Beatrice Mayfield, Maker Development Manager at the Crafts Council, discusses collaborating with Watershed on a new scheme that will enable contemporary craft makers to explore science and technology.
We were delighted to welcome Ed Vaizey to our recent Crafts Council conference Assemble 2012 which explored the contribution craft makes to innovation and enterprise, and the relationship between making, science and technology. The audience, including, many craft makers, were very pleased to hear the Minister’s references to current work in the area, including that he was “excited that makers are already working on an extraordinary range of collaborations in this area. You are adapting and using your knowledge in the 21st century to stretch the capabilities of materials and processes”.
We were also very pleased that he went on to launch three new Craft + Technology Residencies that will be delivered by Watershed, Bristol’s cross artform venue and producer, in collaboration with the Crafts Council and supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. These residencies will place the skills and knowledge of three contemporary craft makers in new contexts.
Over the past decade digital fabrication tools and communication technologies have been explored and used as craft tools and materials in their own right, producing some remarkable results.
Today, new technologies embedded in real things can take these possibilities one step further – objects themselves can now tell stories, start meaningful conversations and foster new forms of economic, cultural and social relationships. But to date there has been little opportunity for makers to influence and invent the objects and interactions that will animate this arena that is often referred to as the ‘Internet of Things’.
Getting stuck in
That is why, alongside the publication of our position paper Crafting Capital (PDF 634kb) in November 2011, the Crafts Council and Watershed ran an Internet of Things Ideas Lab to bring together over 60 makers and technologists for a day. The intention was to provide time and space to explore the possibilities, create new collaborations and break out of disciplinary silos. All that was required of participants was an open and generous outlook, a curious disposition and a willingness to get stuck in.
Assemble 2012 and now these Craft + Technology Residencies follow directly from this line of enquiry. In the case of the residencies this is by embedding three makers at the forefront of craft research into settings where they can explore the Internet of Things. The selected makers will explore how these new ‘smart’ capabilities can be incorporated into their current making practices and what can the craft sector can contribute to innovation in this field. They will work with technologists to exchange skills and knowledge turning ideas and conversations into tangible prototypes.
The residencies will be based at i-DAT within Plymouth University, the Autonomatic research group at University College Falmouth, and the Pervasive Media Studio at Watershed in order to provide a range of contrasting environments.
These residencies form part of ongoing work within the Crafts Council’s Portfolio scheme, supporting and providing opportunities for makers to explore craft practice through collaboration with other sectors or industries. They also form part of the Crafts Council’s digital strategy which aims to broaden, deepen and enrich experiences of craft in the digital environment; keeping at the forefront of visual arts’ engagement with new digital developments and collaborating with the new maker and tech-led organisations.
Makers have always played an important role in society. These residencies will explore how their specialist skills and injection of new processes into other fields could lead to the creation of radical new products for the 21st century.
Craft + Technology Residencies is now open for applications and you can download a brief and application form.
Watch Ed Vaizey’s speech and other video content from Assemble at www.assemble.org.uk