When I met Bruce Nussbaum a year ago, he was immersed in writing Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect and Inspire.
Over lunch, Bruce outlined his thoughts on making as one of five creative competencies, crucial in a time of complex economic uncertainty. I was intruiged. And reviewing Creative Intelligence this week, I’ve found what’s essentially a manifesto for independent design, craft and the maker movement.
My review will be published in next month’s Crafts Magazine and I’ll link to it here, then. In the meantime, FastCo Design’s review makes for an interesting read.
All the research I’ve done over the past few years points to a crucial role for Higher Education in connecting craft with other disciplines. The results can be extraordinary, particularly when craft and STEM subject professionals – the resulting dialogue has helped to drive innovation in fields ranging from bioengineering to surgery.
In many cases, universities provide the impetus and resources needed to get these collaborations off the ground. And as research funding criteria in the UK continue to push both arts and science subjects towards interdisciplinarity and demonstrable impact, it’s a trend that’s likely to gather pace. Continue reading
It’s often said that craft needs to be handled in order to be appreciated, and it remains true that an object that ‘sings’ to us in real life can appear flat and lifeless on screen.
But craft is not just about the object, but is also about the story behind it. And what social media can do is to tell and build on this story, in a way that a gallery or retail environment can never match. Buyers are looking for provenance, for uniqueness, for an object that is pleasing in its own right but also speaks of places, ideas, skills, materials and perhaps even a maker with a lifestyle that the buyer can claim a little of through ownership. Continue reading
I spent a couple of days this summer working on Creative & Cultural Skills‘ report ‘Mapping Heritage Craft: the Economic Contribution of the Heritage Craft Sector in England,’ published this week. My role on this project was very specific – to review current and future legislation and regulation that is likely to change how heritage craft businesses work in the future.
Of course, any legislative or regulatory change affecting heritage craft businesses is likely to be big news for other UK sole traders and micro-enteprises too. As such, it’s of interest to anyone working in or supporting the creative industries. Continue reading
Suzanne Lee at Assemble 2012
Assemble 2012, the UK Crafts Council’s conference, took place last week at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. Our 200 delegates included practicing scientists, artists and academics, as well as non-profit and government agencies from as far afield as the US, South Africa and Korea. Press including The Guardian newspaper and The New Scientist joined us too. Continue reading
‘Impact’ and ‘interdisciplinarity’ have become familiar mantras for both academics and non-profits, in recent years. And – despite some genuine excitement around the potential for new ways of working – their prominence within grantmaking programmes and government funding agendas remains contentious.
In this context, I’m delighted to see the online exhibition Contemporary Craft Inspired by the European Bronze Age, which showcases the exciting results of a non-profit / academic partnership I helped to set up at the UK Crafts Council.
The project – funded by HERA – connects students on UK university crafts courses with academic archaeologists breaking new ground with research into craft in the Bronze Age. Continue reading
Craft in an Age of Change, the craft sector study I worked on in association with BOP Consulting, is launched today. Commissioned by the Crafts Council, Creative Scotland, the Arts Council of Wales and Craft Northern Ireland, it is the first craft sector analysis to be carried out simultaneously across the four nations of the UK.
Craft in an Age of Change draws on over 2000 interviews to examine the place of contemporary craft at the beginning of the 21st century. It is the first survey of its type to include the whole sector – retailers, educators, writers and curators as well as craft makers – in in its analysis. Continue reading
We’re all familiar with the case for bringing arts (‘A’) into science, technology, engineering and engineering (STEM) subjects, in the high school curriculum. But what happens when professional artists – craft makers / designers, in this case – and scientists meet?
My latest briefing note for the UK Crafts Council, launched at a meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group at the House of Commons on Wednesday, looks at this question in detail. Continue reading
‘Crafting Capital: New Technologies, New Economies‘, my latest report for the UK Crafts Council is now online.
Here, we look at how craft knowledge, skills and ways of working not only respond to new developments in science and technology, but also drive them.
Profiled – the glass maker whose work with bioengineers created the world’s first stem engineered trachea; the textile artist creating new urban farming solutions; the ceramicists who are revolutionising 3D printing. Click here to download.
My paper ‘Making Value: Craft in changing times‘ is published today by Cultural Trends (Routledge), ‘the academic journal that champions the need for better evidence-based analyses of the cultural sector.’
The paper analyses the working lives of contemporary craft makers in England and how they contribute social and economic value. It also reflects on the enabling role of public sector investment in maximising this economic contribution.
The paper, co-authored with Mary Schwarz and commissioned by the UK Crafts Council, gives a policy perspective on our 2010 research, ‘Making Value: Craft & the economic and social value of makers.’
Making Futures II Conference at Dartington Hall, UK
My review of Making Futures II - ‘The Crafts as Change Maker in Sustainably Aware Cultures’ for the UK Crafts Council is online now.
The review includes reflections on a wide range of presentations, from Kate Soper’s views on ‘alternative hedonism’ to Trevor Marchand’s perspective on craft knowledge…. using making itself as an ethnographic research tool.
I presented two papers at the conference, both on behalf of the Crafts Council: a keynote address with Chris Gibbon, Senior Consultant at BOP Consulting; and a peer reviewed paper (Craft and the Creative Lifecycle – Making in Changing Times – summarised here).
I also took on the challenge of condensing other sessions into 140 characters or less, as the Crafts Council’s guest tweeter – a great new conference experience!
See below for other recent conference adventures at Design Activism and Social Change (Barcelona) and Becon 2011 (Portland, OR).
Creativity is a key tool in the drive to build a more environmentally sustainable future, and makers and DIY designers are leading the way.
Here are the key messages from conference papers I presented this past month, on behalf of the UK Crafts Council, at Design Activism and Social Change (Barcelona) and Making Futures II (Devon, UK): Continue reading
I’m in transit between Barcelona and rural Devon – from the Design History Society (DHS)’s conference ‘Design Activism and Social Change’ and ‘Making Futures’, the craft and sustainability conference at Dartington Hall.
More on both conferences – and my papers – to follow, post travels. In the meantime, Guy Julier of the DHS has posted an excellent conference blog at http://designactivismconference.wordpress.com/
Craft Research Journal vol 2 is published today, and with it my review of last year’s excellent Design & | ♥ | Vs Craft conference in Brussels.
The conference had a historical perspective, so in my review I take the chance to look at the evolving role of the maker…. from the ‘heroic’ craft tradesmen of the 1930s to the digital craft researchers of the 2010s.
Visit the Craft Research Journal here.
Monty Don and crew filming Mastercrafts at Guy Mallinson's Woodland Workshops in Dorset
The rural economy is emerging as a key priority for the UK government, and it was great to focus on this in my latest online article for the UK Crafts Council.
In terms of rural tourism, we find traditional rural craft venues and fairs continuing to draw visitors – and in bigger numbers than you might expect. At the same time makers are adapting to change, meeting visitors’ needs for distinctive holiday experiences by marketing courses ranging from coracle carving to machine stitch hacking.
What’s most interesting to me, though, is looking beyond what rural designer makers sell, to the way that they trade within local economies. In a micro-economy, small businesses businesses make a bigger difference. And here, we find rural craft and design businesses opening up new markets for other local businesses, recycling waste agricultural materials and – unusually amongst rural creative businesses – helping to build the local trading networks that keep money circulating locally. There’s a strong case to be made, it seems, for craft and design as catalysts to rural diversification and sustainable economic development.
Click to read the full article here.
Maker Bot home 3D printing system - demo at 3rd Ward Brooklyn, May 14th
My new online article for the UK Crafts Council asks what happens when designer makers’ work takes them beyond traditional craft materials and into the realm of post-industrial, digital manufacturing and communication technologies.
It’s great to see how designer makers are setting the agenda in this area – not just learning to use digital tools, but also helping to shape the next generation.
Designer makers, of course, are materials innovators in a tradition that stretches from the early furnaces of the studio glass movement to the new biotextiles. So it should come as no surprise to find them hacking CGI animation tools and creating new systems for user-generated design. What’s exciting here though, is that when designer makers collaborate with digital engineers, the technologies that affect us all become not only smarter, but more human too.
Read the full article here.
Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Out and about in DUMBO last night, I spotted this crochet bike by Agata Olek – also known for her magnificent Christmas Day Wall St Bull.
By happy coincidence, I’d just heard that my abstract for this year’s Design History Society Conference in Barcelona had been accepted. The theme? Design Activism – craft in action.
In the paper, presented on behalf of the UK Crafts Council, I’ll be looking beyond the politicized craft object – and towards the ethos and creative process behind it.
Investigating how craft activists’ motivations and beliefs influence creative and business decision-making, I’ll be making the case for craft as a dynamic and socially / politically responsive creative practice – craft as social enterprise?
Cutting Edge, Sheffield: Keiko Mukaide with Si Applied Ltd
I’m excited to have been invited to speak at the Becon 2011 conference. This international gathering draws around 250 glass artists and makers to Portland, Oregon, each June. And this year’s focus is on creative collaboration…. a subject close to my heart!
In my talk I’ll be tacking a couple of key questions for glass artists and makers working today: Continue reading