Thursday, April 03, 2008

Crafts Council research

Following my previous post regarding the Crafts Council commissioned research on Learning Through Making, it is worth pointing out that a recent redesign of the Crafts Council's website has given access to some very useful research on craft.

Its new research page enables you to download the following:
  • Making it in the 21 Century (2002-03) - the most recent socio-economic survey of crafts activity in England and Wales.
  • Makers in Focus (2006) - a summary report about the working environment of West Midlands designer makers, craftspeople and applied artists at different stages of their careers.
  • Making it to Market: developing the market for contemporary craft (2004) - a two-year research programme into the market for craft, with a specific focus on contemporary fine craft, commissioned and published by Arts Council England.
There are also links to other reports.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Learning through making

What is the educational value of craft? What do we learning through making? What is the relevance of craft education in today's world?

These were the central questions of a research project conducted by the UK Crafts Council in the late 1990s. The Learning Through Making Project brought together research teams from Loughborough, Middlesex and Sheffield Hallam Universities to explore and define the value and nature of craft learning. The research also tackled the nature, relevance and value of contemporary craft practices.

I led one of the research teams, and even today - nearly a decade after the completion of the research - I receive queries about our findings. Until recently it was possible to download a project report summary from the Crafts Council website, but no longer. Following a recent inquiry I have made copies of our own project report, and the Crafts Council summary report available online.

Here is the Craft’s Council’s own summary report. And here is the executive summary of our research on the value of craft learning in higher education. In our research we undertook a longitudinal survey of employment patterns for 216 craft graduates throughout the UK, providing a unique picture of craft employment. Not only was this the first survey of its type, but (unless anyone can correct me) remains the only survey of its type.

If design is dead, what happens to design (and craft) thinking?

Philippe Starck is the French designer who championed elite design, and has been responsible for everything from toothbrushes to houses. He now claims to be ashamed of his practice and intends to quit from design within two years.
"I have been a producer of materiality. I do feel ashamed for this. What I want to be instead now is a producer of concepts. This will be much more useful."
An English translation of the interview with Starck printed in Die Zeit is provided by mlle a. on her blog here. A full reading of the translated interview is recommended.

This raises the question of the future and value of design thinking (and craft thinking) in a post-material design culture. It is interesting how many of our students on our Master of Design (MDes) course come from a craft-based undergraduate degree and have applied themselves seamlessly to strategic design projects. Significantly, this more conceptual approach makes full use of their craft knowledge and thinking, demonstrating the unique value of craft thinking to a range of problems covering healthcare, strategic management and social issues.