Kate Bowman

Schumacher College
Communities Making with Clay: Trickster as Craft
This abstract describes an ongoing exploration into the emerging role of the trickster as a designer-facilitator-maker, an ecological design thinker, working within communities to enable co-design, co-making and experimentation. Encompassed in the ancient archetype of the 'trickster', the role involves disrupting but, most importantly, rebuilding culture, intervening and acting as the flexing boundary within a community, facilitating the movement of information, of matter, across difference and between people. In studying the possibilities of such a role, I will explore how a designer-as-trickster can model how a community can further take on that role for each other, can see alternative futures, and can hope. Furthermore, I will investigate clay as boundary-crossing, mutable matter, and how it can act as a trickster material, with each clay pot existing betwixt two materialities- suggesting both the form of the finished object, and also the humble ground from which it was won, in turn providing an invitation for community conversation, for collective experimentation with matter in flow. Through a series of making experiments at festivals across the South West of England, and a craft camp at Dartington during the Summer of 2017, I will investigate the role of the trickster through first person enquiry, taking on the position myself and inviting making communities to become tricksters for each other within the frame of craft, and craft workshops. In doing so, I will explore the implications for all designers working with and within communities, co-designing and exploring possibilities through making. Exploring the role of a trickster, I will also interrogate my own practice, studying the potential for ecological design thinkers to act as tricksters within and for communities, enabling communities of tricksters to arise, creating, melding, and refiguring their own cultures. Working largely with clay, I will begin to examine its great potential as a trickster material, and a fellow experimental collaborator. Finally, as a woman working within communities of a variety of genders, I will be enacting a role seldom seen within traditional literature - that of the female trickster. The results of these trickster experiments with clay and communities will be documented in the form of photos of the making process, and objects made during the events, alongside the thoughts of those attending the workshops, and finally these will be examined against models of the trickster, and of transition design within communities. The objective is to reframe the role of a designer-facilitator-maker as a modern trickster, identifying opportunities for this vital role to enact creative interventions and to introduce experimental approaches, both in traditional craft contexts, and also within a wider field of making activity. In doing so, the aim is to encourage the practice of boundary-crossing creative conversations that nurture a sense of tangible possibility, with communities, through making, with clay.