Plymouth College of Art’s Making Futures returned to the South West for its fifth edition, a biennial international research conference exploring contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st-century society.
The theme for Making Futures 2017 was ‘Crafting a sustainable modernity towards a maker aesthetics of production and consumption’.
A range of artists, craftspeople, designer-makers, campaigners and activists convened in Mount Edgcumbe House to participate in a range of talks and workshops investigating how to move beyond mass consumption and examining the possibilities for contemporary craft — not to replace global manufacturing, but to contribute to a progressive social and economic change locally, regionally and beyond.
The fifth biennial Making Futures also featured a unique live art performance by Master Korean ceramicist, Kanghyo Lee. Visitors to Mount Edgcumbe park watched on as he hand built one of his signature large-scale vessels, working on the front terrace of Mount Edgcumbe house each day, finishing with a live slip decoration performance on Thursday evening.
Kanghyo Lee’s ‘onggi’ building technique (involving the making of large storage jars) combined with the ‘buncheong’ surface decoration (splashing with liquefied clay mixtures in the manner of Jackson Pollock’s “action painting”) has been internationally recognized and his work is found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and more.
Malcolm Ferris, Curator of Making Futures and Director of Research at Plymouth College of Art, said: “Convinced of the transformative potential of small-scale making and its capacity to contribute to new progressive futures, Making Futures seeks to situate these material cultures at the centre of the critical issue facing global consumer society: how we move beyond the reductive instrumentalism of ‘homo economicus’ and modes of mass consumption that are destructive of human and non-human natures."
Keynote speakers at Making Futures included: Glenn Adamson, Senior Scholar at Yale Center for British Art (USA) and author of ‘The Invention of Craft’; Anthony Tovey, the industrial sculptor and model maker; Katie Schwab, whose art practice interweaves personal, social, and craft-based histories; Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council; and Dr Bastian Lange, Founder of Multiplicities-Berlin, University of Leipzig.
"An act of making; if it is sufficiently alert to the possibilities of the material, or saturated in material intelligence, creates an object that can then sit within a destructive commodity chain and redirect the attention of that chain to the better.”
– Glenn Adamson, Keynote speaker
Kicking off the conference with his keynote speech, Glenn Adamson discussed the role of craft-intensive creative practice and its potential for operating as a crucible for the generation of future possibilities.
Opening the second day of the conference, Sarah Mann explored the role of female artisans in developing economies, detailing the British Council’s work supporting makers through residencies and artist exchanges in Myanmar, Mexico and beyond.
Speaking on the day, Adamson also addressed sustainability in making, “there are ways of channelling public attention towards issues of sustainability, in the sense of encouragement and getting the sustainability agenda more prevalent in the public realm. Designers can use the profile of design itself as a political instrument – an intervention into a commodity chain that would otherwise lack integrity."