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When craft meets technology

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Beatrice Mayfield

Maker Development Manager at the Crafts Council

Beatrice Mayfield, Maker Development Manager at the Crafts Council, discusses the outcomes of the Craft + Technology Residencies launched in September 2012.

Light ShadeIn January 2013 three makers took up residence in three partner locations across the south west to explore the use of the Internet of Things within their current practice.
Product designer, Patrick Laing was based at i-DAT within Plymouth University; new graduate, Chloe Meineck with the Autonomatic research group at Falmouth University, and the Pervasive Media Studio at Watershed supported jeweller, Heidi Hinder.

Embedding technologies

Each maker was selected by the host partners and the Crafts Council on the strength of their proposals to embed technologies within a specific project within their practice. The three projects were very different – each exploring different markets and audiences.
Patrick’s Flying Skirt Light Shade is a lightshade that hangs limply until switched on. Once on the shade starts to spin and silently opens out, twirling like a dancer’s skirt. Whilst it is spinning the shade can be manipulated by touch to take new forms much like a pot on a potter’s wheel. This interaction became his starting point. By using embedded technologies; could noise levels affect the speed of the spin; what might happen if networked skirts were placed in transient spaces, such as hotels or airports?
Music Memory BoxChloe’s Music Memory Box supports dementia sufferers through embedding music into familiar objects. Chloe worked with patients in care homes in Falmouth to develop a communal group box. She worked with them to identify significant music then make an object that would emit the chosen music once held. By triggering specific memories through music Chloe hopes the Music Memory Box will help combat the isolation often experienced by those who suffer from dementia.

Continued collaboration

Heidi’s Money No Object explores the importance of money by replacing physical coins and notes with digital representations whilst still acknowledging the importance of trust in the transaction process. Her creation of new ‘coins’ encourages transaction through touch, dance or an embrace and so creates invaluable and enriching points of exchange.
The hosts and their residents met regularly over the three month period to share their learning and experiences, ensuring continued collaboration and development through an extended network. Watershed, as lead organisation, hosted monthly discussions with their community of digital experts, as well as presenting a highly successful final showcase in March 2013.
Money No ObjectThree months is a very short time and although all three makers immersed themselves in the residencies, they only just scratched the surface of the possibilities. Outcomes and impact will take longer to surface, but already opportunities are presenting themselves. Chloe is one of the Design Museum’s new residents, offering her a longer period of time and resources in which to develop the Memory Music Box and to explore manufacture for it.
Watershed also commissioned three films, capturing the journey each of these makers and their hosts undertook.
The Craft + Technology Residencies were delivered by Watershed, Bristol’s cross art-form venue and producer, in collaboration with i-DAT, the Autonomatic Research Group and the Crafts Council and supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
These residencies formed 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.

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