Making Futures: Interfaces between craft knowledge and design: new opportunities for social innovation and sustainability (Sep 2013, Plymouth UK)

Dates: 26-27 September 2013
Location: Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth, UK
Deadline for submissions: 10 May 2013

The CALL FOR ABSTRACTS is now open and the closing date for receipt is 10th May 2013. Making Futures invites submissions from artists, craftspeople, designers, curators, historians, theorists, campaigners, activists, and representatives from public and private institutions with an interest in the relationship between contemporary craft practice, sustainability and social issues.

Making Futures aims to investigate contemporary craft as a ‘change agent’ within 21st century society – particularly in relation to global environmental and sustainability issues, social equity and social innovation practices. In doing so, it tries to explore whether these imperatives present opportunities for the crafts to redefine and reconstitute themselves as more centrally productive forces in society.

Environmental sustainability issues constitute some of the most pressing economic and cultural challenges facing societies across the globe – factors that are forcing wider changes in thinking and behaviour and that point to the urgent need to develop new socio-economic paradigms, practices, and ideological rationales. The ideological is fundamental here, in so far as it informs social justice and innovation agendas that cannot, in our view, be divorced from sustainability imperatives.

The ideological also plays its part in the so-called ‘disappearance’ of making evident in Western societies. This absence is not simply the consequence of an economically driven relocation of production into cheap (offshore) labour markets, but also, at least in the UK, the innate effect of a culture that has consistently underplayed the value of creative labour. If our confidence in the world is founded on an embodied appreciation of its materiality, one effect of this loss might well be a sense of estrangement from our being in it, and a reduction in our shared senses of agency and wellbeing.

Making Futures therefore places the material cultures of craft at the centre of a critical debate facing global consumer society: how might we move beyond the reductive instrumentalism of ‘homo economicus’ and mass consumption, to a political economy capable of valuing our needs for social well being and resilient communities, that can also incorporate concerns for non-human environmental resources? Needless to say, this issue has become more urgent than ever in the wake of the global financial crisis and the implementation of unparalleled austerity programmes throughout many societies.

Making Futures invites relevant submissions from across the full spectrum of art, craft and design practice. The scope is international and we welcome accounts from non-western contexts, especially those experiencing rapid industrial and urban development and newly expanding markets. In terms of presentation formats we invite proposals that work within, or across, practice-led presentations and case studies, and critical-theoretical and historical papers.

Proposals might address any one of the seven thematic fields introduced through previous conference editions:

– Craft as Sustainability Activism in Practice
– Craft as Social Practice
– Craft in an Expanded Field
– Critical Perspectives on Craft, Industry and Consumerism
– Local-global Translations and Dialogues
– Technological and Material Discourses
– Endangered Subjects – Ethical Minds

In addition, we invite explorations of the new topic elected for particular attention for this 2013 edition:

– Interfaces between craft knowledge and design: new opportunities for social innovation and sustainable practice

Finally, we are also calling for submissions to three workshops that will amplify and explore facets associated with the craft-design topic:

– Craftwork as Problem Solving (in collaboration with the School of Oriental & African Studies)
– Crafting with Digital Technologies (in collaboration with the School of Materials, The Royal College of Art)
– Transformations in / through Textiles (in collaboration with the EC funded Crysalis network)

The site contains links to previous editions of Making Futures, both conferences and on-line journals. Note that Volume 2 of the Making Futures on-line journal, The Crafts as Change-maker in Sustainably Aware Cultures, (ISSN 2042-1664), will be published in early March.

About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is

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