Tag Archives: Sangam

Hand/Eye coordination in world craft

I must say, I am a devoted follower of Hand/Eye. Their blog is an essential part of my reading diet, and I have just finished reading the Summer issue of the print magazine. The stories provide a powerful testament of the passions evoked by traditional craft practices. And the images offer an extraordinary feast of colour and texture. It is able to capture a broad range of craft development projects from across the world, even including countries from the minority world, like the USA.

It is sometimes uneasy reading. The situation with traditional craft is often quite fragile – see the article about what happened to embroidery during the Taliban regime, and how Kandahar Treasures is trying to restore it. Craft practice, like languages and biological species, seem under thread by a homogenising world. If nothing else, Hand/Eye demonstrates the richness that is being lost as we become more urbanised and digitised.

Generally, the magazine advocates for the preservation of craft tradition through product development – ‘design as a tool for development and income generation.’ This does leave many questions to be answered:

  • What happens when it is the artisans themselves who want to abandon their craft?
  • How does the commodification of craft for foreign markets affect the meaning of craft traditions?
  • If external designers are involved in product development, what are the terms of their collaboration?
  • How can traditional craft adapt to the changing patterns of consumption, particularly the move towards more virtual goods, such as apps and Facebook?

These are the kinds of questions that academics often like posing, as a critique of naive liberalism. I have great admiration for those who dedicate their lives to sustain and celebrate distinctive ways in which we make beauty from our world. But to extend the reach of this work, it seems important that we do find a safe place to ask the hard questions. The Sangam Project is one way of attempt to do this.

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 rsvp@sangamproject.net. Inquiries info@sangamproject.net.

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