Maker Project - Thinking through practice

Selected makers from mainland Britain and Ireland each recording the making process to promote the equal balance of creative thinking and skills practice.

The Project

In 2019 ten UK based makers selected for their specialist knowledge and artisan skills took on the role of researcher, rising to the challenge of recording their creative practice and the thought process that informs it. Selected from a range of disciplines, each employed their knowledge and skills towards reinterpreting the iconic C20th tubular bandstand chair. Each final piece celebrating the importance of making by employing equal balance of creative practice and cognitive thinking. 

The Maker Project contributes to a research study responding to concerns outlined within the 2016 Crafts Council report ‘Studying Craft: Trends in craft education and training’, providing a pragmatic solution to educators, policy makers and stakeholders through engaging directly with the professional maker community. As such, this research addresses the ongoing regression of structured vocational and creative education across all levels within the national framework. Penultimately this could lead to a shortage of skilled makers, artisans and potential loss of specialist practices in the longer term. This regression in skill is not exclusive to the arts, craft and design but is equally impacting wider professional sectors making this research both poignant and timely.

The aims responding to this part of the doctorate research included raising public awareness by promoting creative processes through exhibition of the maker pieces, whilst publishing the documented practices and philosophies of each maker on this dedicated website. The purpose of this being to promote the value of creative practice within both education and society, inspiring and informing potential teaching methodologies deliverable across the educational framework. Addressing these aims required exploring the following questions; 

Can the emergent practice of contemporary crafts persons, designer makers and applied artists be characterised in a way which informs teaching and learning practices?

Can the creative practice and craft skills identified within the Maker Project be effectively incorporated in pragmatic pedagogic activities, in a way that is both transferrable and enriching to learners? 

An important part of this research was to document not only the physical act of making but the decisions and thought process behind it. There are some excellent examples of video tutorials and step by step ‘how to’ guides online, recording prescriptive techniques. However, for this project the thought behind the making and problem solving is of equal importance. Providing each maker with the same donor form elicited this synthesis of creative and cognitive response to making. As part of this project each maker also shared the philosophy behind their practice, thoughts towards craft and its place within society, providing valuable additional qualitative data. 

The Maker Project exhibition premiered at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair 2019 where the creative community and wider public were able to view the outcomes produced by the Assistant Researcher Makers. The collection of reinterpreted chairs celebrate the artisan skills of professional makers employing both specialist and transferable craft practices. Promoting the versatility and tenacity of creative practice employing applied knowledge and mastery of skills not only illustrates how creative thinking and the physical act of making are intrinsically linked, but equally demonstrates intellectual value. Underpinned by extended quantitative and qualitative data generated from a public survey, all data supports discourse how and why vocational skills are fundamental and should be given equal value within education and society.

Using Format