Pathways to Making

On Friday 3 May I attended the “Pathways to Making” symposium at Wolverhampton University.  The theme for the day was “developing your craft career in an expanded field, with guest speakers in the morning and break out sessions in the afternoon.

The first speaker was Tanya Harrod, who discussed craft in an expanded field.  Tanya’s paper discussed the outcomes of pervasive new media, thinking across platforms and disciplines and ecologies.  I found this presentation extremely interesting, and a few things I noted were:

  • Visual impact does not rely on technology.
  • Has the introduction of new media dumbed down creativity? e.g. widespread use of Photoshop.  Could traditional craft be the antithesis of this, with its emphasis on touch and contact with materials?
  • Craft operates as an intuitive practice and lacks notation i.e. music and architecture have their own forms of notation.  Does technology give craft a form of notation by allowing us to capture the process?
  • Does how the object is made matter? e.g. digital vs traditional processes, virtual potter’s wheel vs an actual potter’s wheel?
  • Traditional folk crafts now have new communities forming due to the connectivity of the internet and social media groups.  This allows crafts to gather new followers, and for skills to be taught online through YouTube, Skype etc that may have been otherwise lost to future generations.
  • There is a distinctiveness of human making/creativity.  We erect out designs in our minds first, then begin making.

The second speaker was Heidi Hinder, who discussed her Craft + Technology residency at Bristol’s Watershed Media Centre, Money No Object.  Heidi’s work “re-imagines the designed object of money, exploring what could happen if financial transactions triggered invaluable and enriching points of exchange”.  From the discussion around her work, the following points were raised:

  • Is software an alternative material?
  • Is coding a craft?
  • Craft has a haptic element and designers are often inspired by the tactile reaction to their materials. Will this same reaction occur with creative technology?
  • Crafters often have favourite tools and ways of working.  Will developers have the same response to their tools as a craftsperson?

The third session was a discussion between David Little and Helen Carnac.  This session emphasised the importance of collaboration and working with others:

  • Recognise other’s expertise, mix different ages and knowledge.
  • Your brain pattern is different when there is another person in the room.  You have conscious and unconscious behaviours, patterns and ways of working.

Gareth Neal, the fourth speaker, made some interesting observations about craft:

  • The execution and cost of manufacture in craft often inhibits the process of making and inspiration.
  • The general public have no idea about how objects are made and the process of and motivation for making.
  • Sometimes it’s about the process and the making rather than the finished product.

The final speaker, silversmith Ndidi Edubia, gave some practical suggestions after her experience of running her own studio:

  • Show people why your work is special.
  • Explain why it costs the amount it does.
  • Explain the process of making and your thought process.
  • Producing quality products is key.

In the afternoon I went to the Crafts Council Hothouse breakout session.  This was an informative session, explaining the journeys of two craftspeople who have recently been part of the scheme.

Logistically, it was a well organised day and good value for money.  Directions to the venue were emailed out beforehand, the lecture theatre was set up well, the speakers were organised and engaging for both the main session and the break out groups.  The £15 ticket included:

  • tea, coffee and biscuits on arrival and during the break,
  • lunch,
  • a goodie bag with promotional material from Wolverhampton University, the craft partners and break out session speakers, and
  • transport to Bilston after the symposium if you wished to view the exhibition, with return transport back to the University or the train station.

The only comment I would make here is that for those travelling from outside the Wolverhampton area, it would have been useful to know the timings of the day further in advance to allow cheap rail tickets to be booked.

If you see this event advertised in future, I recommend you attend as the day was full of insightful discussions and presentations.

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