Sustainability Workshop: 28th May 2009

On 28th May 2009, we held a craft and sustainability workshop here at Plymouth College of Art.  There were two main agendas at work here:  we wanted to critically investigate and challenge trends, products, thinking and assumptions within the fields of production, marketing and consumption related to contemporary crafts in relation to sustainable agendas.  And secondly, we wanted to make new connections and suggestions about where to go next.

We had a strong selection of  speakers and discussion was extremely interesting.  As time goes by, more about this workshop will appear on these pages, including films of the presentations and conversations.  For now, this is a list of the participants and a little about them.

Jane Hope ran a successful jewellery workshop for more than twenty years.  She is now HE programme leader at Plymouth College of Art and can be said to have really started the interest PCA show in sustainability in her research work on Bolivian mining and the Fair Trade initiatives there.  She has lately entered the lions’ den by presenting papers on ethical mining at mining conferences.

Clare Moloney is project Manager of River and Cloth, an 18-month programme celebrating the enormous contribution and worldwide influence of the Merton textile industry based around the River Wandle, a fast flowing river with a long and important textile industrial tradition. The project will bring to life the stories and contributions of William Morris, Liberty & Co. and explore the contributions made by immigrants and refugee workers including the Huguenot dyers and printers and the Dutch whitsters.  River & Cloth will encourage schools and local community groups to get involved in activities including workshops with schools and community groups based in Merton, involving hands-on learning of techniques inspired by traditional textile processes; and training of  project volunteers and teachers in textile processes, to enable them to deliver their own workshops and creative activities in school and in their communities.

Abigail Thomas is an artist who uses craft practices and processes to create art objects.  She is very interested in the ideas of the boundaries between art and craft, the modern idea of craft and its resurgence in society.

Jonathan Garratt has specialised in making distinctive and unusual terracotta pots for gardens for nearly 30 years and currently enjoys a reputation as one of Britain’s foremost garden artists. His passion for plants informs many of the innovative designs available only from his pottery and he produces a wide selection of shapes for specific plant habits; grasses, trailing, succulents, bulbs, annuals, architectural etc. All the pots are made from local clay refined at the pottery and are fired exclusively with wood from the locality to produce subtle, natural colours on the finished work.

Clara Vuletich is a textile designer producing hand printed wallpaper and textiles, and is a researh Assistant at the Textile Environment Design Project at Chelsea College of Art. and see also 

Richenda Macgregor, Nick Kary, and natalie Elder are all core members – Richenda and Nick founder members – of Sustainable Makers, part of the Transition Towns movement, of which Totnes is the first Transition Initiative, that is, a community in a process of imagining and creating a future that addresses the twin challenges of diminishing oil and gas supplies and climate change, and creates the kind of community that we would all want to be part of.  Their website says that in scale, versatility, individuality, accessibility and adaptability the work of contemporary crafts people lies between large scale manufacturing industry and the purely expressive arts, and yet is capable of extending into either. 

Natalie Elder is a glass maker using recycled glass; Nick Kary is a furniture designer and maker; and Richenda has recently returned, after a soul-searching hiaitus, to a practice of studio ceramics.

In coming weeks and months these participants will write positions, propositions, and provocations based on conversations that occurred or came out of the day.  We hope to generate discussion, debate, and networking opportunities amongst interested parties.