28 April 2006

New definitions of craft

In her post, Frances raises an important question - how is the role and definition of craft changing in a highly technological contemporary culture?

I've recently been reading research by Cathy Treadaway, whose doctoral research is investigating the impact of digital technology on creative textile practice. This page has links to her on-line publications and projects. In her discussion she raises Walter Benjamin's notion of aura, that describes the emotive aspect that appears to be absent from industrial product. She argues that aura comes from David Pye's idea of the workmanship of risk. Cathy's research shows that practitioners (design and craft), who are working in the main digitally, acknowledge the vital importance of hand making in the creative process. As she says (in a currently unpublished piece) "the emotional content of digitally produced artefacts therefore, resides in the perceived evidence of physical interaction of its author".

So, at the risk of summarising a very fullsome argument, craft in the early 21st century can be defined in terms of a process whereby designers provide emotive engagement for consumers through physical innteraction with materials and process. Craft may be a minor part of the development process (or not). But the definition of the fine crafts in the early 21st century is an entirely different matter!

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