The research environment at Plymouth College of Art provides a critical space in which our academic staff can push the boundaries of their specialist interests and working practices.
Our research-active academics come together in four distinct research groups: Making Futures; Making Learning; Art & Social Action; Memory, Site & Artefact.
Read on to find out more about our Research Groups.
Making Futures is a research platform exploring contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st-century society.
Our Making Futures biennial conference is an international event with recognised scholars, innovators, educators, curators, artists, designers and artisans from over 23 countries regularly participating from around the world. We uphold this diversity of practices and traditions because we believe these exchanges enable us to develop a unique set of cross-cultural perspectives on contemporary craft and related micro-maker entrepreneurs across non-Western as well as Western forms of modernity and post-modernity. Recent Making Futures conferences and related events have taken place in Beijing, China, Cebu City, Philippines and Cheongju, Korea.
The most recent Making Futures conference in 2019, Making Futures: People, Place, Meaning - Crafting Worlds & Social Making, took place in Plymouth, UK at Plymouth College and was host to speakers and artists from around the world to address the social dimensions of maker practices and how these can positively contribute to the construction and regeneration of communities when valued as creative agents of productive change.
Community is at the heart of the Making Futures agenda as well as appreciating the value of makers as singular creative agents producing material objects, focusing on the social dimensions of maker practices and how these can positively contribute to the construction and regeneration of communities.
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.
As such our purpose is to explore the possibilities for maker economies built around contemporary craft, neo-artisanal design-to-make and related creative micro-entrepreneurs and movements. We believe that these activities have the potential to consolidate into nascent post-industrial maker ecologies that, while not replacing global consumer manufacturing, can nonetheless contribute substantially to progressive economic and social change at local and regional levels and beyond.
The Making Futures biennial conference presentations are reviewed and selected by a Conference Review Panel that has recently included: Adelia Borges, Independent writer, researcher and curator on design (São Paulo, Brazil), Tim Bolton, (former) Vice Principal, (Plymouth College of Art); Hyeoung Cho, Secretary General of the Korea Craft and Design Foundation, and internationally renowned independent curator of pathfinding exhibitions exploring the development of contemporary Korean craft; Nick Gant, Co-founder of Community21.org and Principal Lecturer, the School of Architecture and Design (University of Brighton); Rosy Greenlees, Executive Director of the Crafts Council, London, UK and President of the World Crafts Council; Toolika Gupta, Director of the Indian Institute of Crafts & Design (IICD), (Jaipur, Rajasthan, India); Fiona Hackney, Professor Fashion Textiles Theories, AHRC-funded CARE: Co-producing Community-based Assets, Research & Enterprise, (University of Wolverhampton); Paul Harper, CraftNet representative for the South West, UK, and freelance researcher and writer on art and craft; Alice Kettle, Professor of Textile Arts, Manchester School of Art, The Faculty of Arts and Humanities, (Manchester Metropolitan University); Ben Mundy, Fab Lab Manager, (Plymouth College of Art), Knowledge Exchange Coordinator for ImpactLab, Environmental Futures & Big Data; Kevin Murray, Independent writer and curator and managing editor of Garland Magazine and Adjunct Professor RMIT University and Research Fellow University of Melbourne, Australia and Peter Oakley, Reader in Material Culture at the Royal College of Art, UK.
For more information on Making Futures, contact Head of Research, Judith Noble.
To support the dissemination of ideas addressed in each of our biennial conferences, we publish a free, open-access online journal of essays by international scholars, educators, curators and makers engaged in notions of craft. Each edition of the Making Futures Journal is a peer-reviewed collection of responses to a corresponding Making Futures conference and organised to reflect and expand the thematic ideas, themes and workshops of that event. To date there have been 6 editions of the Journal whose topics include: The Crafts in the Context of Emerging Global Sustainability Agendas (2009); The crafts as change-maker in sustainably aware cultures (2011); Interfaces Between Craft Knowledge and Design: New Opportunities for Social Innovation and Sustainable Practice (2013); craft and the (re)turn of the maker in a post-global sustainably aware society (2015); Crafting a sustainable Modernity - towards a maker aesthetics of production and consumption (2017) and People, Place, Meaning: Crafting Social Worlds & Social Making (2019)
The Editorial Committee includes leading thinkers in the realm of craft, neo-artisanal making, entrepreneurship both internal and external to PCA and currently includes:
- Associate Professor Judith Noble (Head of Academic Research, PCA, Journal Co-Editor)
- Stephanie Owens (Head of School, School of Arts + Media; Convenor, Making Futures Research Group, PCA, Journal Co-Editor)
- Professor Cameron Tonkinwise (School of Design, University of Technology, Sidney)
- Dr. Stephen Felmingham (Head of School, School of Critical + Cultural Studies, PCA)
- Peter Barker (Head of School, School of Design + Communication, PCA)
- Associate Professor, Paul Fieldsend-Danks (Academic Dean, PCA)
- Dr. Kim Bagley (Senior Lecturer, Craft & Material Practices, PCA)
Making Futures Journal, ISSN 2042-1664
Making Learning is a crucible for open inquiry through arts education, that places making at the gravitational centre of learning. Creative learning and social justice are the double helix of our DNA.
Making Learning is performative, exploring the permeable structures and transformational agency of creative learning, across a range of educational paradigms, societal and cultural contexts.
Making Learning establishes a propositional dialogue that questions learning orthodoxies from the inside out. Making Learning is oriented towards new developments in arts and pedagogy, especially those that examine new ways in which individuals, groups and institutions might understand their agency.
Making Learning seeks to challenge implicit hierarchies of artistic engagement and linearity, using the processes of learning and unlearning to look afresh at the economic, political and ideological implications of ‘creativity’. At stake, are the kinds of 'making' - conscious individual and collective self-fashioning - that are required in a complex and unstable world.
For more information on Making Learning, contact Academic Dean, Paul Fieldsend-Danks.
Listening is a core value for Making Learning. The Dialogues on creative learning project will make opportunities for diverse perspectives on creativity and education to be heard and considered alongside one another. In this way, Making Learning will record and instigate dialogue on creative education.
Creativity and education are both terms that suggest purposeful, transformative change. Making Learning seeks to understand new ways that individuals, groups and institutions can develop purposeful agency through creativity, in a complex and unstable world.
Learning within the creative arts is never a straightforward accumulation of knowledge. Although new skills and perspectives are acquired, they often arrive by way of unlearning. The most difficult and profound developments are part of the unmaking of a way of seeing, doing or thinking. Making Learning explores the implications of this non-linear learning process within and beyond the creative arts.
Art & Social Action
How do we make change?
Can we create more together than we can alone?
Can creative learning and research have a social impact within our community?
The Art & Social Action research group explores how socially engaged art practice can have a positive impact within our communities of shared interest. The group is composed of those curious to develop socially engaged research and actions, looking into what social practice, research and enterprise means for creative learning, and how it can have a wider impact within and beyond Plymouth College of Art.
This research group also seeks to enable staff from all departments of PCA to connect into the group’s shared objectives, not exclusively academic staff. Through engaging a wider community of HEIs and related professionals at events held beyond the college, Art & Social action brings people in to broaden conversations around social enterprise, equipping our staff with the ability to implement positive departmental change within the college itself.
Art & Social Action initiated the ‘Public Health and Social Engagement’ symposium in 2018, that brought in academics from the ESRC funded ‘Commonhealth’ project at Glasgow Caledonian University to dialogue with Plymouth based CIC, Take a Part. Art & Social Action has also supported our academics to explore the debt crisis in society, by bringing in activist artists ‘Bank Job’, which nurtured further links with Stonehouse based Nudge Community Builders.
In 2019, the group connected staff and students with the Tate Exchange programme of events, through a live streamed public lecture with Dr Larch Maxey, a co-ordinator from Extinction Rebellion. Art & Social Action also supported a group of lecturers from our fashion and textiles programmes to develop applications for Impact Lab funding, with the aim of growing plants for dyes and fibres for use within pedagogy and curriculum development.
The convenor for the Art & Social Action group is Jonathan Blyth, who is a Director of the Plymouth Social Enterprise Network.
Memory, Site & Artefact
First convened in February 2019, the work of the Memory, Site and Artefact research group focuses on cultural discourses and contemporary articulations of collective and personal memory, through the investigation of image and object, as well as textual, performative and interventionist practices. Shared research interests include themes such as globalisation, borders, migration, decolonisation, archives and materiality.
This research group was launched following a successful photography seminar titled ‘Geographies of Memory’ with Dr Alison Nordstrom (Harvard) and Dr Amak Mahmoodian (UWE). The seminar set some of the context for the group’s work, particularly around archives and creative practice. The group now has over 20 representatives from a range of disciplines across Plymouth College of Art, from senior management to academic and technical staff, and is enriched by a range of visiting talks and staff presentations.
The Memory, Site and Artefact group provides a supportive context for the development of staff research and creative practice, exploring the potential for collaborative and cross-disciplinary, practice-based research projects.
Discussions are developed around ways that these research themes can involve the development of teaching pedagogy, particularly on postgraduate programmes, with the concept of Plymouth as a “case study” and the city itself as a vast archaeological/archival site for cross-cultural and creative enquiry.
The group has a global outlook, with debates about culture and diversity emerging from research interests encompassing history, trauma, memory and identity, which resonate with Plymouth College of Art’s wider research narratives around social justice, with a strong interest in alternate histories, engaging with wider and more diverse communities, and exploring de-centred narratives and experiences, such as cultural, gender, and economic inequality. For further information, contact Memory, Site and Artefact Research Group Convenors, Mohini Chandra and Steven Paige.