14 December 2010

Twelve Vessels of Life, Love and Death

                                                      Top Image: January's Bowl by Michael Lloyd; photo by Nick Duxbury
                                                     Bottom Image: Sketches for January's Bowl by Michael Lloyd; photo by Nick Duxbury

Exhibition review by Tina Rose

When I was asked to write about the Twelve Vessels, a beautiful exhibition of hand raised and chased silver vessels by Michael Lloyd, I felt rather overwhelmed, as it is an experience which is difficult to express in words.   

Michael had wanted for a while to create a series of twelve vessels – one for each month – expressing his love of nature and reflecting the profound events that mark our lives of birth, love and death.  He approached eleven individuals, couples and families who were part of his life including friends, curators, fellow makers and patrons, and invited them to be part of his idea and to choose a time of year. 

Over the next 18 months he observed the seasons, drawing nature, and in conversation with each of the patrons gathered the strands of relationships, family and the circle of life, to create an individual vessel for each one.  Each has its own individual form and imagery, and also, in his words, is ‘honouring the preciousness of memory’.

In the exhibition a fabric hanging by each of the vessels reveals the patron and the memories that led to their choice of month – stories of births, deaths, love and survival - which are delicately and intelligently captured within the simple form of a vessel, a symbol of sharing, nourishment, and contemplation.

It is a very personal show, both for the artist and the people who shared their lives. Each person looking at these vessels will connect in a different way, as the stories will have a different resonance in their life.  It is particularly touching that there are actually thirteen vessels, as Michael surprised Mary and Olivier Michel with a second piece to mark the arrival of a new baby, Matilda.  The couple had chosen a quotation from Norman McCaig for their vessel for their son Louis, which they felt summed up the arrival of a new baby, and he split this over the two vessels ‘Something has been completed that everything is part of, something that will go on being completed forever’.

At the New Craft Future Voices International Conference in 2007 (transcript in PPFCP publication) Paul Greenhalgh, director and president of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran Gallery of Art and Design puts forward the concept of Craft and the New Humanism.  He suggests there are two constituencies to craft, one of which is poetry (the other political), and says ‘Many within the craft disciplines engage in poetic discourse: they are about the making of physical things that engage the intellect and the emotions.  We should simply recognise this and desist from further categorisation.  If it works as poetry, it works.’

There is a peacefulness, honesty and beauty to this exhibition which is born from experience, skill, imagination and character.  It has a spiritual poetry which could only have been created by Michael Lloyd.

The exhibition was hosted by IC: Innovative Craft and Dovecot, and supported by Creative Scotland and the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh. A full catalogue been published to accompany the exhibition and is available from IC: Innovative Craft cost £10 + £2 P+P by emailing or sending a cheque payable to IC:Innovative Craft or they are available in the Dovecot Shop.

Tina Rose, December 2010

01 December 2010

Research Assistant: Sustainability, Invention and Energy Demand Reduction

Brilliant New Opening at Goldsmiths University of London

The Role
Working with the Departments of Design and Sociology you will contribute to a project on the co-design of energy demand reduction technologies and communities of practice. Based within the Department of Design, you will be joining the: Sustainability, Invention and Energy Demand Reduction project. This is run collaboratively by the Interaction Research Studio and Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process (Sociology) with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). As part of the team you will play an active role in designing and implementing research materials, proposals and presentations, as well as field research with groups of volunteers in the UK. Opportunities may also arise to become involved in other studio projects on an ad hoc basis.

You will have a BA or MA in Design (or a related discipline), or equivalent experience. You should have a design background, preferably in interaction or product design or a related discipline. You will enjoy practice-based research and be passionate about exploring new paths for technology.

The Departmen
Over recent years there has been an increasingly energetic dialogue between Design and Social Science disciplines. Much of this dialogue has been aimed at enabling mutual understanding, identifying shared intellectual interests, and exploring common frames of reference. The Interaction Research Studio and the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process have been at the forefront of these developments.

To apply online and for further information see: http://tiny.cc/9405q

Job Details
Part-time (0.8fte) Research Assistant (Design Focus)

Reference Number    SOC000014
Department    Design and Sociology
Type of Contract    Fixed-Term
Full Time/Part Time    Part Time
Interview Date    Tuesday 18 January 2011
Closing date for applications    3 January 2011

From: £29,953 to £30,773 pa incl LW (pro rata)

Fixed-Term until 31 December 2013
Start date: As soon as possible

04 November 2010

V&A at Dundee - design competition winner announced

V and A design - Kengo Kuma
The Japanese architectural practice Kengo Kuma & Associates has been named the winner of the design competition for the V&A at Dundee.

Kengo Kuma led one of six proposals shortlisted in an international competition to find a design team to develop a landmark building that will house the V&A at Dundee and form an inspiring anchor for Dundee’s waterfront.
Kengo Kuma exterior

“We were delighted by the quality of all the designs which were submitted to the competition and I think this is reflected in the huge public interest which our exhibition of models has generated,” said Lesley Knox, Chair of the V&A at Dundee project and of the jury panel.

“Kengo Kuma’s proposal was the unanimous choice of the jury panel and is a worthy winner; a building that will delight visitors and encourage them to revisit it again and again. It demonstrates a clear understanding of the city, offers a new experience of the river, and will be as exciting internally as it will be externally.

“This has the potential to be one of Europe’s most exciting buildings.”
Kengo Kuma interior

Kengo Kuma said, “It is a great honour to hear the news and my team and I are grateful for this significant opportunity. I am thrilled to be able to work with those at V&A at Dundee in order to give shape to their vision, to contribute meaningfully to the cultural richness of the city.

“It will be an exciting endeavour that will combine the tradition and heritage of the Victoria and Albert Museum and our new ideas.
“Furthermore, we are enthusiastic about the amazing site, the city and environment - it is our intention to find a balanced approach to nature and the city life of Dundee. We wish to bring our best efforts forward, with vigour and passion.”
Kengo Kuma gallery

The jury panel made their unanimous decision after an extensive process of assessing the designs, interviewing the architects and their teams, and viewing some of their previous work. The public view was also factored in with thousands of questionnaires and comments drawn from the 13,000-plus people who visited the exhibition and those who viewed it online.

“We have subjected each of the six proposals to exhaustive scrutiny, including having external assessors do a detailed examination of projected costs, and we did not have to exclude any of the submissions on grounds of affordability,” said Mike Galloway, Director of City Development for Dundee City Council and a member of the panel.

“The Kengo Kuma design gives us something which is bold and ambitious but buildable and practical. It is a beautiful stone building which elegantly meets the requirements we laid out in the brief. This is a harmonious and integrated response to this unique site, which enhances the overall Waterfront Project.”

Sir Mark Jones, Director of the V&A, said the design offered “fantastic spaces to exhibit stunning design collections”.

“I think this will become a major destination and will give us an internationally recognised building,” said Sir Mark. “It will reward repeat visits and attract attention from around the world.”
Kengo Kuma restaurant
Kengo Kuma’s team for the V&A at Dundee project includes the Scottish firms cre8architecture, Optimised Environments Ltd, and CBA, and the engineering firm Arup, which has offices across Scotland, including in Dundee.

The company will now engage with the partners in the V&A at Dundee project to further develop the proposal. Detailed design work will continue throughout 2011 and work is projected to start onsite in autumn 2012.

The V&A at Dundee is being delivered by Design Dundee Ltd, a ground-breaking partnership between the Victoria and Albert Museum - the world’s greatest museum of art and design - and the University of Abertay Dundee, the University of Dundee, Dundee City Council and Scottish Enterprise.

Design Dundee Ltd is looking to create a landmark building, which will be sited at Craig Harbour right on the banks of the River Tay. The site is being made available through the Dundee Central Waterfront Partnership, the joint venture between Dundee City Council and Scottish Enterprise which is revitalising the prime area of land linking the city centre with the River Tay.

The exhibition of models at the University of Abertay Dundee library will remain open until Saturday November 13th to allow people to return and view the winning design and the other proposals.

The jury panel consisted of:
  • Lesley Knox (Chair)
  • Mike Galloway - Director of City Development, Dundee City Council
  • Graeme Hutton - Dean of the School of Architecture, University of Dundee
  • Moira Gemmill - Director of Projects & Design, V&A
  • Jill Farrell - Regional Operations Director, Scottish Enterprise
  • Professor Nicholas Terry - Vice-Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Abertay Dundee
  • Jim Eyre - Wilkinson Eyre Architects
  • Clive Gillman - Director, Dundee Contemporary Arts

25 October 2010

Another Great Article by Craft Australia

Making a Living from Craft in the 21st Century

How does someone make a living from craft in the 21st century, and, in particular, how can the sector cultivate an appreciation of the value of contemporary craft in ways that drive collecting and buying? Using the experience of Metalab, a contemporary fine jewellery gallery in Sydney's Surry Hills, as a case study, this article explores the opportunities for marketing craft.
Sarah Evans
"as well as providing pleasure and satisfaction to the maker and designer, a practice also has to be a sustainable, viable reality, and successfully find its marketplace." - Grace Cochrane (2007)
How does someone make a living from craft in the 21st century, and, in particular, how can the sector cultivate an appreciation of the value of contemporary craft in ways that drive collecting and buying? This question first came to mind when I tried to sell my own work and two years ago it became the topic of a research paper for my Masters of Art Administration degree. For the research paper I interviewed a number of people in New South Wales about the marketing of contemporary jewellery. Through the interviews I identified Metalab as gallery that is doing things in new ways. They agreed to share their experience for this article about making a living from craft in the 21st century.
The starting point for my research paper was a UK report, Making it to Market: Developing the market for contemporary craft, in which the authors Morris, Hargreaves and McIntyre (2006, p.7) propose that if you want a thriving craft sector there needs to be, among other things, a high level of 'subscription' activity, where 'subscription' is:
"the process by which artists or designer-makers accrue endorsement for their work through the actions of critics, dealers, collectors, public galleries, curators and other peers within the sector."
Morris, Hargreaves and McIntyre (2006, p.184) argue that strong subscription activity not only legitimises work, but also supports value and prestige, which in turn drives collecting, in both public and private spheres, and general purchasing activity. Through their research they found that, compared to the fine arts sector, there is a lack of subscription activity within the craft sector. This is driven by a lack of infrastructure, particularly at the high-end of the market. Without a strong retail and dealer sector, they argue, there is little to distinguish the professional from the amateur, few mechanisms to control the amount and quality of supply, and, generally, craftspeople have to be their own advocates. All of which has negative outcomes for the sector as there is "very little legitimisation or subscription activity to cultivate rarity or prestige."
Sitting alongside this idea of subscription is the notion that people access the market in various ways and at various levels: people may be 'introduced' to craft at a local market, develop an interest in a maker or style of work, become a regular buyer, then perhaps, a collector and ultimately an advocate for the sector. For this to occur there must be places where people can see work and ways they can learn about it.
Metalab is one of a number of galleries in Australia taking up this challenge. Metalab is a commercial contemporary fine jewellery gallery in Surry Hills, Sydney, established by Nina and Cesar Cueva in 2005. When they opened, Metalab was going to be exclusively a space to exhibit contemporary jewellery and objects from established makers. But the Cuevas quickly realised it would be difficult to sustain a living from exhibiting alone. So, they divided the gallery into two spaces, one for exhibiting work and the other to sell work. Then in 2007 they opened a separate retail space, Courtesy of the Artist (COTA), in Bourke Street Surry Hills. They felt it was important to set up a retail space alongside their gallery, both to provide a source of income and as a "way in" to an appreciation of more cutting-edge jewellery.
"For customers, visiting a retail store is a completely different experience, people just drop in to shop and there isn't the same barrier that there is going into a gallery. Through our relationships with our customers we develop their interest in contemporary fine jewellery." - Cesar Cuevas
A 1997 Australia Council report, To Sell Art, Know Your Market: A Survey of Visual Art and Craft Buyers noted an increase in the number of gallery-shops. They commented: "[this] has signalled to a significant number of people that some examples of original art, 'good art', are generally within their range and affordable." (p. 34) Retail outlets can provide a more accessible way to see and buy contemporary craft.
Metalab now operates an exhibition space that is combined with a collector's cabinet to sell more cutting-edge and expensive work and a studio where they hold workshops and master classes, provide workshop access, and undertake commissions, special orders, and product design, development and manufacture. For Metalab, having the studio within the gallery "makes a big difference . . . it's about longevity . . . maintaining and creating a stronger consumer confidence." The Australia Council report (1997, p. 35) noted that those surveyed were "most enthusiastic about having direct contact with the 'creative people' who are able to produce art or fine craft work." . Being able to visit a maker's studio satisfies a desire to have personal contact with makers, to see the processes involved in making work, and even become involved in making or designing work.
In mid-2009 the Cuevas' set up a second Courtesy of the Artist outlet, a 'pop-up' store in the Strand Arcade in Sydney's CBD. This was a way for them to test the city market, and in particular the corporate market. Now the Bourke Street Courtesy of the Artist has moved permanently to the Strand Arcade. Commenting about this venture, Cesar said:
"The COTA 'pop-up' has been a major success. It was an ideal scenario in which we were able to effectively transplant our retail concept into the CBD and also quantify the increase in visitation and sales. Having a retail presence in Australia's busiest shopping precinct has helped cement our presence in Sydney's retail landscape. The market research we have been able to collate has been invaluable. The 'pop-up' scenario gave us the confidence to make a long term commitment and we have since accepted a long term leasing agreement from the Strand Arcade. This will give us the opportunity to further refine our concept and holistically apply our ideas from the interior and graphic identity, visual merchandising, sales approach to the types of events we produce. Public reaction has been excellent."
Metalab also has a website Metalab and a blog Metalab at Blogspot. Writing in Object magazine in 2005 Craft Australia general manager Catrina Vignando (2005, p.41) said: "websites are a visual marketing tool taking work from a local context to a global marketplace . . . they show the web's communicative capacity for furthering discussion about craft practice, engaging in dialogue with other makers, and as a resource and inspiration for buyers, galleries, art managers and researchers." Through websites, people can view images; learn about processes, materials and history; email makers directly; and communicate with others interested in craft.
Building community online is also supported by physical location and proximity to larger craft and design venues. Cesar Cueva sees it as a plus being located in a neighbourhood with other galleries and retail outlets such as Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design. Through this physical proximity Metalab is able to create links into their shared audience and networks.
Metalab have also been involved in other industry programs; in 2010 Metalab was involved in the National Contemporary Jewellery Award hosted by Griffith Regional Art Gallery, assisting with the judging of the award. Working with other organisations in the sector allows both participants to tap into new audiences.
Responding to a question about the things that have made Metalab and Courtesy of the Artist successful from a marketing point of view the Cuevas commented; " I think having a clear vision for the scope of both Metalab and COTA has allowed us to establish a criteria for the types of work we are looking to stock and also the types of events we produce."
They also noted the importance of their relationships with their artists; "Our strongest marketable draw cards are the artists we represent. Through them we are able to put forth a strong concept driven retail experience that has broad appeal. COTA and Metalab are very carefully curated to fit within this concept."
The activities of galleries such as Metalab have also been supported by a growth in activity across the sector. The staging of the exhibitions Smart works: design and the handmade and Freestyle: new Australian design for living in Sydney in 2007 were significant events in the showcasing of contemporary craft and design in Australia. In addition, exhibitions such as Contemporary Wearables/ Commemorative Wearables and Excessory: Contemporary Australian Jewellery at Manly Art Gallery and Museum in June 2010, the 2007 Marian Hoskings exhibition staged as part of the Living Treasures program, and Baubles, Bangles & Beads: Australian at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery in 2006 have showcased contemporary jewellery exclusively. Rupert Myer (2002) in the landmark Report of the Contemporary Visual Arts and Craft Inquiry noted that exhibitions in public galleries and museums are a good way to introduce the general public to contemporary visual art and craft and can create audiences and build respect for individual artists and craftspeople; as well as increasing audiences for contemporary art and craft more generally. He also noted that public galleries can play the role of a respected collector, and in this way influence the purchasing behaviour of others.
Other developments in recent years include the opening of new galleries/studios, such as Studio 20/17 and Pablo Fanque and a rise in the number of markets such as the Powerhouse Museum's Young Blood Designers and The Finders Keepers Markets. There are also a growing number of websites selling contemporary jewellery for example definitestyle andStudio Ingot and blogs where people write about contemporary jewellery such as Kit and Caboodle. As part of the Sydney Art and About festival a new studio visit program, START Studio Art Fest, will be launched: START Studio Art Fest.
Opening the Smart Works: design and the handmade conference in 2007; BBC broadcaster Peter Day noted the 21st century will provide great opportunities for craftspeople. With the development of wireless technology people can take the web with them wherever they go. Consumers and makers can communicate with others with shared interests around the world. He argues that, as a result, consumers will be better informed, will develop their own ideas and tastes, and will value individual, handmade and customisable objects. Day sees this as creating significant opportunities for craftspeople and designers, if they are ready to take advantage of them.
Through their own 'subscription' activity, Metalab and Courtesy of the Artist have been able to tap into different segments of the market and attract new audiences. They have been able to accrue endorsement for the work of the makers they represent and build value and prestige for contemporary jewellery, commenting "There has definitely been a dramatic change in consumer behaviour, most visibly in the last two years. Our clientele are generally well informed and wanting to invest in good quality locally made objects. Increasingly we are finding that customers are seeking out the one-off. Commission work has now become an important facet to our business and one that will feature strongly in future marketing strategies. I think this is all primarily due to consumer confidence. We are well aware of the power of word of mouth promotion." They have also taken advantage of opportunities, such as establishing a 'pop-up' store, embraced new technologies such as websites and blogs, used a range of tools to raise their profile, such as involvement with the National Contemporary Jewellery Award, and built and maintained a commitment to quality.
"I think it's an exciting time to be a practicing jeweller and metalsmith in Sydney. There is definitely a lot more opportunity for makers to practice, exhibit and retail their wares locally than there was 5 years ago. As independent creative enterprises I think it is important to work closely towards establishing unique identities. Collectively we can broaden and nurture a culture for collecting and commissioning new works from studio jewellers and object makers." - Cesar Cueva
Based on this case study, it would be interesting to see further research into the ways audiences experience the sector and to map how their participation changes over time (e.g. from attending markets, to regular exhibition visitor, to collector). It appears that each player within the sector has the potential to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them, both working within their own enterprises and working with others, and thereby contribute in a wider range of ways to the value and prestige of contemporary craft.
Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans is a freelance writer and curator with an interest in textiles and the marketing of craft. Sarah is the Project Coordinator for the Tamworth Textile Triennial.


28 September 2010

Dundee V&A museum designs unveiled

Excerp from BBC website......Six designs for the V&A Museum planned for Dundee's waterfront will be unveiled at an exhibition in the city [tomorrow, Wednesday 29 September].
The architects were shortlisted in May and asked to submit their designs for the building, due to be opened in 2014 as a centre of 21st Century design.

Among the six are Edinburgh-based firm Sutherland Hussey. The other companies are Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, Kengo Kuma and Associates (image above), REX, Snøhetta and Steven Holl Architects. [View all design via BBC at In pictures: Dundee V&A designs]

More than 120 firms took part in the competition to design the landmark building. Sir Mark Jones, director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, said they were "fantastic designs from brilliant architects".

Related stories

23 September 2010

End of September Already?

I'm finding it difficult to believe that October is nearly upon us. This year in particular has been a whirlwind of activity. There are so many fascinating events, people and places that have filled the days and weeks. June, July and August was no exception with Craft Festival Scotland events, V&A at Dundee exhibition preparations, the 'Past, Present and Future Craft' book launch, conference organisation and attendance!! Here's a snap shot of some of the journey:

DRS 2010
July (7-10th) saw me in Montreal, Canada, at the Design Research Society conference 'Design and Complexity'. I was presenting a small but important aspect of my research from the Past, Present and Future Craft Practice project. I talked about craft as strategy, a concern for innovation and future cultural concern. I introduced the visualisation mapping method I use to analyse and evaluate the creative development of craft practitioners over a 10-year period to assess how, if and where innovation has been achieved and, where and how changes can be introduced to increase the levels of innovation in their practice. I also noted the shift in communication of craft practice that was required for craft as strategy to be understood and investigated further.

Personally, what I found most enlightening is the 'rhetoric of research' in that although I am in the midst of completing a major 5-year research project, I am also just beginning to disseminate the work and contextualize it's relevance from a range of perspectives! Why is it that when you complete you are only just beginning?

Like all conference participation, the true value lies in the social networking and the opportunity to talk about design with a new group of people who very often have different ways of working and alternative views about the future of design and design research. For me, this came from conversation with Camille Moussette  (Umeå Institute of Design), Kaja Tooming Buchanan (The Cleveland Institute of Art), Jon Kilko (Frog Design), Michael (Siemens), Ruth Morrow (University of Belfast),  Richard Buchanan (Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland), David Durling (Birmingham Institute of Art and Design) and Nabile el Hilali  (ISTEC Ecole supérieure de commerce Audencia, Paris).

In terms of future DRS events, a consistent and fair approach to parallel sessions would be preferred as some sessions had 2 parallel tracks while others had 8. And typically, the researchers I was most interested in listening to were scheduled to talk at the same time, during the 8 parallel track sessions! All in all, an enriching experience.

Interesting Interview online with John Kelko: http://designmind.frogdesign.com/blog/changing-behavior-by-design-forbes-interview-with-jon-kolko.html

Craft Festival Scotland

In June, I attended two 'In-Conversation' events held at Dundee Contemporary Arts as part of the Future Craft series of events within the Craft Festival Scotland programme. The first was a talk by printed textile designer and colourist Frances Stevenson and ceramist Lara Scobie who gave a brilliant insight in to the practice of Knowledge Exchange and Knowledge Transfer.  They discussed in great detail the value of the 'Natural Forces' project (2006-7) which was initiated as a means of inspiration generation and creative product development. Frances' knowledge and application of colour along with her 2 dimensional imaging expertise and, Lara's knowledge and experience of 3 dimensional thinking and working was the essence of the 'exchange', with Lara learning from Frances and vices versa.

The results of the project are best explained via the shift in their work. Below are images of Lara and Frances' work before the project and of their new work after the partnership. I'll let you judge for yourself the value of Knowledge Exchange in craft practice and for craft practice.

What also was expressed as a key outcome of the project was the significant increase in motivation for making products. The project reivigorated them both, in equal measure and has facilitated a new direction and market for their work, allowing them to continue with their craft rather than abandoning it. I think this is a key real world issue for all creative practitioners - re-discovering the passion when inspiration is 'thin' and life takes you in directions and on journeys which result in great uncertainty. For Lara and Frances, motherhood was one of these challenges and in terms of creative and commerical viability, their decision to work together resulted in the challenge being turned into an opportunity.

Both Frances and Lara lecture at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. Contact details for them can be found at www.dundee.ac.uk

The second 'In-Conversation' talk was led by Amanda Game, Craft Curator and, Co-Founder and Director of Innovative Craft based in Edinburgh. The talk was a rare and much needed discussion about contemporary and future craft markets, education and product development. It looked at issues of innovation in craft, new methodologies, retailing and product quality. It was attended by a dynamic group of jewellers, textile designers, craft academics and interactive media designers. For me, the value of it was the passion from everyone to sustain craft as a sector, with ideas galour arising for the future direction of craft education. While not all of the ideas were in harmony (for example, making the issue of material the central feaure of educational programmes versus the need for craft education to embrace the wider implications of craft as a methodology). But what arose was that that 'quality' or 'tension' is necessary for our future plans - to capture the diversity, transparently present the different routes to market and responsibily make changes to allow craft can be sustainable and a viable future career choice, where the annual salary is (at least) 20% more than the average UK rather than being 20% less than the average UK.

How does craft capitalise on the USP that is 'craft' rather than losing out on its values and ethos to the large bluechip organisations? How does craft and its practitioners work in partnership with global brands to create sustainable new route(s) to market?

Handmade Nation
As Director of Craft Festival Scotland and convenor of the Protoype Symposium (Blogged in detail in June, on CraftResearch as the event was happening by Momtaz), I had the pleasure of introducing and welcoming Faythe Levine to Scotland. Handmade Nation documents a movement of artists, crafters and designers that recognize the marriage between historical techniques, punk and DIY ethos while being influenced by traditional handiwork, modern aesthetics, politics, feminism and art. Fuelled by the common thread of creating, Handmade Nation explores a burgeoning art community that is based on creativity, determination and networking. If you haven't seen it or read anbout it, I urge you to take a look at the the virtually tight-knit community that exists through websites, blogs and online stores and connects to the greater public through independent boutiques, galleries and craft fairs.


V&A at Dundee: Making it Happen exhibition
Save the Date!!! Competition Exhibition opens September 29th, 2010 in Dundee, Scotland. Only a few days left until it opens to the public!

Past Present and Future Craft Practice - new book published!
Launched as part of Craft Festival Scotland activities and a result of from the major research project funded by the AHRC, the book is a colections of ten chapters written by a range of experts. I'll write a blog entry dedicated to this new book, published by National Museums Scotland, and edited by myself and Georgina Follett. Keep a look out!

Material Culture, Craft & Community: Call For Papers Reminder

This is a reminder that submissions to the Material Culture, Craft & Community: Negotiating Objects Across Time and Space Conference are due OCTOBER 10, 2010.

20-21 May 2011
University of Alberta
Material Culture Institute

This interdisciplinary conference will explore the varied expressions of craft – material, cultural, social – in past and present societies. Craft practice has a rich history and remains vibrant today, sustaining communities while negotiating cultures. Craft-made goods were, and are, created for domestic or institutional use, for local or international markets. They express gender roles and cultural aspirations, sustain economies, and express aesthetic values and skills of making. Craft practice has long defined communities and groups, and continues to do so in the midst of global trade networks. Moreover, the flow of ideas, goods, and peoples animate the making, circulation, and meaning of craft goods. These and other issues will be addressed over the course of the conference.

Keynote Speaker:
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Harvard University

Confirmed Speakers:
Eiluned Edwards, London College of Fashion, UK
Edward S Cooke, Yale University
Janice Helland, Queen’s University, Kingston
Laura Peers, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford
Ruth Phillips, Carleton University, Ottawa

Call for Papers:
Paper proposals and full panels are invited on topics ranging from the history to present practice of craft, issues of production, use, and trade of craft, and the construction and interpretation of the meanings of craft, in the context of personal interactions, local communities, national groups, modes of international circulation, and forms of cultural context.

Graduate students are encouraged to apply with either single papers or panels. Three graduate proposals will be selected for a special graduate plenary session, in addition to those papers selected for concurrent sessions.

Proposals are invited from all disciplines. The proposal package should include a paper summary of 150-200 words and a two-page CV. Proposals must be received by 10 October 2010.* The program will be announced 1 November 2010. Registration will open on 15 December 2010.

Conference Organizer: Beverly Lemire, Department of History & Classics and Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta
Proposals should be sent to: material.culture@ualberta.ca

Many thanks to Dr Anna Notaro for bringing this to our attention.

16 September 2010

Prince Philip Designers Prize 2010 - shortlist announced

Among them is furniture designer John Makepeace. Above John Makepeace's Knot Chair.

09 September 2010

Do you have 10 minutes?

then why not listen to one of TED's talk's...

Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs

Athlete, actor and activist Aimee Mullins talks about her prosthetic legs -- she's got a dozen amazing pairs -- and the superpowers they grant her: speed, beauty, an extra 6 inches of height ... Quite simply, she redefines what the body can be.

TED never ceases to inspire and educate...and within its virtual goodie bag, it's nice to be able to re-visit inspirational work.

07 September 2010

Which one Will YOU Choose?

Henry Moore Institute Annual Academic Open Day - Friday 15 October

with guest lecture from artist Claire Barclay

The Institute's annual academic open day will include behind-the-scene tours of the exhibitions, collections, library and archive, as well as an introduction to our forthcoming events programme. If you are a tutor or a student with an interest in sculpture, this is the ideal introduction to the Institute and an opportunity to find out how our resources and academic events can enhance your work. The event will begin at 2.30 with a schedule of talks and tours from Henry Moore Institute curatorial staff.

The day will conclude at 5.30pm with a guest lecture from artist Claire Barclay at Leeds Art Gallery Lecture Theatre.

To book a place for yourself or a small group for the afternoon tours, or for more information, please contact Kirstie Gregory, kirstie@henry-moore.org

Annual Open Day lecture with sculptor Claire Barclay
Leeds Art Gallery Lecture Theatre
Friday 15 October 2010, 5.30-6.30pm

Claire Barclay's practice reflects an important strand in contemporary sculpture, engaging with questions of making and the role of 'craft' in art.  Barclay will discuss her own work, picking up on themes from the concurrent Henry Moore Institute exhibition, Undone - a group show which brings together sculpture balanced on the threshold between the made and unmade.

Barclay creates sculptural environments, immersive installations which combine carefully crafted objects with more improvised elements, often constructed in-situ and responding specifically to a given space. A fascination with the material world of objects and the processes of their making lies at the heart of her practice. The objects in her installations recall the paraphernalia of the real world, but are  never drawn directly from it - they are either hand-made by the artist, using traditional craft techniques, such as weaving, wood turning, glass-blowing and ceramics, often learnt for a particular project, or manufactured by specialists to her own specifications.

Claire Barclay has represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale (2003), shown at The British Art Show 6 (2005), Art Now at the Tate (2004) and has exhibited internationally in both solo and group shows since graduating in environmental art from Glasgow in 1993.

This talk is open to all and it is not necessary to book


Kirstie Gregory
Research Programme Assistant
Henry Moore Institute
The Headrow

tel +44 (0) 113 246 7467

30 August 2010

craftscotland AGM :: 27 August 2010

Comfortably seated in the very grand surroundings of Edinburgh City Chambers, I sit. Louise Butler, Co-Chair of craftscotland Board of Directors gives a warm welcome and introduction to the proceedings. Over-and-above the formal aspects of an AGM (approval of minutes, budget etc) she offers an introduction to new members to the craftscotland Board and while names escape me, their knowledge doesn’t – business, fund raising, festival direction, theatre direction craft practice and banking. Mindful additions!

CEO, Emma Walker opens her talk with a dynamic short film summarizing the key achievements and changes to the organisation over the past year (– including the new team of 7, new premises - from broom cupboard to ‘proper’ open plan studio -, new philosophy, The C Word campaign, new approach to exhibiting at COLLECT, website facelift, Meet Your Maker campaign) before going into detail about each of these.

My notes from Emma’s jam-packed, positive talk include:

Identified Problem : 2009
“Craft is promoted to the converted which gives the illusion of a clique. We need to be promoted in a high profile, public way.”

Investigation Route through the Problem: 2009
A ‘What is Scottish Craft?’ survey was conducted and essentially two categories of answers – positive and negative, with an example of each given below:

“Perception of the work is amateur consequently I avoid the ‘c’ word in most of my marketing.”

“Encourage craft artists to be proud to be linked to the word. It is not a dirty word.”

The upshot of the survey was that Scottish Makers really wanted to walk away from the word’ craft’. Subsequently the initial mission of craftscotland was to reclaim the word craft; re/position craft; encourage passion, pride and enthusiasm; promote Scottish craft in a high profile arena; develop new audiences.

The Team
Emma Walker, CEO.
Rebecca Davis, Audience Development Officer
Jo Scott – Business Administrator
Rick Anderson, Admin and Event Assistant
Melanie Paget, Online Assistant (Graduate Internship)
Rachel McCrum, PhD Researcher

Future Plans
Future plans include the launch of the new philosophy; craftscotland membership (scheduled to launch in January 2011); redevelop website, (with the new site focused on inspiring the sector and have an American Website (as it is the biggest export market for Scottish Craft) and a marketing budget which is being achieved through a recent award for £43K, received for project AmbITion from new innovation Fund.

Future communication of craftscotland.... craftscotland is a creative organization; an outward facing audience development agency whose philosophy is to unite, inspire and champion Scottish craft.  Its values are to champion quality, be brave, creative and forward looking and, to act with integrity.

Acknowledged Room for Improvement
Although craftscotland has been successful in many areas, acknowledgement was given to the need to feedback and better communicates the recent achievements and new initiatives back to craft practitioners and sector in Scotland.

Final word to everyone involved with Scottish craft - “We are here for you, so speak to us!!”

Phew!! I was exhausted after listening to the activity so goodness only knows how Emma feels after actually conducting it all!

Next up was…

Rebecca Davis: Audience Development Officer

And the ‘piste de résistance’ of the afternoon was …

Lisa Bayne, CEO Artful Home
Invited International Speaker
A marketing-focused, brand aware individual.

LV's notes:
Artful Home as a leading online marketing partner to professional artists and designers in North America and, a destination for buyers and trade professionals.  
After a little history (-founded in 1985 as a publishing business, became guild.com in 1999, launched the Artful Home brand and then rebranded it in 2008 -), Lisa, relaxed and confidently explained the key asset of the company is its relationships, (which are based on quality). Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!

It operates using a Zero Inventory Model to an Elite High-ticket Purchaser Community. It has High Credibility with Consumers and High Credibility in Artist Community. It has deep Internal Knowledge and Experience of each Artist.

What do we mean by a ‘Zero Inventory Model? Well, essentially, they buy absolutely nothing! They represent 900 artists. Market this work to the best of their ability. Take 50% commission for each product sold online via Artful Home. Have a turn over of approx $9 million.

It’s not rocket science, but it’s a model of best practice that transparently offers an alternative to the gallery model particularly at a time when many (traditional brick and mortar) galleries are closing.

Lisa talked freely and eloquently about the jury process, online curation, key competitors, the artist community and marketing.

Marketing is what they are really about – it’s what they do and why they exist. For example, they have a catalogue (distribute 1.5 million copies, approx 72 pages, 6 per year, brings a sense of touch, sense of environment to user, it has a limited edited assortment, and acts as a preview to the online store). While 40% of items sold to catalogue recipients are not featured in catalogue the catalogue plays an important role - it acts as a gateway to online source. They use email (with a database of approx 80 000 names, the frequency of emailing is based on the time of year and, the message must be worth it to get to eyeballs). They also use paid search; SEO; Social Media, Public relations, and use no traditional advertising. Key Message:  They don’t rely on any one area of marketing.

They have a number of online curatorial opportunities, for example, email, catalogue and website design. Curation is used as a means of focusing the user/consumer’s attention. For example, they put the white show out when ‘The Beatles’ ‘White’ album was re-released and had an Alice in Wonderland theme when the Tim Burton film was released – on both occasions it made it seem as if the work was more relevant to popular and contemporary culture and, again, it focused the users when navigating the website.

Key Message: with each campaign they made it easy, kept it fresh; offered expertise as desired by customer and offered quality products and imagery.

Would love to see this for Scotland!!!

The E Word: Etsy
Lisa presented Etsy as an extraordinary business model with a turn over of $28 million a month (July 2010) with over a million items sold in a month. It’s a community for a democratic marketplace. Etsy is a very different model to the Artful Home model and therefore a very different experience for the consumer (as they have different expectations e.g. generational, life-stage, lifestyle expectations) and the artist. The Artful Home experience is that Etsy is not a successful model for professional artists.

Some Other Info / Statistics:
• Art, Craft is $14 Billion market in North America
• Combination of wall and craft art marketing north America is estimated to be $75 billion
• Artful Home: while it markets the majority of artforms it doesn’t include the digital, performing and interactive arts.
• The Artful Home work, marketed online, is chosen for inclusion via a jurying process.
Artful Home has a strong ongoing relationship with their artists and they currently have the broadest selection of original 3 dimensional art available online.

Beyond the Bench

The Master of Design Programme at the University of Dundee takes a radical approach to design: the challenges of today’s world mean that designers need to see the big picture and think beyond their own disciplines. Students from a range of different design, craft and related disciplines from around the world come together to discover, define and develop their skills to position themselves to make an impact on the world. 

This year, Gill Ross, who has an undergraduate degree in jewellery design from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design has created Small Campus: Big World ( http://bit.ly/cpQnwr ) a mapping service to help overseas students quickly familiarise themselves with a new city. Gill demonstrates that someone trained in a jewellery background can adapt skills acquired as a jeweller: visualising, prototyping and communication with clients and apply it in a completely new design area. Another recent example of jewellers stepping outside their comfort zone is Masters graduate Kate Pickering. On the Masters Programme, Kate worked on a research project with Deutsche Telekom laboratories in Berlin focussing on information communication for older users. On graduation, Kate was selected to take part in Starter for 6, an enterprise training programme that supports up and coming creative entrepreneurs, and now runs a mentoring scheme for jewellers, vanilla ink. http://vanillaink.wordpress.com/whats-vanilla-ink/

This year, we have jewellers from Scotland to Chile joining the programme with projects ranging from how CAD/CAM impacts on the creative process to exploring how jewellery making can be used as a facilitation tool with adults with learning disabilities. There is also an opportunity this year for a student to work on developing a forensic jewellery identification system alongside our award winning Jewellery and Metalwork and world renowned Forensic Art Programme.

The graduates from the Master of Design course at Dundee demonstrate that seeing the world through the eyes of a jeweller has a value beyond the bench.

Programme Director, Hazel White graduated from Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery at the RCA. Her research and practice explores how craft can give meaning to digital objects.


Multi: The Journal of Diversity and Plurality in Design is the first multidisciplinary journal dedicated to all that affects design and its attendant and related disciplines. Multi provides a venue though which truly forward-looking, practical matters pertinent to design can be discussed and shared amongst design professionals with colleagues from those academic disciplines influenced and affected by advances in design and design technology. 

The international editorial board of Multi seeks original, unpublished contributions for upcoming issues which aim to nurture an inclusive intellectual environment that both stimulates and supports the discourse anchored by multiplicity in design. Multi endeavors to include as many perspectives and as many voices as possible, while maintaining rigorous editorial standards. Multi is one vehicle which will help to foster a renewed energy and responsibility amongst not all design professionals, and all those whose lives are touched in some way through design. 

The following thematic issues have been announced for upcoming issues:

Volume 3, Number 1 (Spring 2011): Special Issue: Design and Change: the impact of innovation on the design profession, design pedagogy, and the future practice of design.

Volume 3, Number 2 (Fall 2011): The Branded Environment: issues of consumer culture and branding are changing the manner by which citizens interact with one another. 

In addition to papers, subject matter experts who may wish to contribute in an editorial capacity are invited to respond. 

To submit a paper, please register at http://library.rit.edu/oajournals/index.php/Multi/ The submission deadline is ongoing, though authors are encouraged to submit early. All papers will be blind reviewed by at a minimum of two reviewers.

Alex Bitterman, PhD

Associate Professor
School of Design

Multi: The RIT Journal of Diversity & Plurality in Design
Rochester Institute of Technology
3404 Booth Hall
73 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623-5603

20 August 2010

National Life Stories at the British Library

Job Vacancy: Oral History Interviewer, Crafts Lives

Since 1999 the Crafts Lives oral history project has been recording in-depth life stories with Britain's craftspeople, exploring both their personal and their working lives. The project has encompassed British studio crafts such as pottery, glass, metalwork, jewellery, furniture, textiles and book arts (excluding rural crafts), which have traditionally suffered from a paucity of documentation and research.

National Life Stories (NLS) is now seeking to recruit a full-time oral history interviewer to add more recordings to this important collection.  The oral history interviewer will co-ordinate, initiate, research and carry out a series of digital oral history interviews averaging 8-10 hours each, for deposit with the British Library.  The postholder will be expected to carry out between 12 and 18 complete interviewers in a 12 month period. 

This is a freelance fee-paid consultancy involving a package of 250 days’ work at a daily rate of £98, working on a flexible basis for a period up to 18 months.  All travel and other out-of-pocket expenses will be met by NLS. Hot desk office space is available at NLS’s offices at the BL’s St Pancras building but home-based access to a PC with internet access is required. The post will be an integral part of the BL’s oral history team.

For more information about this position and job specification, please view the full advert at http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/ABO252/oral-history-interviewer and click on the link to ‘Further Particulars’.


To apply you should send a CV and a covering statement explaining how your experience and skills meet the requirements specified in the job profile to:

Crafts Lives, National Life Stories, British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB or email this information to nls@bl.uk 

Please indicate where you found this position advertised. 

All applications must be received by 5.00pm on Monday 27 September 2010.

Interviews will take place at the British Library on Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd October 2010.

If possible, we would like the successful candidate to start work in November 2010.

21 July 2010

V&A at Dundee - Making it Happen, Architectural Competition

Dundee, Scotland continues to be alive with creative energy! We're currently planning and organising an incredible exhibition with a fantastic series of events to showcase the design competition for the V&A at Dundee project, which aims to develop a new centre of 21st century design for Scotland at the heart of Dundee’s waterfront.

Companies from Vienna, Tokyo, New York, Oslo, and Edinburgh form the shortlist, which contains some of the most exciting names in world architecture and design applied. The six shortlisted companies are:
  • Delugan Meissl Associated Architects (Vienna)
  • Kengo Kuma & Associates (Tokyo)
  • REX (New York)
  • Snøhetta (Oslo)
  • Steven Holl Architects (New York)
  • Sutherland Hussey Architects (Edinburgh)
For further info, click on the link: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/dundee/v_a_dundee.htm

Image (above): Sir Mark Jones, Director of the V&A with Scottish Government Minister Fiona Hyslop.

22 June 2010

Assemble, London :: Session 1

Rosy Greenlees opened the Assemble one-day conference where Crafts Council (CC) launch their (to be) annual research event. Crafts Council launch 3 new pieces of research today, which as Rosy noted, is their contribution craft future debates and agenda.

Professor Press urged us as colleagues to champion the values of craft and to understand better why craft is worth campaigning for in these new times, i.e. post new-labour. Craft's challenge is to connect with the concerns and interests of the world around us, leaving the urge to define what craft is behind. We have new priorities defined by the sector. How should craft connect with the 'Big Society' set by todays new political UK framework? We have a choice notes Press, seize the moment or squander it? 'It' being the opportunity for change in a way that hasn't been presented for over a generation. Press noted the priority was to refine and define objectives and priorities for the craft sector; to engage in an informed dialogue and debate.

Making Value by Mary Schwarz and Dr Karen Yair, presented key findings from one of the CC new research projects, this one a qualitative piece of research that looked at the 65-70% of makers who have a portfolio of practice and are working beyond the making, exhibition and sale of craft objects'. e.g. Barley Massey, Sheila Tegue. (Making Value in Industry Sectors, in Education and Community Settings). My interest and  interpretation of Schwarz and Yair's talk was about the various forms of knowledge offered by craft: material, social, learning strategies, creative methods.

Listening to practitioners, while interesting on individual level, there appears to be a huge opportunity for 'us' to talk, to converse, to explain what we do, how we do it and WHY we do it differently as it is very difficult to penetrate what the 'value' of craft is when the conversation is heavily descriptive.

Lynne Murray's work is worth having a look at. It is the result of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership project which looked at new ways of understanding the vaue of craft, craft knowledge and craft maker. www.tissot.ch/reality. As is the work of Tom Gallant.

On closing of this first session, what is interesting is that CC appear to have taken a stance that craft is skillful making, and while Professor Press noted that the time to define craft is over, the majority of the presentations were concerned with craft as a 'type cast' process driven experience. The intellectual intentions of the makers were lost and the big brand, 'product' or client were over-riding Craft. Perplexing. There, as yet, appears to be a failure to communicate craft as a bigger set of issues e.g craft as a strategy rather than a concern for technical dexterity.  Explaining craft and crafting beyond materiality has as yet to arise in today's debate.

16 June 2010

In Conversation with Geoff Mann

As part of the new national initiative Craft Festival Scotland and the research exposition 'Knowledge Through Making' (currently on show in the Visual Research Centre at Dundee Contemporary Arts), the Scottish artist Geoff Mann was in Dundee yesterday. 

Geoff explained that he is fascinated with transposing the ephemeral nature of time and motion, and that his studio practice seeks to challenge the existing divides between art, craft and design. Our conversation began with a bit of background using 'Dogfight and 'Attracted to Light' as an introduction to his ideas. He explained that observations of contemporary life and questions concerned with the intangible idea of 'touching motion' lead his practice; he is a narrative led artist rather than process led and, while he is greatly inspired by the process of making he doesn't like to get physically/technically involved in it these days; he sketches via animations, film and 'thought sketches' and, there are no traditional 'sketchbooks' in his studio; he is purposefully vague as to what/how he 'labels' himself i.e. artist, designer, director because the current market(s) in which creatives operate these days have fundamentally changed and are ever changing. 

The focus of the event was his new Crossfire Series  (- an Animation and a series of sound objects are exhibited in Knowledge Through Making and commissioned by Past Present and Future Craft Practice). 'In Conversation' discussed the role of Rapid Prototyping (RP), noting that just because an object can be made by RP doesn't mean to say it has to be made; it explored if/how an object can speak to an audience about concept when the artist isn't there to explain; it delved into the importance of 'tactility' and the role of 'touch' when analysing and evaluating new work, and it questioned the role of material in craft where material is and is not an integral aspect of visual integrity.

Brief Bio
Geoff has exhibited in National and International venues including MoMA New York; International Bombay Sapphire Awards, London and Milan, Jerwood Contemporary Makers exhibition, MAD New York and the European Glass Context in Denmark. In 2008, he was awarded the World Craft Council Prize for Glass and in 2009 won the Jerwood Contemporary Makers Prize. Mann has work included in MoMA New York, Design and Architecture collection and MAD New York, Design and Applied permanent collections.   

Knowledge Through Making :: 10 June - 9 July, Dundee

Knowledge Through Making offers a great experience, built around the magic of craft.  The exposition shows and explains beautiful objects, offering insight into how they emerge following the spark of creativity.  The objective is to delight, educate, inspire and demonstrate the power of craft to create new ideas and ways of doing things. In the spotlight is contemporary craft from Georgina Follett, Geoffrey Mann, Drummond Masterton, Lara Scobie, Frances Stevenson, Louise Valentine, Tim Parry-WIlliams, Hazel White and Ewan Steel.

15 June 2010

Discovery 2: Prototypes can spark interaction

This is the second of my discoveries from the foyer of the Prototype Symposium 2010.

Prototypes can spark interaction: The work of Roy Shearer, uses Niftymitter to look at the possibility of using open source practice with physical objects. Niftymitter: an open thing is a device that transmits from an audio source to any FM radio. It is designed to be taken by the new owner and hacked, tampered, improved and can even be profited from. The only constraint is that you must release it under the same parameters, as there are no patents or copyright attached. This wild card factor allows for the strangers to work collaboratively in a way that though not new, is more predominant in today’s society. In her talk ‘From Mari to Memphis’, Catherine Rossi regales a story about a side note on instructions from an Enzo Mari furniture pack in 1973, ‘The author asks those who build the furniture and in particular those who make variations of it to send a photo to his studio’.

This practice is noticeable in areas such as software development, we had a great talk by Leonardo Bonani, ‘Tools and tool makers of the Bazaar, new paradigms in computer aided craft’ in which he discussed nature of Cathedrals and the Bazaar. The practice of making the tool that makes the object and making them both available, allowing innovators to flourish and remake products in new ways. Bonani also runs a course, Future Craft: Radical Sustainability in Product Design in MIT, in his course description he states:

“The objects we make are the channels that connect us with materials, cultures and individuals around the world. Production practices shape communities and politics. Individuals are defined by the objects they have at their disposal. At every level, designers have the power and the responsibility to define not only how to make things, but what things should be made.”

In a the practice of Design Ethnography, where the introduction of workshops and participatory design leads to new interactions with individuals, we should learn from these teachings and that of prototyping. What is the objects that we are using to communicate, does it give the individual the opportunity to speak and interact at the upper most level? After all ‘individuals are defined by the objects at their disposal’. In addition we should question, how are we prolonging the interactions and conversations? Where in our process should interactions and conversations begin and how long should they last? Should they be revisited and is this a viable option in academia and industry?

Lesson: Evaluate, then improve, my ability to select, use and create objects to instigate interactions with different audiences.

So my task now is to take all these lessons and try and incorporate them into this project. At the end of our project we are traveling back to Ireland to hold a workshop at Intel Ireland, we hope to have addressed the questions above and have a day in which we manage to pass the baton, the baton being our research completed over summer. If you would like to talk about anything just drop me a line, or make me a prototype.

Discovery 1: Prototypes can spark conversations

The Prototype Symposium 2010, brought together a varied group of practitioners exploring theory, practice and recounting experiences. Yet before the speakers even began I was taken on a journey with the prototype exhibition in the foyer, these projects lead me to two new discoveries.

Prototypes can spark conversations: The work of Sarah Kettely was exhibited in the foyer of the Dalhousie building, Aeolia takes the form of stretch sensors embedded in clothing collecting data such as movement, light and or sound, a textile led enquiry designed for a cellist. It is stated that the ‘final application is kept deliberately vague’, for its purpose was to explore how materials, form and weight would interact in reality. Its existence as a prototype creates a conversation piece, how would you use the data created?

I am currently doing my masters in Design Ethnography, here we explore qualitative data method collection such as interviews, observations and participatory design research. The question I would ask myself is how would the data from a project like Aeolia further my work and understanding of my participant group. I am doing a joint project with Caoimhe, looking at older people and game play. Would I get older people to wear an object like this, instead of a cellist. Could it offer an inside look at their daily movements? Would it give another level of insight into obstacles that they face when interacting with objects, spaces and games. The answers are not present but the conversation is.

The physical form of prototypes and its connection to sparking conversations was commented on by Constance Adams, Space Architect in the first panel session of the day. Constance talked about her push to take the prototype from screen to physical model ‘as soon as it’s physical, you can see what is wrong, 2d simulations on computers are hard to critique’. I had always perceived a prototype as an object used in the design process when initial concepts are under construction and the physical shape and interactions has to be explored and tested. Yet the prototype by Sarah Kettler, designed for use on a Cellist can be reused by other researchers to instigate ideas for other types of data collection. The way I understand it is that you have to get people asking the question, 'what can I do with it?', this is where conversations begin, attachment and relationships are forged to new ideas, possibilities and eyes are opened to what is not currently being done. When you get people talking it allows others to understand 'what they do', people can connect to this and magic can happen. The fact that a prototype can create conversation makes it a tool, it seems tools can come in different shapes and sizes.

A prototype is a tool, look at how you can get your audience to talk with it.

The Prototype and the Design Ethnographer

I could write a book about all that I learned during the conference!
However I will force myself to narrow it down to my 3 main takeaways :

"Prototypes can help you find the thing you weren't looking at"

As ethnographers we are trained to observe and look at everything from every angle - but there is always something you can't or don't see.
Prototyping is another tool or approach which can help you look at a problem or research area from a new perspective.

"Prototypes can bridge boundaries"

One of the biggest issues facing design ethnographers is how to bridge the gap between research and design.
As an ethnographer the last thing you want is your insights and research to just sit on a shelf - you want it to be used in the creation of something tangible - having prototyping as part of the design ethnographer's toolkit is one way to do this?

"Prototypes can open up the research and the design space"

I had previously thought of prototypes as a way of beginning to close down the exploratory phase of a project - moving on to the concept phase. As a result of the conference I have seen that they can be a great tool for opening up the space and can be used at the very front end of the project as a conversation starter and method of engaging with your participants.


We also got to the chance to speak with experts in their field such as Liz Sanders, Colin Burns and Michael Schrage who were extremely friendly and generous with their advice - Liz Sanders even gave us one of her 'Velcro toolkit' prototypes to keep in our studio!
And they say you should never meet your heroes......!

In conclusion:

The event was fantastic and very relevant to my practice. It shattered the preconceptions I had about the role of prototyping in research. The range of speakers all had very different ways of using prototypes which resulted in some lively discussion and debate.
If the symposium were to be held again (please, please hold it next year!) I would have just one request - that we have a prototyping workshop during the event itself!