Crafting Future Practice

I was invited to run a session on future practice of craft, at Craft Scotland’s recent annual conference. Although innovation and the future was the main focus, I chose not to talk about the maker revolution or biomaterials, but instead work through an ancient method of communication – Storytelling! 

From the outside, having worked with a number of makers over the years, it seems that craft is an increasingly challenging profession to undertake. Competing against high street knock offs and online craft enthusiasts who offer bargain prices are just a couple of crafty blocks to success. It’s tough to see how makers win out.

However, asides being able to produce high quality goods, I think the most important competitive distinction for makers is their ability to tell the stories behind their products/business. Fortunately, creatives are great storytellers – as I was reassured at the session. A top moment was a weaver who realised that 9 sheep are required to make one of her hand woven scarves! She very quickly saw how this back story could be woven into her communications work in future.

There are many great examples out there, such as Droog and Bambu’s below, although good stories aren’t always of course environmental. I particularly like innovative ways that traditional storytelling and crafts have been revived through contemporary culture. Ukiyo-e Heroes is a massively successfully funded Kickstarter project, which sees video games characters depicted in ancient Japanese woodprinting. It itself is a great story – an international collaboration between a craft maker and illustrator which reached a whopping 3,102% over its funding target; and it combined old techniques with digital crowd-funding to bring it to reality.  Perhaps most importantly it has created a new generation who are interested in the story of Japanese wood printing and who want to learn the craft.

At our workshop we discussed the importance of collaborative action in telling Scotland’s collective craft story. I really hope that communities of makers come together to lead this activity, to tell a powerful story and help us all make a critical shift in realigning our consumer values.

That old proverb ‘Teach a man to fish’ seems very fitting on a number of levels…