Category Archives: Notices

A Fair Trade for Creative Labour – forum

The following forum is an opportunity to bring together critical perspectives on cultural partnerships with the real-life demands of those working in the field. It will provide the context for the development of a Code of Practice for Craft-Design Collaborations

Title: A Fair Trade for Creative Labour: How to sustain trust in north-south collaborations
Date: Monday 19 October 1-2pm
Location: Design Research Institute, RMIT University Level 3, 110 Victoria St, Melbourne


  • Dr Linda Chalmers, Product Manager, Oxfam Australia
  • Professor Donald Feaver, Associate Professor of Law, RMIT University
  • Professor Mark Minchinton, Professor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Tim Scrase, Director of the Centre for Asia Pacific Social Transformation Studies , University of Wollongong

Globalisation threatens cultural diversity through the loss of local markets and commodification. In response to this, there is increasing interest by consumers to support local producers through their purchases. Fair Trade has emerged as one attempt to guarantee producer benefits.

But there are problems. Fair Trade sometimes appears as a reasonably blunt instrument that does not reflect the complex relations between rich and poor worlds, such as when a designer seeks to develop a product with rural artisans. Are there ways of strengthening such forms of accreditation to reflect the complex negotiations about issues such as cultural authenticity that arise in product development?

Meanwhile, we are seeing the emergence of various ‘soft laws’ to regulate global industries and maintain consumer trust. What instrument might assist in collaborations between designers and artisans? How might this inform the concerns of consumers in their desire to do good by purchasing these products? Is there a place for this in projects that involve Australian Indigenous craft and design?

This panel discussion provides an opportunity to consider the role of a code in cultural industries involving relations between peoples on either side of the global divide. The participants offer alternative and important perspectives on this process.

Organised by Dr Kevin Murray, Adjunct Professor in the School of Art at RMIT University. Please RSVP Monday 12 October to Emma Barrow for catering purposes.

On the one hand Spring, and on the other, Autumn



Today in the South our calendars tell us that this is the beginning of spring. But as trees come into blossom here, the leaves will begin to wither and die in the North.

In his novel Rasselas, Samuel Johnson attempted to discover the secret of happiness. After many adventures, he concluded that any happiness is always accompanied by a loss, ‘That nature sets her gifts on the right hand and on the left’. You can choose to have either worldly fame or a bountiful garden. It seems that full happiness can only be experienced collectively.

Two hands is a symbol of a world made from the separation of two halves – North and South, thinking and doing.

Aristotle saw the world as made by two kinds of persons: the user who determines the form and the producer who realises it. In much of everyday life, these two sides work together: we want a cup of tea and we find the materials and equipment to make one. As human society evolves, these two sides are drawn apart. In the West, there is a hierarchy that places the thinker above the doer, the architect above the builder. Globalisation has put increasing distance between the consuming ‘first world’ and the producing ‘third world’.

It seems this arrangement is reaching its limits. Environmentally and financially, the world is out of kilter. In the West there are movements such as the Slow Movement and DIY that seek to re-incorporate making into daily life. And in the emerging economies, there is a call for increasing consumption and agency. The Kyoto Protocol has set up a framework where the future of the planet depends on a consensus between these two worlds.

On the ground, there is increasing activity in a kind of product development that involves designers working with artisans. For artisans, this collaboration offers the opportunity to find new markets that can replace the local sales lost through cheap imports. For designers, there is the potential to add an ethical value to their products. In a small but tangible way, craft-design collaborations provide models of north-south partnerships.

Such collaborations face challenges. Some in the crafts believe it is essential to maintain a link with tradition – craft is a way of keeping our authentic cultural identity. They think design ties craft to a short-term fashion cycle, as the whims of a distant market dictate what an artisan can do. And some in design world see the making as unimportant: as long as it is good quality and cheap, designs can be produced by anyone anywhere. Good design transcends its materials.

Of course, collaboration is not for everyone. There are circumstances were ancient crafts need to be preserved for the sake of our cultural diversity. And others where design operates at a purely speculative level in order to forge new ideas.

But in our world today, it is essential that we construct a bridge to encourage traffic between the two. The water below is turbulent. A legacy of colonialism, dictatorships and exploitation make it difficult to bridge the two worlds. Dialogue does not imply the denial of difference. But a common interest in the success of a product can help develop trust. What’s needed is a leap of faith.

Craft Unbound is a place for reviewing attempts to bridge these worlds. One bridging project is the Code of Practice for Craft-Design Collaborations. It begins by gathering information from both sides – a frank and open review of the experiences of designers, artisans, community leaders, activists, historians, anthropologists, wholesalers, retailers and consumers. Having surveyed the different perspectives, we can then bring together relevant organisations to construct a set of guidelines that best aligns the different interests.

To begin, we need to acknowledge that there a two sides to this story – the craft skills developed over millennia and the design concepts that give these skills a meaningful role to play.

Good craft is well-designed and good design is well-crafted.

Journal of Modern Craft – coming to you

Craft Unbound provides stories about craft practice on the ground, particularly in ways that introduce craft into new contexts. At the same time, it is very important to understand how this relates to the longer term history of craft intervention. To this end, it’s wonderful to welcome an opportunity to engage with the newly established academic publication, Journal of Modern Craft.

I’ll be editing both websites and hope for some productive exchange as we drawn on the wisdom of the past to better understand what’s happening now.

The Journal of Modern Craft is now into its second year. Its first four issues have already gathered a considerable amount of craft scholarship. The position of craft in modernity has been broadly examined in a wide range of cultures, including Alaska, Britain, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Finland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Slovakia, Sri Lanka and USA.

Now the print journal has an online presence to explore the themes evoked in each issue. If you go to, you will see:

  • Table of contents for each issue
  • Key article available online for free
  • Posts by guest bloggers on a theme specific to each issue
  • Related notices of conferences and publications
  • Links to related craft publications

The current theme is nostalgia. It asks the question: Is today’s traditional craft a form of manufactured nostalgia or grass-roots resistance? Guest bloggers Jivan Astfalk and Allison Smith are already contributing posts on this question. The featured article is a fascinating account of a national craft that is a site of both nation-building and resistance: “Traditional—with Contemporary Form”: Craft and Discourses of Modernity in Slovakia Today by Nicolette Makovicky. Upcoming themes will include craft activism, Africa and Japan.

Importantly, Journal of Modern Craft online is an opportunity to:

  • Participate in discussion through comments to the different posts
  • Subscribe to email updates containing latest posts
  • Subscribe to an RSS feed through readers such as Google Reader
  • Subscribe to the full version as an individual, or convince your librarian to do so.

Craft is integral to our cultural diversity. World-shrinking technologies promise a utopia of mass interconnectivity, but we still need to ground ourselves in the world at hand. Join Journal of Modern Craft in a critical journey through the various ways craft practice has sought a place for itself in modernity.

If you have any inquiries about the website, please contact the online editor, Kevin Murray, at

Craft jumps out of the box in South Korea



The 2009 Cheongju International Craft Biennale under its current director Dr. Ihnbum Lee seeks to position craft broadly within the arts as a unifying element. Ihnbum Lee claims that various art forms have been ‘boxed in’ to separate disciplines, making it difficult to experience their common nature. For Lee, craft offers an alternative to the commodification that has both put the planet in peril and separated arts from themselves. Craft in this biennale is engaged in ‘a search for meaning in a tortuous era’.

So how will craft connect with other art forms, such as dance, music and poetry? The Biennale contains several elements:

  • Pressing matter, a craft exhibition that feature works which diffuse energy and include diverse perspectives of producer and consumer, youth and maturity, the egalitarian and the elite, the classical and the romantic, the developed and the developing world
  • Dissolving views, a space for connecting object with performance
  • The river within us the sea all around us, whose title is borrowed from T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets, is a community arts program with the citizens of Cheongju
  • Canadian guest pavilion
  • International symposium on 24 September with 14 craft scholars

Of particular interest is the way these themes have an underlying poetic vision, associating the object with flows of nature in particular. This suggests the possibility of a uniquely Korean perspective on modern craft.

It seems important in an event with such a substantial vision for craft that there is an open dialogue to reflect on what emerges from this event. Travel has become less possible for many people, but the organisers are trying to attract craft practitioners with a Home Stay program (details on the website).

So what will emerge when craft springs out of the box? Jack in the box? Pandora’s box? We look with interest.

Craft Without Borders – waking up together



According to Plutarch, "All men whilst they are awake are in one common world: but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own."  So it seems in the sphere of world craft. Many of us have our own personal engagement with a craft community or tradition in a foreign land, but the experience is something we can share with others facing similar cultural divides.

The ‘Democracy at the Bench’ workshop last Saturday brought together an amazing group of people, each working in interesting ways across the global divide.

Each brought to the table a particular calling to work with those whose cultures are borne from adversity, ranging from Bolivian weavers to bark artists from the PNG highlands.

That calling seemed both a blessing and a curse. It offered great potential as both a way of supporting a fragile craft and a means of enlivening a commodified Western culture. But it also was based on an asymmetry between the agency of the outsider and the vulnerability of the group. How to change this missionary relationship to one that is more collaborative?

Much of the discussion ranged over the conflict between tradition versus aspiration. How do you balance the need to preserve culture with the desire to be part of the modern world? There well may be no answer to this, but rather a matter of negotiation specific to each case. In which case, we have much to learn from each other’s experience.

In response to this need to share experience in working with other cultures, an online group has been established titled Craft Without Borders. This title reflects other networks involving professions such as medicine and architecture, which support work in the wider world. But this group in particular has the potential to be quite reflective in understanding the power relations at work.

This group has been established as part of a broader Craft Talk network. This is a medium for sharing information particularly suited to those working in craft across the South. It offers a unique opportunity for developing a lateral craft dialogue between those in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. You can see already that there has begun a fascinating dialogue that compares the meaning of ‘craft’ in Anglophone countries with ‘artesanias’ in Latin America.

To be part of this, you need to create a profile for yourself, which ideally includes an image and information about what you do. Then you can engage in discussions and post images. It’s a little like Facebook, but it is quarantined from the advertising and distractions you find in other social networks.

What emerges from this Craft Talk network will largely depend on what we put into it. It’s a good place for notices of conferences, calls for expressions of interest, curatorial inquiries or rallying calls for action in the craft scene.



If you’re a reader of Craft Unbound, then might enjoy waking up together with others like you at Craft Talk –

After the Missionaries events

These events relate to the ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink, which includes articles about how artists are negotiating their paths through a more reciprocal world. For more information go here.

10 June FORUM Has the world changed?

  • Has the Kyoto Protocol changed how rich and poor countries relate to each other?
  • Is Australia moving away from the Anglosphere?
  • Is the Global Financial Crisis a time to look at alternative economic models?
  • Is ethical the new black?
  • Have artists changed in how they relate to the world around them?

You are invited to join a discussion in real time with live people in the same space. These people will include contributors to the ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink. With luck, there will also be some copies, hot of the press.

TIME: 6.00 -8.00 pm Wednesday 10 June
PLACE: Domain House, Birdwood Drive, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
For more information, click here. To submit a question, email here. This event itself occurs in the context of Evolution – the Festival and the Amnesty of Ideas program of Southern Perspectives.

18 June OPENING World of Small Things: An exhibition of craft diplomacy
Craft Victoria, 31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, opening 18 June 6-8, show open until 25 July
To be opened by Soumitri Varadarajan, Associate Professor of Industrial Design RMIT

20 June LAUNCH After the Missionaries issue of Artlink
The ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink will be formally launched at Craft Victoria, Saturday 20 June 4pm, by Dr Connie Zheng, senior lecturer in management at RMIT and expert in how Chinese do business. This will be preceded by a forum on working with traditional artisans (for more details, see here).

27 August THEREAFTER After ‘After the Missionaries’
There will be an opportunity to reflect on the questions raised by After the Missionaries at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies, 78-80 Curzon Street North Melbourne.

Copies of Artlink will be on sale from 15 June.

The ‘Art of Making’ in Castlemaine



Typical Castlemaine scene of detritus from the mechanical age

While much of regional Victoria is recovering from the devastation of recent bushfires, something positive beckons in the horizon. The central Victoria town of Castlemaine is home to a long tradition of making. Artisanship continues from its early days as a gold town to the present population of artists and makers who keep the foundries and workshops busy.

Here’s the media release for an upcoming Castlemaine Festival (27 March – 5 April) that draws from this heritage:

This year introduces the inaugural 2009 Castlemaine Visual Arts Biennial with the theme of The Art of Making: invention and artisanship. Invention is about resourcefulness and pursuing original ideas to create unique solutions. Artisanship is about the process of making, often by hand, objects that resonate with the finely honed skill of the artist. Artists will talk about these and other key ideas, including methodology and technique, public and private space, urban and regional perspectives, and sustainability. The 45 artists participating in the Biennial were selected by The Biennial curatorial team: Dr Chris McAuliffe, Kevin Murray, Julie Millowick and Visual Arts Coordinator Zoe Amor, and are all Victorian.

Castlemaine’s iconic Market Building will show 3-dimensional works, 2-dimensional works will be shown at the Continuing Education building, and public art installations will be located throughout Castlemaine. The 3-D artworks in the Castlemaine Market Building include work by artists including Kerry Cannon, Noah Grosz, Kate Meade, Kathryn McAllister, Jane Sanderson, Dean Smith, Trefor Prest, Gretchen Hillhouse, Ricky Swallow, Marcos Davidson, Nicholas Jones, Conrad Dudley-Bateman, Kate Spencer, Brydee Rood, Lynette Wallworth, Helen Bodycomb & Vipoo Srivilasa. An installation of contemporary lapidary jewellers will be curated by Lillyan Shirrington.

The Castlemaine & District Continuing Education building will be the venue for 2-D artworks by artists including Tim Jones, Raafat Ishak, Wendy Stavrianos, Donna Bailey, Steph Tout, James Kenyon, Martine Whitcroft, Jennifer Bartholomew, Tamara Marwood, Helen Seligman, James McArdle, Kynan Sutherland, Juliana Hilton & a collaborative piece coordinated by Ashley Mariani.

Public art installations will be located at various sites throughout Castlemaine, including Victory Park, Castlemaine Railway Station and at road entry points to the town. Six local public artists — Lynne Edey, Craig MacDonald, Greg Smith, Roger McKindley, Candy Stevens & James Kenyon – will express a unique vision for the central Victorian landscape; drawing attention to the cultural, environmental and historical qualities of this region.

Other venues include the Old Plumber’s Shop, where Alice Steel will launch her comic SPACEANGEL, & the Old Castlemaine Gaol, where Robyn Spicer, local illustrator, designer & writer, will show Weird Critters.

On each day of the 2009 Castlemaine State Festival there will be free talks by artists, to facilitate the engagement of the public with the artists and their ideas. Artists include Donna Bailey, Steph Tout, Helen Bodycomb, Marcos Davidson, Kerry Cannon, Greg Smith, Roger McKindley, Candy Stevens, Gretchen Hillhouse, Tamara Marwood, Helen Seligman, Kynan Sutherland and Robyn Spicer.

Here’s good reason to return to central Victoria for the healing autumn breezes and mysteries of making in the venerable country town of Castlemaine.

Floating Land drifts back



One of the most dramatic outcomes of climate changes is the submersion of islands like Tuvalu. So how does an entire community deal with the eventual lost of its land? It’s like that material culture will play an important part in sustaining links after the diaspora. The concern for this in nearby countries like Australia will continue to grow. How can this engage with the craft scene in Australia? Here’s an opportunity.

Noosa’s signature Green Art sculpture event, Floating Land, returns in 2009 with a program that has grown to include writers, visual and new media artists, performance artists, musicians, photographers, researchers and scientists.

From 19 to 28 June artists will build outdoor sculptures on beautiful Lake Cootharaba, 15 minutes north of Noosa. Transient natural materials will be used to explore the theme of climate change and the impact of rising sea levels on coastal and island communities of the Pacific Ocean. Artists from Pacific Ocean countries being affected are integral to the 10-day program.

Visitors are encouraged to stop and watch the sculptors, participate in the workshops, attend the forums and performances, follow the daily photography exhibits, and participate in the spectacle that has become known as ‘Firings on the Lake’ at sunset on stunning Lake Cootharaba.

The program is supported by two exhibitions to be held at the Noosa Regional Gallery. Waters of Tuvalu: A Nation at Risk will present works from the Museum of Victoria and artefacts from the community of Tuvalu. Legacy Tuvalu: The Footprint on Funafuti, by photo-journalist Jocelyn Carlin, shows the impact first-hand that climate change is having on the Pacific Islands.

For more information about Floating Land visit

Photograph: “Firings by the Lake”, Lake Cootharaba, Raoul Slater, 2007.

Tradition For Modern Times: Selling Yarns workshop



Here’s an outline for the workshop that’s being offered for the Selling Yarns conference. This will be the first in a series of workshops taking place across the South this year. They will lay the ground for the development of the Code of Practice for Craft-Design Collaborations that aims to bolster the ethical value of the handmade.

Seminar 1: Ethical consumerism – Tradition for Modern Times

How to sustain trust in products developed from craft communities
Cost of seminar: $50.00
Monday 9 March, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

This seminar explores the ethics of craft development and how this can add value to the final product.

Ethical consumerism considers not only the product itself but also the positive impact which purchasing this product has in the world. So, even a global brand like Starbucks tries to demonstrate its fair dealings with third world producers. Ethical consumerism is becoming increasing popular in design, with great interest in stories about how the product was made. The negative impact of sweatshop stories on Nike’s brand has shown how important it is for consumers to know that they are part of a positive process.

Many designers are now working with craft communities, particularly in remote regions where traditional manual skills have not yet been eroded by globalisation. While noble in intention, these collaborations are vulnerable. Designers often have little training and experience in working with traditional communities. Being tied to the fashion cycle can mean that the designer’s involvement in the community is short-term, leaving high expectations and great disappointments in their wake. A few bad stories about craft sweatshops can turn consumers cynical about products that have a ‘handmade by traditional community’ story.

So how can designers develop relationships with craft persons who are likely to live up to consumer expectations and have a sustainable benefit to the community?

This seminar develops principles for the collaboration between designer and craftsperson. While identifying ethical ideals of this collaboration, it is also mindful of the pragmatic issues and the need for all parties to make a livelihood from their work.

The workshop program will include:

  1. Presentation of craft-design case studies from a range of regions and models
  2. Discuss the UNESCO model for Designers Meet Artisans
  3. Present hypothetical scenarios involving role play to explore the different interests at play in product development
  4. Identifying core principles towards a Code of Practice for Designers and Artisans

Intended audience:

  • Designers, including product developers
  • Crafts-persons, interested in working with communities
  • Anthropologists, committed to partnership with their community
  • Retailers, promoting world craft to local market

You can register for the workshop and conference here.

Journal of Modern Craft 1.3

The final issue for 2008 is now out.


Cleverest of the Clever: Coconut Craftsmen in Lamu, Kenya
Author: Wright, Kristina Dziedzic

Disavowing Craft at the Bauhaus: Hiding the Hand to Suggest Machine Manufacture
Author: Marcus, George H.

Russel Wright and Japan: Bridging Japonisme and Good Design through Craft
Author: Kikuchi, Yuko

British Interventions in the Traditional Crafts of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), c. 1850-1930
Author: Jones, Robin

Statement of Practice

Introduction: Ena de Silva and the Aluwihare Workshops
Author: Robson, David G.

Primary Text

Author: Myzelev, Alla

My Life Impressions
Princess Maria Tenisheva (1867-1928)
Author: Tenisheva, Princess Maria

Exhibition Reviews

Jean Prouvé: The Poetics of the Technical Object
Author: Wilk, Christopher

Hands on Movement: A Dialogue with History
Author: Zetterlund, Christina

Book Review

What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images
Author: Clemens, Justin

The Craftsman
Author: Cooper, Emmanuel

The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art after the Readymade
Author: Shannon, Joshua A.

To order a copy, go here.