Both the difficulties and the possibilities of making things well apply to making human relationships. Material challenges like working with resistance or managing ambiguity are instructive in understanding the resistances people harbour to one another or the uncertain boundaries between people. I’ve stressed the positive open role routine and practicing play in the work of crafting physical things; so too do people need to practice their relations with one another, learn the skills of anticipation and revision in order to improve these relations...
This studio will consider the value of making – in itself, independent of the product or outcome, exploring the idea of craft as meaningful work. Art and craft will be considered not as categories of commodity or luxury objects, as a discrete set of practices or as expressive objects, but as a particular approach to making things and a kind of humanising creative experience. Craft-making will be examined as a form of meaning-making in which meaning is understood as contingent, embodied and evolving.
The studio will introduce contemporary writers who examine the nature of craft knowledge and whose ideas support an understanding of making as a human activity that is both intrinsically rewarding to the maker and outwardly directed or socially engaged, simultaneously promoting more subtle understandings of relational interdependence, empathy, equanimity, humility and a certain generosity of spirit.
These ideas will be given a historical context in the theoretical and ideological writings of William Morris who celebrated art and craft as socially useful and individually fulfilling creative work, a politicised form of work which was proposed as part of an alternative to industrial capitalism.
Rather than seeing craft as antithetical to contemporary society, part of an escapist refusal of modern life, we will discuss ways in which maker cultures might help us to re-imagine a sustainable late Modernity.
The aim of art is to destroy the curse of labour by making work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse towards energy, and giving to that energy the hope of producing something worth the exercise.
...the craft of making physical things provides insight into the techniques of experience that can shape our dealings with others... the capacities our bodies have to shape physical things are the same capacities we draw on in social relations.
Some suggested reading
- Adamson, Glenn (ed.), The Craft Reader (Oxford: Berg, 2010)
- Crawford, Matthew, The Case For Working With Your Hands (London: Penguin Group, 2009)
- Gauntlett, David, Making is Connecting (London: Polity Press, 2011)
- Harper, Paul, Doing and talking: the value of video interviewing for researching and theorizing craft PhD thesis (London Metropolitan University, 2013)
- Howes, Philip and Laughlin, Zoe, Material Matters: New Materials in Design (London: Black Dog, 2012)
- Johnston, Lucy, Digital Handmade: Craftsmanship and the New Industrial Revolution (London: Thames & Hudson, 2015)
- Knott, Stephen, Amateur Craft: History and Theory (London: Bloomsbury, 2015)
- Morris, William, Useful Work versus Useless Toil (London: Penguin, 2008)
- Sennett, Richard, The Craftsman (London: Allan Lane, 2008)
- Sennett, Richard, Together: the rituals, pleasures and politics of co-operation (London: Penguin, 2012)
Some things to look at over the summer
“The Craftsman made the ideal citizen of the republic...”
Studio 01: ideas in places
This studio prescribes a direct treatment of place, whether subjective or objective.
Studio 02: Narrative and Storytelling
This studio focuses on modes of storytelling and narrative conventions. We will particularly consider how narrative intersects with, and informs, identity.
Studio 03: The Conquest of Joy
This studio encourages dialogues around the cultural production at a time when narratives founded on certainty have ceased to make sense.
Studio 04: Bullshit, propaganda and post-truth
This studio will look at the emergence of the notion of ‘post truth’ and explore links between other ideas around propaganda and Harry Frankfurt’s argument about ‘bullshit’. We will consider the usefulness of these ideas, and how they can be explored in creative practice.
Studio 05: Meaningful Work
This studio will consider the value of making -in itself, independent of the product or outcome, exploring the idea of craft as meaningful work.
Studio 06: Writing Rough
What are the outer limits of the essay? Write on the edge of the possible in a rich, researched and evidenced discussion which creatively explores the expanded field of the essay.
Studio 07: Thinking with Ruins
This studio pays heed to these cultural forms and persuasions but asks, how might we productively think with ruins in the present?
Studio 08: The things you can tell just by looking (or, Oriented Writing)
Writing tells us who we are and how each of us thinks and interprets the world.
Studio 09: Le Marteau Sans Maître
Digging through the deepest layers of archaeological time, André Leroi-Gourhan (La geste et la parole, 1964) concluded that for millions of years, human culture and technology evolved without complex language, rational planning or abstract ‘thinking at a distance’.
Studio 10: Globalism
For good or ill, we live in a global world. Whilst this may appear to be obvious, globalism is only a relatively recent term as is the phenomenon itself. What do we mean by this? How did we arrive in this place?
Studio 11: Performative Acts: Art, Architecture and Writing
Nico de Oliveira
In the last decade or so we have moved from objects to subjects or audiences. In parallel, the word performative has been adapted from a theoretical term to a key rubric within the discourse of contemporary art, architecture and beyond.
Studio 12: Decay, Repair and Back Again
Things break down and decay. In this studio you will experiment repair as strategy to negotiate breakdown, and you will practice mining patina and weathering for information and stories.
Studio 13: ‘If I stay silent nothing will change’: Identity, Politics, Social Change and Creative Culture(s)
This cross-disciplinary studio considers how power, culture, politics, identity, representation, activism, social media, and mass culture theory intersect with a range of arts practices, including photography, architecture, design and fine art, film studies, fashion and music, sound, pop art, and theatre.
Studio 14: A Material World
As the title suggests, this Studio will be based on the processes that are intrinsic to the design and making of textiles, however it will also be looking at the materiality of these textiles as objects.
Studio 15: Souvenir
This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past. It considers the role of memory and how it is embodied in cultural artefacts.