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  (UmeĆ„ 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 supĆ©rieure 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!

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