Crafting Futures

Crafting Futures ‘Crafting Futures’, the next workshop in the ‘Connecting Craft and Communities’ network will take place at the Art Workers Guild, Bloomsbury, London on the 15th and 16th June 2011. The Connecting Craft and Communities network is simultaneously addressing the community of craft practitioners as well as the relations they have with groups within education, healthcare, wellbeing and business or through projects with groups of people in places, or with those who are working with people with specific needs or identities. ‘Crafting Futures’ will address the future development of craft communities, and the role of craft values and characteristics within the social, cultural, economic and political futures of other communities. For this workshop we are proposing to address three key themes that address the intersections between the politics and practice of craft in relation to communities, technologies and economies: Theme 1: The politics and ethics of ‘crafting futures’ This theme returns to the question of how we might engage with the values and legacies of craft practice as we forge new pathways. Revisiting the place of communities within craft histories allows us to reconnect with the rich threads of political thought and action that have sustained craft practice enabling us to ask the following questions: What are the resources that we dr aw on when challenged to ‘enhance community participation, self-reliance; and resilience’ or ‘build diverse and cohesive communities’? How can the histories of craft enable us to ‘develop sustainable community environment, places, spaces and institutions’? What models of good practice can we draw from history and how can these be interpreted/re-imagined to serve the needs of contemporary communities and craftspeople? Alongside this historical perspective, this theme will explore the role that craft practice and craft research currently plays in social transformation, economic regeneration through micro-economies, and the emancipation of those in need. From the perspective of contemporary practice we will be asking: how are the transformative elements of craft practice transferred? What are the politics that underscore these interactions? Having addressed issues of ‘craftivism’ in the first workshop, we wish to build on these discussions by considering the politics that underscore the activities of craft makers and researchers both within their individual practices and in their social engagement with community work within museums, universities, cultural agencies, healthcare and wellbeing. Theme 2: Crafting community prosperity The second theme of the workshop will address the diverse ways in which contemporary craft practice is enrolled to enhance the prosperity of communities. Whether aiming to increase wealth or improve wellbeing, craft has emerged in projects that employ the archives or practices of designer-makers in community regeneration and engagement projects. This theme will address the roles that institutions (whether museums, FE/HE, craft agencies etc.) and practitioners play in enhancing the prosperity of communities, for example through interventions in building and environment design, in establishing community enterprise and developing of craft based businesses. We will address the challenges that face craft in contributing to community prosperity, the sometimes uncomfortable enrolment of craft as a ‘tool’ for community projects set against the space for innovation and development that community projects might bring; exploring tensions and contradictions between crafts’ social and cultural capital. This theme will enable a debate around the material value of craft as a practice and its role in the creative economy. Theme 3: Crafting Digital Futures? Digital technologies can be identified as relevant to the politics and ethics of crafting futures as well as to developments in crafting community prosperity. However, an apparent emphasis on speed and the dislocation of the hand from physical materiality, raise questions about the relevance of digital skills for craft makers. This theme will focus on the role of digital technologies in forging new relevance for craft practices within a broader set of communities. Digital technologies are often identified as having the capability to reverse the usual economies of scale and to dismantle traditional supply chains. indeed, McCullough (1996 p.179) argues that flexible ‘post-industrial’ digital production systems are more closely associated with small scale or even home-based craft practices. In this context the emergence of affordable digital manufacturing tools and the dominance of digital media, in particular the development of Web 2.0, provide the potential for a new era of customisation and responsive localised production. This theme will showcase current projects that connect craft and digital technologies, combining the traditional with the innovative and forging new contexts for craft practice and values within enterprise, education, healthcare, and wellbeing. The workshop will consider the role of craft practices in developing understanding of collective authorship and endeavour, shared interactions and creative commons in digitally connected communities (following Cardosos, 2008, in Adamson, 2009, p. 331). Issues the workshop will address include: • the role of Information Communication Technology in facilitating developments in craft practices and in crafting communities; • the role of craft values and craft practices in developing human centred digital technologies that facilitate social inclusion, healthcare and wellbeing in communities. • the ways in which communities can work creatively with digital tools to develop networked self sufficiency, resilience, and prosperity, • the significance of a global digital network in sharing traditional practices across the world and in developing new communities of practice.

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