Category Archives: Notices

India issue of Garland – New homes for old stories

From the editorial:

“Durvásas  was wandering over the earth, when he beheld, in the hands of a nymph of air, a garland of flowers culled from the trees of heaven, the fragrant odour of which spread throughout the forest, and enraptured all who dwelt beneath its shade.”

Vishnu Purana Book 9

As the story goes, Durvásas gave this garland to Indra, who placed it on the head of his elephant, Aiávata, which took it by the trunk and cast it on the earth.  Incensed at this disrespect, Durvásas cursed the deities and the earth they inhabited, leading to the withering of life.

The ancient story of Samudra manthan can be found in most of the Hindu scriptures, like a tale of original sin. It helps us understand the importance of the garland as a “dwelling of Fortune” (S’rí or Lakshmi). This myth is one of many that are woven into a platform on which cultures survive over millennia.

In a fast world, we have reason for concern that such classic stories get washed away in the daily torrent of information. Susan Sontag quotes the Latin phrase, Habent sua fata fabulae (“Tales have their own fate”): stories are continually disseminated, transcribed, misremembered and translated. Accordingly, this issue of Garland is based on the concept of “narrative materialism”. We face the challenge of housing our stories in objects, parallel to the architectural challenge of accommodating our bodies.

Where do stories live? We might think of them as scripts that we keep in our heads. But clearly they have a life beyond the vagaries of our memory, not to mention a life that exceeds our own. Since the Gutenberg revolution, we have taken to housing stories in bound paper, which in turn reside in libraries. But with ebooks, these objects are no longer necessary to store tales. There are also many stories that are not found in books, such as personal memories. We attach these to an object that witnessed the event, such as a keepsake. A key value for most of the handmade objects we treasure is the story they tell—who made it, where we found it, who gave it to us or the story it depicts.

India has a remarkable tradition of objects designed specifically to tell stories. These objects follow the form of a book, with hinged elements that open to reveal the narrative over time. As Ishan Khosla writes, the kaavad is a cabinet that unfolds the story though a series of doors. The patachitra has flaps that reveal the action. And patua scrolls unfurl scenes to accompany a song.

As Sunaina Suneja writes, there are still patua artisans active in India today. And projects like Medhavi Gandhi’s Handmade Tales seek to passed their traditions onto the next generation. But there’s also a new form of storytelling. India has seen particularly innovative platforms emerge for selling craft online. This is not just the sophistical algorithm and coding, but also the meaning that the website can convey. Like the unfolding of the traditional objects, the story of a product is told as the consumer clicks through the layers of information, often leading to details of the maker themselves.

India stories travel far across the ocean. Our Garland quarterly essay contains the inspiring story of a partnership between Australian ceramicist Sandra Bowkett and the Indian potter Banay Singh and his village. What drives a potter from a comfortable life in central Victoria to spend time in a potters’ colony in Delhi? A key part of the story is the intimate involvement of clay in traditional lifestyles, from the mutka water vessel to the chai cup.

Thanks to a partnership with Artisans Gallery, this issue has a particular focus on Mumbai as part of the broader western India region. To continue our Persian interest, Priyanka Kochar discovers the rare craft of Mumbai’s Parsis. Expert guide to India, Fiona Caulfield, shares with us her favourite sources of craft and lifestyle in Mumbai. And Australian designer Trent Jansen writes of his confrontation with the phenomenon of jugaad in the legendary “slum” of Dharavi.

There are two wonderful stories related to our friends art Art Ichol. Tanya Dutt tells a heartening story of a quest to find the spirit of Gandhi in today’s India. And Clare Kennedy shares with us her findings about the contemporary life of the brick.

Textiles prove to be a particularly rich source of stories. We consider craft classics, such as the kediyun (LOkesh Ghai), muslin (Gopika Nath), the sari (Malika Kashyap) and the dhurry rug (Liz Williamson). Ansie van der Velt joins us again to tells the story of Barbara Mullin, one of many Australians who has made Gujarati textiles a lifelong vocation.

We also go a little further west with some remarkable articles from Pakistan. Sahr Bashir tells us about the stunning new jewellery art coming from her country. And two architect designers tell us their thinking about dysfunctionality.

This issue coincides with a major glass event in the Asia Pacific, Ausglass 2017. We include beautiful works by Holly Grace that reveal a subtle use of photography in glass. And Mark Eliot backgrounds his use of glass to tell stories through animation.

We wrap this issue up with three important articles. The much respected Indrasen Vencatachellum tells us about his exciting new festival of natural dyes in Madagascar. While in Africa, we hear the stories of artisans who make Bolga baskets in Ghana. And finally, Anna Varendorff is a new voice who challenges the concept of craft today.

We like to think that Garland too is a suitable home for the stories that objects tell. We are fortunate in this issue to have some captivating tales of Indian crafts. We hope you take delight in this garland, but please keep it from disrespectful white elephants.

A new craft magazine?

What do you think about a new craft and design magazine based in Australia?2015 is the final year of the National Craft Initiative, which is a process managed by National Association of the Visual Arts to review the sector after the de-funding of Craft Australia. NCI will culminate in a conference Parallels: Journeys in Contemporary Making  at the National Gallery of Victoria, 17-18 September. This would be a perfect moment to launch a new magazine that expresses confidence in the sector and provides a platform for ongoing dialogue.Key elements of the current proposal are:

  • the strengthening network for craft and design across the Asia Pacific
  • growing expectations of participation through social media
  • increased interest in Aboriginal and Torres Street Islander craft & design in the region
  • support for thoughtful and engaging writing about craft and design
  • increased use of e-commerce

At this early developmental stage, it is important to receive thoughts on such a venture from those who are active in the sector (including outside Australia). Your responses to this short questionnaire are most welcome. Survey closes 6 February. Click here.

Unmaking Waste 2015 – call for abstracts

Unmaking Waste 2015.

Unmaking Waste 2015 is a conference in Adelaide that seeks to engage dialogue and share ideas, perspectives and possibilities for shaping a physically and socially sustainable planet. The main conference will take place over two and a half days and involve speakers from a broad range of academic and industrial disciplines who work across research and practice-led investigations into the physical and symbolic nature of material flows. For students interested in exploring more about social and cultural sustainability in design practice, we are presenting a set of pre-conference workshops plus a master-class on the day preceding the conference.

Abstracts for the conference are due 17 October 2014.

Place and Adornment – the jewel in the antipodes crown

Six years ago Damian Skinner approached me with the idea of a joint book about the history of contemporary jewellery in Australia and New Zealand. Damian has an impressive track record in getting books to print, and I’d always thought that the epic story of contemporary jewellery in our part of the world had yet to be fully told.

The trans-Tasman conversation can be testy, but inevitably fruitful. We worked through the obvious difference in the respect that the two countries treated the body ornament of their first peoples. The history of European colonisation in New Zealand involved an appropriation of Māori ornament, while in Australia until recently Aboriginal jewellery was dismissed as childish. Despite this gap, there was a shared experiment with primitivism on both sides of the Tasman which helped lay the ground for a jewellery that was distinct of its place.

Both countries also shared the fortuitous arrival of northern Europeans from the 1960s, who brought with them the calling of modernism. This inspired some key early figures to develop ambitious international platforms, like Cross Currents and Bone, Stone and Shell. The top-down support from bodies like the Australia Council had clear positive results (an important reminder now in this period of neglect for crafts).

Beyond the major events, there were a myriad of smaller experiments, whose relevance might emerge only decades later. It was difficult work distilling so much information into condensed profiles, balancing word count against image size.

The story of contemporary jewellery in Australasia demonstrates that it is possible to develop an art form far from the transatlantic centres. While work from here certainly features strongly in Munich, it also has its own distinct frame of reference. Contemporary jewellery should certainly sit alongside painting, film and literature as an art form that reflects meaningfully on what it means to live on this side of the world. This is  especially the case in Australia, which is so dependent on extraction of precious metals for its wealth.

But the story is certainly not over. Not only are there are many innovative new jewellery practices emerging now, there are also scenes being developed in other countries far from the historic centres, such as India, Taiwan, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Indonesia. Contemporary jewellery today is a rich global conversation.

And this is only one of the stories to be told about craft in Australia. There are many other remarkable threads where skilled and imaginative artists have learned the language of the land to create something meaningful and original. I think particularly of media like ceramics and fibre (wood generally).

Though relatively young as an art form, craft in Australia already has a legacy that could inspire future generations. We just have to believe that the value of living on this side of the world is what we make of it.

Place and Adornment: A History of Australasian Contemporary Jewellery is distributed by Bateman (NZ), Powerhouse Museum (Aus) and Hawaii Press

Ruth Hadlow textile journey on 18 November

Unpacking my Library: Textile tales from West Timor

an illustrated lecture about textiles & culture in West Timor
by artist, writer & educator Dr Ruth Hadlow

The University of Melbourne
Harold White Theatre

757 Swanston St (near Gratton Street) – Rm:224 – Flr:2 (1st Floor) Enter via the external stairs next to the School of Graduate Studies or up the internal stairs at the back of the foyer. Theatre is on the right.
Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning
Monday 18 November, 6.00pm

Dr Ruth Hadlow went to West Timor, Indonesia, in 1999 to study innovations in the traditions of hand-woven textiles. She discovered an extraordinary wealth and variety of cloth, all woven on back-strap looms. In 2001 Ruth moved to Kupang, and has lived there for the last 11 years, doing research on textiles and bringing up a family with her Timorese husband Willy Kadati.

With a mixture of narrative storytelling and information Ruth will explore the beautiful textiles and fascinating culture of West Timor. The talk will be accompanied by a sale of hand-woven West Timorese textiles.  (NB. cash sales only)

Gold coin donation in support of YTP Training Young Weavers Program in West Timor
Presented by World Craft Council Asia Pacific Region

The ‘Floating Forest’ comes to Ararat

Douglas Fuchs ‘Floating Forest’ 17 February – 1 April 2012

Ararat Regional Gallery are reconstructing an exhibition that played a key role in the development of fibre art in Australia.

Douglas Fuchs (1947-86) was an American basket maker who came to Australia on a Craft Council of Australia Fellowship in 1981-82. He arrived in Adelaide in July 1981 and set up a studio at The Jam Factory, Adelaide, where he began work on his ambitious ‘Floating Forest’. Douglas exhibited three versions of ‘Floating Forest’: at the Adelaide Festival Centre Gallery from 27 November to 24 December 1981, the Meat Market Craft Centre, Melbourne from 26 January to 28 February 1982 and the Crafts Councils Centre Gallery, Sydney from 1 to 23 May 1982.

‘Floating Forest’ is widely cited as a landmark in the development of a contemporary approach to basketry in Australia (see link and brochure). 


Ararat Performing Arts Centre, Saturday 31 March 2012, 9.30am to 4pm
Hear from key influences and experts in the fibre art field and be inspired by artists whose contemporary practices are informed by basketry techniques and traditions. The symposium supports Ararat Regional Art Gallery’s 30th anniversary exhibition of Douglas Fuchs’ influential basketry-based installation, ‘Floating Forest’,  presented from 17 February to 1 April 2012, in partnership with the Powerhouse Museum , Sydney.

Key speakers include:

  • Christina Sumner, Principal Curator Design and Society at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney;
  • Leading contemporary basketmaker, Virginia Kaiser;
  • Antoinette Smith, Senior Curator, Indigenous Cultures of Southeastern Australia at Museum Victoria. 
  • Five indigenous and non-indigenous fibre artists speak about the role of tradition and technique in the creation of contemporary woven forms: Marilyne Nicholls, Bronwyn Razem, Adrienne Kneebone, Maree Brown and Lucy Irvine.

Sustainability in Craft & Design

‘Sustainability’ certainly seems the word of the 21st century. But it is not unprecedented. As the papers in the latest issue of Craft & Design Enquiry show, there are strong connections with the response to industrialisation by the Arts & Crafts Movement in 19th century England. Reviewing this history may provide an important guide to the future.

Craft Australia announces the publication of the third issue of craft + design enquiry, its open access, peer-reviewed online journal interrogating discourses surrounding craft and design practice. See

Sustainability in craft and design explores the role of craft and design in social change responding to the challenge of global warming.

It features articles:

  • Towards a post-consumer subjectivity: a future for the crafts in the twenty first century? by Peter Hughes
  • Ideological constructs – past visions/future possibilities: evaluating the endangered subjects in the context of emerging global sustainability and environmental agendas by Mary Loveday Edwards
  • Theorising a transformative agenda for craft by Matthew Kiem
  • Ecology and the aesthetics of imperfect balance by Roderick Bamford
  • Craft and sustainable development: reflections on Scottish craft and pathways to sustainability by Emilia Ferraro, Rehema White, Eoin Cox, Jan Bebbington and Sandra Wilson
  • Sustaining crafts and livelihoods: handmade in India by Sharmila Wood

If you would like to engage in a discussion about this issue, you are welcome to join the discussion at the Table with the Journal of Modern Craft

The Visible Hand: What Made in India means today

You are invited to a discussion about Australia-India partnerships in craft and design.

Thursday 21 July 6-7:30pm
Yasuko Hiraoka Myer Room, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne

Speakers include Ritu Sethi (Director, Craft Revival Trust), Chris Godsell (architect with Peddel Thorp), Sara Thorn (fashion designer) and Soumitri Varadarajan (Industrial Design, RMIT)

This is a State of Design event presented by Sangam – the Australia India Design Platform, a program of the Ethical Design Laboratory at RMIT Centre for Design, in partnership with Australia India Institute, Australia Council, City of Melbourne, Asialink and Craft Victoria.

India is both one of the world’s leading economies and a treasury of cultural traditions. While in the past, many craftspeople and artists have travelled to India for creative inspiration, today new partnerships are emerging in design. Architects, fashion designers and industrial designers are finding new opportunities in the demand for skills both inside and outside India. In particular, India has an enormous capacity of craft skill that is lacking in the West. As India gears up for increased export activity, how will the ‘Made in India’ brand compare to ‘Made in China’? What are ways of local designers to add ethical value to their products through partnership with India? How can cultural differences between Australia and India be negotiated to enable productive partnerships?

Design can play an important role in building partnerships in our region. Globalisation is now extending beyond the large-scale factories of southern China to include smaller village workshops in south Asia. This offers many opportunities for designers to create product that carries symbolic meaning. But to design product that is made in villages requires an understanding of their needs and concerns.

This event is about design practice that moves between Australia and India. It is looking at how the stories of production can travel across the supply chain from village to urban boutique.

This seminar is part of Sangam – the Australia India Design Platform, a series of forums and workshops over three years in Australia and India with the aim of creating a shared understanding for creative partnerships in product development.

RSVP by 15 July to Inquiries

Sangam – the Australia India Design Platform, is managed by the Ethical Design Laboratory, a research area of RMIT Centre for Design, including researchers from Australian Catholic University, University of Melbourne and University of New South Wales. It is supported by the Australia Council as a strategic initiative of the Visual Arts Board and the Australia India Institute. Partners in Australia include Australian Craft & Design Centres including Craft Australia, Arts Law and National Association of the Visual Arts. Partners in India include Craft Revival Trust, National Institute for Design, the National Institute of Fashion Technology and Jindal Global University. This platform is associated with the World Craft Council and the ICOGRADA through Indigo, the indigenous design network.

Photo of Kolkata flower market by Sandra Bowkett

Collaboration in Experimental Design Research symposium 5-6 August

Symposium Organised by : RED Objects, Research in Experimental Design Objects, School of Design Studies, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Call for Papers: 500 word abstract due 30 June 2011

Over the last ten years international collaboration in practice based research in design, craft, and visual art in  various social contexts across the globe has accelerated, yet little focussed reflection/scholarship has emerged  on the topic. As a result, theories of collaboration remain implicit, relying on tacit and indirect knowledge of  the interdependencies and complexities that can arise in design collaboration. Further, studio based practitioner  insights about the changing parameters influencing collaboration are elided in design scholarship. One factor  that contributes to the difficulties in reflecting on collaboration is the multiple variations in which collaboration  is shaped. Similarly, the ethical implications of overlooking assumptions regarding cultural conventions are  rarely elaborated. This symposium maps out a broad range of perspectives on design collaboration in the global  socio-economic contexts of the Asia-Pacific region, including India, Malaysia, Japan and Australia. Emerging  issues of design collaboration include: design in indigenous cultures; scientific developments in design  materials and process; historical design models for global collaboration; complex data visualisation in the  global context; and, the social consequences of new technologies.

The RED Objects research group invites you to contribute a presentation to the two-day symposium on Collaboration.

Confirmed keynote and participants include:

  • Fiona Raby, Architect, partner in Dunne and Raby; and Royal College of Art, London,
  • Dr Kevin Murray, writer and curator, Australia India Design Platform.
  • David Trubridge, Designer and maker of contemporary furniture, New Zealand.
  • Yoshigazu Hasegawa, Green Life 21 Project, Nagoya, Japan.

Symposium Themes

Intermixes of collaboration: the emergence of collaboration as a social phenomenon.
What implicit conventions guide collaboration between designers, artisans, artists, manufacturers, and distributors?

Theorising the complexities of contemporary making, making and manufacturing and parameters of globalised collaboration.
What are the parameters and constraints, and opportunities and dangers for future design collaborations?

News from the frontline: collaborative relationships between design and conventional and emerging fields.
What are the implications of recent design collaborations?

Papers presented at the symposium will be considered for electronic publication in 2011 and made available on the RED Objects website (currently under construction).

Symposium: Collaboration in Experimental Design Research
Organised by : RED Objects, Research in Experimental Design Objects, School of Design Studies, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney
Dates : Friday 5 August 2011 and 10am to 5pm Saturday 6 August 2011
Times : 1pm to 8pm Friday; 10am to 5pm Saturday.
Location : COFA Lecture Theatre corner Oxford Street and Greens Road, Paddington, NSW, 2021.
For all enquiries please contact the RED Objects group via email: or Liz Williamson on 02 9385 0627 or email: