Current Journal

Making Futures: craft and the (re)turn of the maker in a post-global sustainably aware society

The papers in this volume represent the results of the IV edition of the biennial Making Futures international research conference held in September 2015, at the magnificently sited Mount Edgcumbe House on the River Tamar opposite the City of Plymouth, Devon, UK.

The proposition for the IV was intentionally provocative: while not suggesting that Globalisation was about to end, (debate about the extent and impact of re-shoring, for example, remains contentious), it did imply that we have reached an historic juncture - a moment in which small-scale making is primed to effect a return, indeed is making a return - the beginnings, perhaps, of what could turn out to be a significant shift to more autonomous and locally-rooted ways of meeting needs.

The factors underpinning this movement are varied, but include both enforced and voluntary forms of de-globalisation, for example: in response to changing social needs and expectations; as labour to capital costs increase in the global East; as international insecurity intensifies; as commodity and energy prices (despite the current fall in oil) rise across the longer term; and above all perhaps, as worldwide climate change (and accompanying environmental legislation) impact on globalized production, transportation and consumption chains.

These developments clearly intersect with wider searches for alternative models to a global consumer capitalism that now seems to threaten the very basis of existence. They include: the sharing economy, the circular economy, experiments in micro-energy production, ‘prosumer’ initiatives, the slow food and voluntary material simplicity movements, alternative currencies, and (not least) the crafts and maker movements. Together they point towards the appearance of a new type of small-scale locally sensitive making and doing, and associated frugal innovation (a Western Jugaad we might say) in which the innovative material practices of art, craft and design play important roles. 

Taking up these themes, the 2015 conference investigated what it means ‘to make’ and its future significations - personally, artistically, economically, politically… its impact on sustainable agendas, its potential to subvert mass consumption, its relation to new technologies, its contribution to community and 'place-making', and to the possible emergence of new political economies.