06 March 2007

Slow design

Here at Craft Research we are pleased to share our thoughts and observations with a generally small but committed readership. And they are not all lonely weavers from Fife. Some live as far afield as Edinburgh. In fact, we have readers and comment contributors from throughout the world, and generally get around 30 hits per day. At one stage last week we were getting 30 hits every hour - and from places we don't normally get hits, like Harvard, Price Waterhouse and Microsoft. Weird, eh? The reason for this is that Bruce Sterling had quoted and linked us on his blog. He had referred to the admittedly rather provisional typology of digital craft practice I had put forward in the previous post, concluding his comment with: "Oh really? Do say more!".

I started to draft something in response, then read an article that fluently expressed what I was trying to say. The article is in Crafts, which is published by the UK Crafts Council. I've subscribed to this for a decade and a half, and in the last few years seriously wondered why. In the days when Peter Dormer strode its pages with his impassioned writing, Crafts raised debate and helped to gain a contemporary relevance for the crafts. But since his sad death, the publication appeared to slip ever closer to coffee table anonymity. Now, with a new editor, refreshed look and some sparkier writing it has a welcome reinvigorated spring in its step. From being the Daily Telegraph of the applied arts, it's now more like the Sniffin' Glue of the connected crafts. With Caroline Roux at the helm, Crafts is on a far more interesting path.

In the latest issue Jane Harris and Timorous Beasties are in dialogue with Nick Barley, recently appointed as Director of The Lighthouse, Scotland's Centre of Design. The entire article is worth reading, but alas it is not online, so below I have included some excerpts that hopefully address Bruce Sterling's request for more on the relationship between crafts and the digital. JH is Jane Harris. PS is Paul Simmons. AM is Alistair Macaulay.

PS - It's interesting that even the name of the magazine we're going to be in - the dreaded 'craft' word - got such a bad rap in the 90s. But being at art school helped us learn about material, about process, about how to actually make something because after all, we've got to learn about that in order to design for it.
JH - It's a term I fought against during that time - ironically, there's now a new use for it, particularly in the context of emerging media. They're using it in a process led way, such as 'crafting nano materials', to associate something that's so far ahead of us with something that's very past in order to realise it in the present.
PS - Tom Dixon's a craft person, so is Marc Newson, Ron Arad; all these people started making things for themselves and having that knowledge of the materials.
AM - And that's what sets them apart, because they're totally involved.

There then follows a fascinating discussion which ends up focussing on why time and development and reflection are central to the craft process, and how this results in unique outcomes. Finally Jane says:

JH- I went to a wonderful presentation the other day by Gossypium who have spent the last 15 to 20 years working with cotton farmers in India, really going back to source. They have a shop where they sell basic clothing and it just walks off the shelves but everything's shipped in from India, and people can wait six months for a babygrow. It's an incredible concept: it's like slow food.

Slow design: that is craft's contribution to digital culture.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew Wagner5:29 pm

    Slow Design = Craft. I like it! thanks Mike!