Their concern, therefore, was not focused exclusively on endproducts but on the society that shaped them, the men who designed and made them and on the people who bought them…to work towards the creation of an environment that would both serve and express people’s needs…they carried their banner in the name of humanity, but the new society that they envisaged bore so little relationship to contemporary reality, that its delights were a snare and a delusion, and possession of its products confined to an appreciative, affluent and intelligent elite. Gillian Naylor: The Arts and Crafts Movement  

This website is a public manifestation of a research project which began in September 2008 with funding from the National Arts Learning Network.

The project title is

Ideological Constructs – Past Visions/Future Possibilities: Evaluating the Minority Specialist Subjects in the Context of Emerging Global Sustainability and Environmental Agendas.

It was set up in order to:

  •  understand the ways in which the Applied Arts, as Minority Specialist Subjects, are being affected by, and are responding to, concerns represented by the sustainability and environmental movements;
  • explore whether the agendas developing around sustainability and environmental issues offer opportunities for the applied arts to formulate practices, identities, positions and markets, in ways that might reconnect them to contemporary social, cultural and economic imperatives;
  • explore whether emerging environmental and sustainability socio-cultural and economic forces might lead to the development of new rationales that can help redefine and reconstitute the applied arts as less marginal, more centrally productive forces in society; i.e. recover an ideological purpose.

In the future the project intends to explore this intersection of two fields of work, looking at questions which might include:

  • What does this intersection mean for applied artists? Does it mean that we make objects to last? That we therefore perhaps make fewer objects? That we make objects that last in terms of component parts, a cradle-to-cradle stance in terms of what we produce?
  • Does it mean that we look at the idea of re-imbuing the crafts with the values of the handmade, tracing a tradition and a value through time, history, and a shared humanity?
  • Do we look at crafts as a political site of dissent; say that although we don’t need to make any more stuff by hand, we do it anyway because we reject the emptiness of endless consumption?
  • Do we look at crafts as a process rather than place so much emphasis on the product? Or can the idea of personal development via making or consuming crafts be much more widely applied?

The research has completed a scoping initial paper dealing with main fields of enquiry, and has entered into a stage in which case studies are being sought which may illustrate and extend these fields.  The initial paper is available on this website.  You will also find here other writings, connections, and a blog (in development).