SITSelect Symposium

‘A fantastic subject, with a great panel of speakers’

 It was all so inspiring’

‘A meeting of heroes’

These were just a few of the comments delegates wrote on the feedback sheets following the SITSelect Symposium Designing Craft Crafting Design last Saturday.

An audience of around 60 makers, commentators and academics from near and far (we had a contingent from Cork and someone had flown over from New York) gathered at Stroud College to listen to and take part in a series of discussions about craft and design.

Grant Gibson & Mary Greensted. Photography Scott Norris
Grant Gibson & Mary Greensted. Photography Scott Norris

The day began with Grant Gibson, Editor of Crafts, Mary Greensted, Chair of the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen and leading contemporary designers Simon Pengelly and Nick Munro discussing whether or not there still a distinction between craft and design. We discussed the Victorian’s fascination with machinery, the Arts and Crafts movement’s championship of the handmade, the impact of current education policies and whether it matters what makers call themselves (and broadly concluded that it doesn’t).

Michael Eden, photography Scott Norris
Michael Eden. Photography Scott Norris
Susan Early, photography Scott Norris.
Susan Early. Photography Scott Norris.

This was followed by a debate around the question, does craft have to been hand made with Harriet Wallace-Jones of  textile design studio Wallace Sewell, ceramicist Michael Eden, basket maker and willow artist Susan Early and Stephen Lewis of wallpaper and fabric manufacturer Lewis and Wood. The answer was no, yes and somewhere in between but one thing everyone was agreed on was that the skill of the maker is at the heart of both good craft and design.

Fay McCaul. Photography Scott Norris
Fay McCaul. Photography Scott Norris

The afternoon featured talks from three of the UK’s brightest talents. Textile designer Fay McCaul revealed her extraordinary, light-filled knitted fabrics and explained what persuaded her to be expensive and proud. Sebastian Cox inspired us all as he talked us through his passion for sustainable design and finally wallpaper designer Tracy Kendall  proved just why she has just won two awards.

The very talented Scott Norris of Gloucester University’s film department, aided by his brother Bradley, filmed the day and we will be making that available on line very soon. In the meantime, you can listen to makers and commentators revealing what the word craft means to them by clicking the links below and add your own voice to the debate via our Facebook page.

Wayne Hemingway:

Ian Rudge:

Ella Doran:

Nick Ozanne:

Liz Lipiatt:

2 thoughts on “SITSelect Symposium”

  1. Thanks for posting the videos – I’ve just watched the design/craft debate, which was very interesting indeed. What amazed me though, was that no-one mentioned economics – money – how designers, crafts people and artists make a living.

    There’s a real taboo about talking about who pays, who buys, and how much people *really* get paid. Surely this should be a factor in the conversation? For example, Michael has a teacher’s salary; can he live on the work he sells? And if he worked in industry with his coding skills, what would he gain/lose?

    We make big choices about control over our lives when we choose these options, maybe we should articulate them, to ourselves and to others? Why do we avoid this debate – is it because we already now we have lost? (BTW, this was the large elephant in the room at the Crafts Council’s Rallies.)

    If you can code, you can easily earn £300+/day as a freelancer; if you want to be more creative, you work for a start-up. Can we articulate to coders why work with artists without talking about the way culture develops outside the industrial and economic ‘machine’? Maybe what craft people do, certainly what Michael does, is critique accepted ideas about work and value, rather than produce objects? And through life choices, rather than political argument. (Morris, anyone?)

    Those most in favour of ‘craft’ not being hand-made were those using the ideas developed by craft makers in commercial enterprises – using craft as a pretty cheap form of R&D. All well and good, but let us at least ‘fess up to it, and articulate where we sit as craft makers, designer, and artist in relation to ‘economic forms of production’. It might create more interesting categories. Craft = ‘resisting idea of work as something only done for money outside the home”. Design=”ready to apply creative thinking to others’ enterprise”.

    I was also *not* amazed that no-one put design and craft in a wider context: I started as an engineer, designing gas turbine engines not kettles, and at, say, Rolls Royce in Bristol ‘craft skills’ -hand-eye skills -are alive and well and being used alongside very high tech digital equipment.

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