Welcome to the 2017 fifth edition of the biennial Making Futures international research conference
Making Futures will be held on Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd September 2017, at the magnificently sited Mount Edgcumbe House on the River Tamar opposite the City of Plymouth, Devon, UK.
Making Futures is a research platform exploring contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st century society. Convinced of the transformative potential of small-scale making and its capacity to contribute to new progressive futures, Making Futures seeks to situate these material cultures at the centre of the critical issue facing global consumer society: how we move beyond the reductive instrumentalism of ‘homo economicus’ and modes of mass consumption that are destructive of human and non-human natures. As such our purpose is to examine and promote the possibilities for maker economies built around contemporary craft, neo-artisanal design-to-make and related creative micro-entrepreneurs and movements. We believe that these activities have the potential to consolidate into nascent post-industrial maker ecologies that, while not replacing global consumer manufacturing, can nonetheless contribute substantially to progressive economic and social change at local and regional levels, and beyond.
Worlds first 'Fashion Hackathon‘ (Berlin 2016) organised by Wear It Berlin brought together 55 high level participants and mentors from all over the world in order to collaborate, work and create fashion tech prototypes within 48 hours in interdisciplinary teams. The projects were presented in a catwalk at Kühlhaus Berlin. Wear It Berlin is part of the Berlin neo-artisanal maker ecology we will explore in this edition of Making Futures. Fashion Hack Day 2017 is coming up this May and you can apply as a participant here. Also the Wear It Festival will be taking place in June! Picture: Laura Yona Zittrain and Rosa Weinberg working on Stethosuit which made a 2. Prize Fashion Hack Day 2016
Crafting a sustainable Modernity - towards a maker aesthetics of production and consumption.
We start with recognition of the seemingly intractable crises (social, economic and environmental) of late Modernity. But our concern is to explore this problématique through the optic of contemporary craft and neo-artisanal maker movements, and what might be seen as a new emerging ‘aesthetics’ of production and consumption. Therefore, rather than seeing these emergencies as grounds for a sweeping dismissal of the modern project and all its presuppositions, we take our cue from recent commentators who have called for a re-framing of Modernity - one that seeks to re-imagine, and reinvest in its socially progressive elements.
However, we also take our cue from the Making Futures community itself and the examples it produces of how we might re-frame, re-imagine and reinvest in the socially progressive possibilities of craft and makers. As this community consistently demonstrates through examples of material thinking-in-action, contemporary craft and maker cultures, so often viewed as inferior and marginal to the political economies of modern life, should be recognised as important components of emerging visions of a progressive future worth striving for.
In addressing these concerns, Making Futures moves between the individual and the social, the personal and the collective, and explores how they can come together in global examples of emerging post-Fordist maker economies. (For example, in the last edition we looked closely at the north Californian ‘Fibreshed’ movement). In this 2017 edition we will turn to explore a European model based on the Berlin ‘alternative culture’ of auteur makers - their appreciation for materials and strong commitment to city and neighbourhood, their concern for environmental factors, re-cycling and up-cycling, and overall scepticism towards the regimes of fast fashion, luxury fashion and big brands.
Building upon many of the themes running through its four previous editions Making Futures: Crafting a sustainable Modernity will explore what it means ‘to make’ and its future significations - personally, socially, its possible impact on sustainable agendas, its relation to new technologies, its possible subversion of mass consumption and potential contribution to the emergence of new political economies capable of valuing our needs for social well being and resilient communities that incorporate concerns for human non-human natures alike.
Glenn Adamson, Senior Scholar, Yale Center for British Art, USA and author of, amongst many other significant titles, the impressively important "The Invention of Craft", will address our core theme by exploring how craft, as we understand it, is a construct of modernity and, furthermore, how making skills have occupied pivotal roles throughout the formation of industrial modernity into the present.
Anthony Tovey, industrial sculptor and model maker has spent his career as a highly skilled and in-demand industrial sculptor working in Automotive Design studios as a clay sculptor, from Longbridge to Torquay to Turin to Tehran, and on projects from an onion dome for a mosque to a Porsche Boxster. He is currently working with artist Keith Harrison on his Jerwood Open Forest commission, "Joyride".
Katie Schwab’s art practice interweaves personal, social, and craft-based histories, often drawing from traditions of living, making and working collectively. Her artworks take the form of installations of embroidered, woven and printed textiles, ceramic tableware, furniture and videos, drawing on the bright colours, bold shapes and abstract forms of twentieth-century modern design.
Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council, will remind us of those Modernity’s being forged outside the blueprint of the ‘typical’ Western model, in which craft plays important roles. She will also explore the critical position of women in these societies, and their association with many craft-based practices, and the roles they might assume as leaders of progressive innovation and change.
Dr. Bastian Lange, Founder of Multiplicities-Berlin, University of Leipzig, is an urban and economic geographer specialising in the creative industries, and will explore how collaborative maker communities and their alternative forms produce value as one expression of creative micro-entrepreneurs and small-scale designer-makers, to see what lessons might be gleaned from these examples.
THEMATIC SESSIONS & WORKSHOPS:
As well as running the all-important simultaneous thematic sessions that will develop and explore core facets of the Making Futures programme, (see 'Indicative Thematic Sessions' under ‘Aims & Themes’ for details) we will also mount three Research Workshops that will address our main theme by coordinating a series of overlapping approaches to industry, care and community, and the broader social leadership contributions that contemporary makers are addressing:
Crafting in Industry: in conjunction with the Royal College of Art, will extend Glenn Adamson’s Keynote address by exploring key aspects of the core thematic of this edition of Making Futures by examining the current condition of crafting in industry.
The Well Maker Space: in conjunction with Community21, University of Brighton and University of Wolverhampton, will explore how ‘making-well and well-making’ may provide explicit activities that are devised, owned, championed and offered by modern makers in support of individual and communal health and well-being.
Making Leaders & Curating Maker Cultures: in conjunction with CraftNet, the independent leadership and strategic development network for contemporary craft, will examine the underexploited potential of makers as leaders and the value of creative maker practices in developing qualities that contribute to good leadership, not just within the contemporary craft world, but in wider work and social contexts. The workshop willl also explore the complex task of how we might best facilitate (‘curate’ and cultivate) creative clusters, or ‘communities’ of makers, thus establishing maker ecologies, with the potential to become maker economies.
Kanghyo LEE – in Performance: this internationally known contemporary Korean ceramicist, will mount a public performance on the conference site during Making Futures, producing one of his large-scale slip decorated coiled jars - a work that reminds us of the ways in which many craft métiers retain strong connections to tradition, but use these to creatively mediate between past, present and future.
In addition to Kanghyo LEE, alongside the conference, the City of Plymouth will be running two major exhibition events:
We The People (are the work): a citywide exhibition that will build connections and collaborations between the people of Plymouth that question our engagement with politics and identity, activated by a series of newly commissioned artworks by internationally renowned artists.
Plymouth Art Weekender: a three-day annual event that takes place across the city from the 22nd- 24th September 2017. The Weekender confidently celebrates Plymouth, its people and the visual arts, showcasing a wide and diverse range of activity for all ages including a large array of events and exhibitions throughout the city by local, national and international artists.
In addition to the above two events, we expect to announce smaller on-site exhibitions at the Mount Edgcumbe conference location.
To conclude: Making Futures functions somewhat like a critically intensive, but extremely personable and supportive, two-day retreat. In drawing this 2017 edition together we invite a diverse range of responses, perspectives and experiences from the international community - artists, craftspeople, designer-makers, Fab-Lab and maker movement enthusiasts, campaigners and activists, curators and theorists - that challenge and develop our central topic, our workshops and thematic fields (see Aims & Themes) in ways that will help the community take these agendas forward.