alter perceptions of domestic
activities such as eating, bathing, sitting, and
socializing, and turns these everyday activities
into ritual and theater. Wexler is a recipient of
a Guggenheim Fellowship (2016), is a Fellow of
the American Academy in Rome, and a winner of
both a Chrysler Award for Design Innovation and
the Henry J. Leir Prize from the Jewish Museum.
He has had numerous national and international
solo exhibitions, has lectured on his work internationally,
and has been reviewed by major art and
architecture publications. Wexler currently
teaches at Parsons School of Design in New York
City. Lars Müller has recently published Absurd
Thinking: Between Art and Design, a book on Allan
Wexler’s work and creative process.


Neil Gershenfeld, the Director of the Center for
Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, will be a Visiting Scientist on site throughout the conference. His unique laboratory is breaking down boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, from creating molecular quantum computers to virtuosic musical instruments. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including
New York’s Museum of Modern Art and rural Indian villages, the White House and the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers and automobile safety systems,
Las Vegas shows and Sami herds. Dr. Gershenfeld is the
author of numerous technical publications, patents, and
books including FabWhen Things Start To ThinkThe Nature
of Mathematical Modeling
, and The Physics of Information
, and has been featured in media such as
The New York Times, The Economist, NPR, CNN, and PBS.
He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, has been
named one of Scientific American’s 50 leaders in science and
technology, as one of 40 Modern-Day Leonardos by the
Museum of Science and Industry, one of Popular Mechanic’s
25 Makers, has been selected as a CNN/Time/Fortune Principal
Voice, and by Prospect/Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 public
intellectuals. Dr. Gershenfeld received a BA in Physics with
High Honors from Swarthmore College, a Ph.D. in Applied Physics
from Cornell University, honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College,
Strathclyde University, and the University of Antwerp, was a Junior Fellow
of the Harvard University Society of Fellows, and a member of the
research staff at Bell Labs. Neil Gershenfeld is the originator of the
growing global network of field fab labs that provide widespread
access to prototype tools for personal fabrication, and directs the
Fab Academy, the associated program for distributed research and
education in the principles and practices of digital fabrication.


Browse Rates and Accommodations, Conference Schedule, Other Details, and link to Register

Everyone is welcome – no previous experience in any discipline, medium, or technique is required.

Ten years of conference presenters and workshop leaders:

Tanya Aguiñiga
Sandra Alfoldy
Siemon Allen
Nora Atkinson
Dan Beachy-Quick
Paulus Berensohn
Christina Bertoni
John Bielenberg
Nancy Blum
Laura Brown
Rick Brown
Judith Burton
Akiko Busch
Kendall Buster
Robert Campbell
Jamie Carpenter
Alison Chase
Sonya Clark
Matthew Crawford
Erik Demaine
Martin Demaine
Andrea Dezö
Charles Garoian
Neil Gershenfeld
Saul Griffith
Sabrina Gschwandtner
Diana Guerrero-Maciá
Meredith Hall
Del Harrow
Molly Hatch
Laura Hosaluk
Michael Hosaluk
Peter Houk
Tim Ingold
Jeanne Jaffe
Ole Jensen
Daniel Johnston
Jamie Johnston
Tom Joyce
Maira Kalman
Janet Koplos
Jack Lenor Larsen
Liz Lerman
Faythe Levine
Ellen Lupton
Lydia Matthews
David McFadden
John McQueen
Nathalie Miebach
Michael Moore
Stephen Nachmanovitch
Arturo O’Farrill
Michael O’Malley
Jeanne Quinn
Ronald Rael
Rowland Ricketts
Brian Rotman
Paul Sacaridiz
Judith Schaechter
Warren Seelig
Ezra Shales
Pradeep Sharma
Jenni Sorkin
Kim R. Stafford
Michael Strand
Susan S. Szenasy
Jeanine Thompson
Jacob Tonski
Matthew Trimble
Namita Gupta Wiggers
Anne J. Wilson
Frank Wilson
Joe Wood
Lily Yeh
Amit Zoran

For more information or to be added to our conference mailing list contact Haystack.