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International Making Futures conference goes digital for 2021

Making Futures is Plymouth College of Art’s international research platform, exploring how contemporary crafts are practised, consisting of an international biennial conference, staff research groups, an online open-access journal and more.

Now in its 11th year, the seventh edition of Plymouth College of Art’s Making Futures biennial international research conference will return on Thursday 16 September for it’s 2021 edition. For the first time, Making Futures will be offered online as a free event in its exploration of contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st century society. Again curated by scholar Malcolm Ferris, the focus for Making Futures 2021 is on ‘Re-crafting the Local-Global Maker Relationship’ as a means of discussing the future of craft and maker cultures in our post-global economy as facilitated by network technologies and new social configurations of support. Register for free tickets on eventbrite.

A range of artists, craftspeople, designer-makers, campaigners and activists will convene at the event to discuss the future of craft, how digital advancements can influence, drive and enhance craft, and how sustainable developments can show us new ways to create, in ways that have less negative impact on our resources and our planet.

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Making Futures 2017 - Image by Dom Moore

The one-day conference, running from 9am to 6pm (BST) on 16 September, will include over 20 presentations from academic researchers, makers and craftspeople, as well as organisations in the crafts and the arts.

Malcolm Ferris, Making Futures Curator, said: “Propelled by the Global Climate Emergency, economic and political change, technological innovations and rapidly changing public expectations, making and consuming are political undertakings in which many molecular acts (of production and consumption) combine to produce vitally important responses to the global challenges we face. This is the context in which Making Futures 2021 views creative micro-producers as agents of social change, capable of contributing to larger progressive narratives aimed at developing routes to better futures.”

Making Futures is a Plymouth College of Art research platform exploring contemporary art and craft, design-to-make, and associated forms of neo-artisanal production. It maps the emerging trend towards smaller enterprises producing more locally embedded, and environmentally responsible design-led goods and services, and posits that these more nuanced regimes of production and consumption create new possibilities for small-scale craft, design-to-make, neo-artisanal producers and micro-manufacturers, particularly where these are able to innovate around technology, form, function, aesthetic meaning and, especially, local, (social) relevance.

Making Futures 2015 Photo by Dom Moore 1

Making Futures 2015 - Image by Dom Moore

It also supports the reciprocal exchange of ideas between these modern-day maker practices (many of which incorporate digital tools into their work flows) and traditional indigenous crafts. By gathering this diverse spectrum of practices together and figuratively positioning them within a shared ‘maker-space’, Making Futures brings creative practitioners together in ways that deeply enrich cross-disciplinary dialogue and facilitate best-practice knowledge exchanges. In doing so, Making Futures is especially concerned to investigate and promote sustainable and socially engaged forms of practice, viewing their creators as social entrepreneurs and innovators. Through their development of typically small-scale, locally embedded but globally aware creative enterprises, these practitioners profoundly enrich our societies by helping to construct resilient communities capable of embracing both social and environmental justices alongside purposeful economic regeneration.

Judith Noble, organiser of Making Futures 2021, said, “Plymouth College of Art is delighted to be hosting Making Futures once again. I am very pleased that the event will be available free to all who are interested, covering a wide range of subjects including digitally-printed sustainable housing, ethical gold production, biocolour and the Shetland knitting industry, to name but a few. Making Futures is a platform that makes a major contribution to debates around sustainable making, new economic models and a vision of future making that respects the non-human.”

Keynote speakers will include fashion and sustainability pioneer Kate Fletcher, the most cited scholar in the field of fashion and sustainability, and Making Futures curator Malcolm Ferris.

Following the conference, a new issue of the Making Futures online journal will be produced that will develop the thematics of the event and continue debates hosted at the conference. Making Futures is grateful to the British Council for assistance with publicity, promotion and programming.

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Making Futures 2017 - Image by Taylor Harford

Journal archives from previous editions of the conference are available on the Making Futures Journal website: makingfuturesarchive.pca.ac.uk including details on previous notable speakers such as Professor Cameron Tonkinwise from University of Technology Sydney, Adélia Borges, author of 'Design and Craft, the Brazil Path', Amneh Shaikh-Farooqui, Director of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Institute in Pakistan, and Mark Miodownik, Director of the Institute of Making, UCL.

Making Futures is produced by Plymouth College of Art and curated from 2009-2021 by Malcolm Ferris. Tickets for the free event are available online. For further information about Making Futures and the conference, go to makingfutures.pca.ac.uk