The last month has seen some interesting developments at the Crafts Council. We recently announced the appointment of Professor Geoffrey Crossick as our incoming chair of trustees, taking over from Joanna Foster CBE, who has done such sterling work for the organisation over the past eight years. (Joanna will be bidding us farewell, and Geoffrey will be outlining his ambitions in his new role, in these pages over coming issues.) At the same time I'm delighted to report that ceramist Michael Eden has joined the board as a maker trustee.
The role of a trustee is essentially two-fold. They work with the directors to set the strategic direction of the Crafts Council, and they ensure that the organisation is well-managed. Maker trustees are a vital component of the board - indeed their status is enshrined in our Royal Charter - and I am very fortunate to have worked and to continue to work with some very distinguished individuals in that capacity. It is essential that the maker's voice is heard in all our key decisions, bringing the practitioner's perspective to everything we do. Our maker trustees also have an ambassadorial role, communicating our work to the rest of the sector. The symbiotic nature of this relationship means they bring us vital feedback, taking the temperature of the sector and bringing us ideas - in short, they are an essential link between makers and the board.
One idea that I believe to be crucial is the sense of craft as a dynamic, contemporary area of practice. I believe that it can still too often be perceived as something that remains rooted in the 19th century, whereas making is constantly in flux, moving with the times while retaining skill and acute knowledge of materials at its heart. Our chair-elect Geoffrey Crossick held previous offices as warden of Goldsmiths and vice-chancellor of the University of London, and currently leads the Arts and Humanities Research Council's new cultural value project; while Michael Eden, a traditional potter for many years, now combines his traditional skills with cutting-edge technology. So both are well placed to make the argument for this continuum of craft practice, from heritage to a place at the forefront of the activities that push culture forward.
Which brings me neatly on to the third Making Futures conference, convened by Plymouth College of Art, from 26-27 September this year. The over-arching aim of these biennial gatherings is to investigate how craft can help to change society, and this year it will be focusing on the relationship between making and design, looking at 'new opportunities for social innovation and sustainable practice'. I will be taking the opportunity to discuss the importance of collaboration across disciplines, highlighting makers who are working to come up with ideas at the intersection of science and engineering.
Suzanne Lee, for instance, has worked with scientists at Imperial College London to create fabric grown from bacteria which can be made into clothing, while Dr Zane Berzina explores the potential of the electrostatic charge that you pick up around the house to make interactive textiles producing light, sound and motion. This is making that genuinely pushes the boundaries of possibility and at the Crafts Council we believe that - while it's hugely important that we retain the specialist studio-focused model of making - we need to support this new, collaborative paradigm too.
However, to encourage this kind of collaboration to become commonplace, we need to look at our education system. It is my firm belief that we must break down the institutional barriers that have conspired to keep the arts and humanities on one side of an artificial 'divide', with science, technology and engineering on the other. Skilled making and technological innovation are vital to the country's future, and we must strengthen the teaching of making-based subjects in our schools, connecting craft to both the sciences and the arts.
Along with other organisations, we work constantly to present our views to government and other agencies. I am very pleased that several sectors came together to comment on the recently published Art & Design and Design & Technology curriculum frameworks, and that together we were successful in improving on the original drafts of both, but more undoubtedly needs to be done and we will stay on the case.
For more information, visit www.craftscouncil.org.uk/about-us/press-room
This blog post also appears in the September/October 2013 issue of Crafts Magazine