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Posted 02.10.15

College making international mark through creativity and innovation

By Jake May

Dries Verbruggen of Studio Unfold at Making Futures. Photo: Dom Moore

Following a busy 12 months which has already seen the college invited to present in Beijing Design Week and at Révélations in Paris, plus a hugely successful Making Futures conference where 160 delegates centre on Plymouth from across the globe, we’ve now been invited to the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in South Korea next week.

The massive five week event draws in artists, makers, academics and speakers from across the globe and is the far east’s biggest international craft event, hosting a multitude of exhibitions, talks and events based on a variety of themes – and last week the college was officially appointed as International Advisor to the Biennale.

“Nowhere on earth has there been a spectacle celebrating craft like the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in South Korea,” said the American Craft Council in 2013.

We’ve been invited to this year’s event to present themes from our latest Making Futures conference and the creative learning continuum model the college has established with The Red House, Plymouth School of Creative Arts, a 4-16 creative free school in Millbay – hailed as a new model of creative education that runs from early years education to Master’s level and beyond.

“We’re starting conversations all over the world about making and the place of making in learning and in living.” — Professor Andrew Brewerton, Principal

College Principal Professor Andrew Brewerton will attend the Cheongju International Craft Biennale to talk alongside the curator of Making Futures, Malcolm Ferris, as well as the Royal College of Art’s Dr Peter Oakley – discussing the idea of what we mean by ‘craft’ and how it intersects with human agency.

“The trans-generational purpose of our ‘continuum’ project is to create a new kind of student, not just to graduate the next generation of artists and makers,” said Professor Andrew Brewerton, Principal of the college.

Making Futures at Beijing Design Week in November 2014.

“It’s to prove that creative learning and practice, as a practical, intellectual and cultural formation, provides the strongest basis for learning in all subjects. Making is as important as reading and writing, or mathematics, and we need to unmake a consumer culture which only values people merely in accordance to their ability to consume.

“We’re starting conversations all over the world about making and the place of making in learning and in living.”

It’s this notion of the impact that creative learning can have on the world, plus the return of the maker and our suggestion that craft should not be dealt with in isolation but across and between many disciplines, that is seeing the college attract global interest.

For the first time this year Making Futures, the college’s biennial international crafts conference and research platform, has been invited to attend the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in a ‘travel version’ that summarises many recent conference themes.

“The initiatives that we’re developing here are really helping to establish Plymouth and the college internationally as sites for maker culture.” — Malcolm Ferris, Making Futures curator.

The fourth Making Futures saw an esteemed international lineup of the world’s leading thinkers and makers centre on Plymouth and Mount Edgcbumbe to deliver talks and workshops across a range of disciplines on the overarching theme of the return of the maker.

Engineer, Director of the Institute of Making and BBC presenter Mark Miodownik discussed the importance of materials, interdisciplinary design, making and thinking in a keynote speech that also gave an insight into the ethos and work of UCL’s Institute of Making.

Jess Daniels of California-based Fibershed discussed the work of the international sustainable textiles maker-network, demonstrating to the Making Futures attendees how a grassroots-led movement can infiltrate and influence mainstream businesses and markets.

Discussion at Making Futures. Photo: Dom Moore

Dries Verbruggen, designer and co-founder of Belgium’s Studio Unfold, discussed their innovative practice, which combine 3D printing technologies with traditional craft skills, and their desire for the act of digital making to incorporate a more human element.

"Making Futures had so many extraordinary people, so much to learn, and so many connections made,” said attendee Paula Wolton of OneHutFull.

"I have an invitation to visit the Fibershed, collected some wonderful maker volunteers, and have a proposal for a play to be created around OneHutFull. And Mark Miodownik assures me he has an environmental solution for some of the more toxic sheep wool/skin processes. I couldn’t have wished for any better.”

Other keynotes, speakers and attendees included the Crafts Council; Plymouth-based contemporary artist Keith Harrison; Cameron Tonkinwise, the Director of Design Studies and the School of Design in Carnegie Mellon University in the US; Jaideep Prabhu, the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Business and Enterprise at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge – and more.

“What interests me as an educator is the intrinsic relationship between the business of making and the business of living your life.” — Professor Andrew Brewerton, Principal

“This year’s Making Futures for me demonstrated a real sense of urgency in terms of education and maker economics,” said Professor Andrew Brewerton.

“It demonstrated the sheer cross-disciplinary resonance of those questions we were asking. And it demonstrated the obvious excitement and interest from delegates all over the world with what is happening in Plymouth.”

Prior to our invitation to Cheongju, Professor Andrew Brewerton was invited to the Grand Palais in Paris for Révélations –  an international biennial conference opened by the French prime minister and described as “the global epicenter of Fine Crafts” which this year welcomed over 38,500 visitors – to discuss craft education and its context in the French cultural and political dimension.

Révélations in Paris' Grand Palais, where Professor Andrew Brewerton spoke in September 2015.

“I had a very simple proposition you might have thought uncontentious – that making is as important as reading and writing or mathematics. But it seems this notion is a very dangerous idea in the context of contemporary education, and it clearly had resonance for makers and educators all over the world.

“And the reaction to all this was intense interest in what we’re doing in Plymouth and the currency our project has across the world – in France, Chile, Italy and more.”

"Making Futures had so many extraordinary people, so much to learn, and so many connections made.” — Paula Wolton of OneHutFull.

And last October the college was invited to present a ‘travel version’ of Making Futures to the Beijing Design Week in China – a unique city-wide festival celebrating creativity and innovation in design now in its fourth year.

The invite to Cheongju, plus recent visits to Paris and Beijing, not only helps disseminate the college’s radical creative vision, it also firmly places Plymouth on the map as a city of makers, and as an international venue for maker culture, innovation, and the arts.

And this is all in addition to the college's ongoing European projects – such as Made@EU, Euranim, and STEPS – with high profile partners across the continent, and our ever expanding Erasmus programme.

“The initiatives that we’re developing here are really helping to establish Plymouth and the college internationally as sites for maker culture,” said Making Futures curator Malcolm Ferris.

Paul Singleton, BA (Hons) Printed Textile Design and Surface Pattern Principal Lecturer, at Making Futures. Photo: Dom Moore