Rosy Greenlees, Executive Director of the Crafts Council, on the relevance and timeliness of the Crafts Council’s new exhibition with the V&A – Power of Making.
Power of Making is the second exhibition that the Crafts Council has presented with the V&A as part of a partnership that aims to increase awareness of craft and craftsmanship while challenging perceptions.
The exhibition celebrates the fundamental role of making in our lives by presenting a range of works from around the world. It places contemporary craft within a continuum from dry-stone walling to medical prostheses and showcasing craft’s role in providing the skills that we need now and in the future. The exhibition reflects many aspects of the Crafts Council’s work and is a powerful start to an autumn filled with events marking our 40th birthday.
Power of Making also provides a timely examination of skills, encouraging visitors to consider the process and outcomes of making which coincides with a resurgence of interest in both the cultural and economic significance of skills. Craft making certainly seems to be part of the zeitgeist. Its importance as a means of self-expression, social participation and cultural definition is evidenced by research showing that 18% of the population take part in a craft activity each year and 14% visit exhibitions and fairs.
Skills and growth
Skills are fundamental to craft. Craft making is not only vital to the preservation of traditional techniques, cultural heritage and identity but is also a highly innovative space for pioneering new ways of working – makers are quick to explore, transform and create new processes and materials. Craft has also fully embraced the digital sphere, where makers are harnessing tools ranging from rapid prototyping and Quick Response (QR) codes to Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) and augmented reality to develop innovative new business models and products.
With growing environmental concerns combined with rising energy and material costs, the same impulse to preserve heritage and innovate places craft in a strong position to contribute to a more sustainable future. Whether it’s home furnishings made from used bicycle inner tubes or a new fashion industry material made by heating plastic bags, craft has led the way in creative recycling.
Such creative inventions has allowed the UK craft sector to thrive. The Craft Blueprint (PDF 1.7mb) states that the craft sector represents 13% of all those employed in the creative and cultural industries and employs over 88k people who contribute £3bn to the UK economy each year.
To ensure the next generation of craft makers, practical learning and skills development need to be championed in our education system, and through our programmes and advocacy the Crafts Council continues to make the case for craft teaching in schools.
Beyond the classroom, craft practice can enhance the quality of life for people at all levels. The current focus on national happiness and measuring well-being highlights the significant contribution that craft can make to this agenda. It is perhaps this ability to engender ‘social connections’ that also accounts for the universal appeal of craft. There are no geographical boundaries for craft skills and processes – the desire to make is a common, global language.
Power of Making is testament to this universal appeal and the works on view showcase a diverse range of skills, exploring how materials can be used in imaginative and spectacular ways, whether for medical innovation, entertainment, social networking or artistic endeavour.
We are so pleased to be working in partnership with the V&A again on this fascinating exhibition and we are extremely grateful to curator Daniel Charny for his invaluable role in creating, according to the Times “an absorbing, educational and inspiring exhibition”.
Power of Making is at the V&A until 2 January 2012