The World of Small Things: An exhibition of craft diplomacy
Venue: Craft Victoria, Melbourne
The World of Small Things features new models of craft development, emerging from environmentalism, urban artisanal factories, solidarity and the new middle classes. It reveals a thriving global craft economy, weaving a world together through the production and circulation of finely made objects.
What is driving this change? There are fundamental shifts in both the North and South.
Urbanisation is transforming the Global South. We have since passed the point where the majority of the world’s population live in cities; it is predicted that 60% will be living in urban centres by 2025. We tend to associated artisanship with the rituals of village life. The move to cities is generally seen as a threat to traditional crafts. Yet now we are seeing urban craft factories becoming established in countries such as India, China and Mexico. This seems the reality for craft in the 21st century and in many cases rescues it from irrelevance as local rural markets dry up.
Alongside urbanisation comes the rise of the middle classes in emerging economies. This market has its own demand for high quality exclusive craft products. There are a number of designer-makers who are adapting their traditions to suit this class. In many cases, it supports a degree of craftsmanship that is impossible otherwise.
And globally, but particularly in the North, there is a rise in ethical consumerism. As well as price, quality and fashion, consumers are now looking at the ethical value of the objects they seek to purchase. What good is my purchase doing those who produced such objects? As a global brand, Fair Trade sales grow by at least 50% a year. We need to look anew at the process of designing crafted objects. We need to read carefully the power relations involved in its production, and find the causes with which we feel solidarity. Climate change, refugees, poverty – these become a dimension of world craft production.
The objects the World of Small Things offer us a glimpse of these changes. If you can’t see the exhibition, please read about these remarkable projects.
The exhibition includes work by:
- Cheryl Adam – florettes woven by Bat people of Philippines
- Souad Amin – products embroidered by Palestinian refugees, Lebanon
- Jonathan Baskett – glass vessels made in Mexico
- Polly&me – embroidered portraits from north-west frontier, Pakistan
- Janet DeBoos – ceramic tea set made in Zibo, China
- Martina Dempf – jewellery made with weavers from Rwanda
- Carole Douglas – marigold-dyed scarf and bag woven from plastic, Kachchh, India
- Hlengiwe Dube – bag woven from tin tops, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
- Cathy Kata – dresses woven from bilum technique, Goroke, PNG
- Karl Millard – silver tea pot made in Delhi, India
- Asfaneh Modiramani – scarves woven with nomadic designs in Tehran, Iran
- Sara Niner – loom and products woven in East Timor
- Sara Thorn – home ware products made in Delhi, India