The Craft Economy: Making, Materiality and Meaning Journal

The Craft Economy: Making, Materiality and Meaning
edited by Susan Luckman (University of South Australia) & Nicola Thomas (University of Exeter)

A making renaissance is underway with handmade practice and goods in global demand. Thus the central aim of The Craft Economy collection is to bring together a comprehensive account of the current moment of growth in the contemporary handmade marketplace. We wish to examine the reasons why we are now seeing such significant growth, and identify the key drivers – both in terms of production and consumption. Importantly, we seek to locate this discussion within the larger picture of its implications for our understandings of the contemporary cultural economy. For example, what it may reveal about perceptions of authenticity and practices of ethical consumption, as well as shifting labour and production models (creative micro-enterprise; the home-based digital cultural economy; the attraction of entrepreneurial self-employment; and the gendering of craft work).

In the digital age, almost seventy years since the Frankfurt School first railed against the culture industry’s commodification and standardisation of all art, the bespoke ‘analogue’ physical item becomes Othered, different, desirable. Handmade objects are imbrued with touch, and therefore offer a sense of the ‘authentic’ in an ‘inauthentic’ world: they offer connection to the maker through the skill and learning apparent in their construction, and they demonstrate the time spent on their making in a way in most other objects cannot. Handmade cultural goods thus need to be located within wider debates regarding ethical consumption, makings, and ‘retro’ interest in unique physical artefacts.
In dialogue with this, the integration of digitally enabling technology with more traditional practices of making is a key trend transforming social and material relations between makers and consumers. Alongside more traditional retail options such as direct and commission sales, online distribution is changing the environment for operating a creative micro-enterprise, offering both creative graduates and more established designer-makers micro-entrepreneurial pathways not previously open to them. Alternative making spaces (for example Makerspaces and FabLabs) are transforming access to making, and the integration of digital technologies into the making process.

Therefore we welcome proposals for papers that address any aspect of the contemporary craft economy, especially (but certainly not limited to) the following:

·         Craft as a 21st century creative industry;
·         Craft work as a model for wider cultural work practice;
·         Spatialities of craft: relations of making, places of making;
·         The politics of home-based production and studio/workshop production models;
·         New places of making: practices within Fablabs and Makerspaces;
·         Craft apprenticeships, bench training, learning and skills development;
·         Craft education and the contemporary curriculum;
·         Social inclusion/exclusion, micro-entrepreneurialism and the contemporary craft economy;
·         Vibrant materiality and craft objects and practice;
·         Materiality, authenticity and the handmade;
·         Craft making, flow and ‘being in the zone’;
·         The ongoing resonance of binaries such as: professional/amateur; art/craft; producer/consumer; technology/hand;
·         Making and intersections with policy: regeneration through return to making;
·         Collectivisation, support organisations, guilds and cooperative practices;
·         Online identity work, self-marketing and art/craft production;
·         ‘Technology’ versus ‘ handmade’ – scale, growth and the place of tools in the making process;
·         Digital making and new models of making;
·         Lab cultures,  community / social enterprise models;
·         Craft, tourism and place-making;
·         Craft co-creation and lessons for contemporary making from the history of patronage and commissioned work;
·         Craft and ethical production/consumption;
·         Craft as means of economising.

Proposals: Please send proposals to both editors by 31 July 2014. Proposal should include: title, abstract of up to 500 words, institutional affiliation, and short biographical details for author.

 Provisional acceptance will be advised by 30 September 2014.

About the editors:

 Susan Luckman (Susan.Luckman@unisa.edu.au) is Associate Professor in Cultural Studies at the University of South Australia. Her books include the forthcoming title Craft and the Creative Economy (Palgrave Macmillan 2015), Locating Cultural Work: The Politics and Poetics of Rural, Regional and Remote Creativity (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), and Sonic Synergies: Music, Identity, Technology and Community (Ashgate 2008, co-edited with Gerry Bloustien and Margaret Peters).

 Nicola Thomas (Nicola.J.Thomas@exeter.ac.uk) is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Geography at the University of Exeter. She works on the cultures of the creative economy, specifically addressing the geographies of the craft sector. Her recent AHRC funded research includes an analysis of the enduring place of regional craft guilds, communities of making, and relations between craft policy and practice. Her research has been undertaken in partnership with Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen, Crafts Council, Craftspace, Heritage Crafts Association and Leach Pottery. Published work includes ‘Crafting the Region: Creative Industries and Practices of Regional Space’ (Regional Studies, 2012, with Harriet Hawkins and David C. Harvey).

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