Dr. Sandra Alfoldy
By: Emma Piirtoniemi
In her filmed TEDxNSCAD talk, The Connected Hand, Dr. Sandra Alfoldy begins her lecture by handing out a dozen “artisanal” baked muffins to the front row. Commanding the room with ease, she deftly presents her arguments, including calling out the contemporary corporatization of the craftsperson and a history of under-representation in depictions of craft while, at the same time, comedically unveiling the covetous allure of the trendy “craft beard” and the absurdity of an artisanal breakfast sandwich from Starbucks. As a contemporary critic, Sandra was keenly aware, sharing her pointed observations on our culture and the place of craft within it: from her favourite William Morris, to Disney and Martha Stewart, nothing was off limits to her critical investigations.
Additionally, Sandra’s curatorial work was a notable facet of her professional career. As the Associate Curator of Fine Craft at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, she recently curated an exhibition of Canadian and Scottish work, entitled Naked Craft, in 2016. This exhibition served as a place for study and celebration to those artists who saw their disciplines represented in an institutional gallery; to the general public, it served as an educational moment in understanding the depth and diversity of contemporary craft-based work. I was a student of hers at the time, as well as a guide-in-training at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. It was with a swell of pride that I attended her curator’s talk, listening as she described the works to my fellow guides, and with agency that I felt empowered to speak about my own discipline to visitors, educating them about craft works being made today.
Sandra was a champion of those who make and think in the craft vernacular, but was also a formidable ambassador to the public, communicating as she always did, in frank, approachable and humorous ways. Her talent for effortlessly communicating and connecting with all serves as a model for openness and clarity within art and craft historical academia and curatorial practice. Sandra’s presence in the craft community was a powerful one. Her wit, intelligence, and warmth were constant, and will remain in our collective memory. Her catalogue of written works, filmed talks, and the deep impact she had on generations of students will undoubtedly continue to imprint our community. May we all raise a small-batch, artisanally made glass in gratitude.