Crafting the Mainstream - Sustaining Research and Practice Through Wider Production Engagement

Martin Woolley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper focuses on the ways in which specific craft skills, aptitudes and values continue to play an important niche role within some contemporary volume production industries. It argues that this important collective contribution is largely unrecognised, existing as it does in isolated and uninvestigated pockets. This lack of recognition has left contemporary craft vulnerable in an educational, strategic and economic sense, confining its definition and value largely to the niche consumption of individual craft works. It has also restricted the additional breadth and scope of the contribution to the mainstream that craft could make, if viewed as a transferable discipline in its own right. The paper compares and contrasts in detail six critical generic production areas briefly identified by the author in a previous publication, in which the crafts are currently making a significant research, design and production contribution. They comprise ‘retained craft skills within luxury/branded customised goods manufacture’, in which the crafts occupy a unique branding and added-value context, ‘high performance goods such as sports and professional equipment’ where craft skills result in finely tuned technical characteristics that cannot be achieved through mass-manufacture alone, ‘industries based on hig value materials’ in which comparatively rare advanced craft skills are aligned with equally rare materials and processes, ‘hand-finished or hand-decorated goods’ where craft processes are traditionally integrated into volume production, ‘traditional craft/volume production fusions in ethnically influenced products’, for example in the developing world and finally the more recent ‘engagement of crafts within repositioned hybrid technologies’, such as additive manufacturing. The specific origins, contribution and future potential of the crafts are identified in each case and positioned within a generalisable theoretical model which explores the ways in which craft education, resources, knowledge and skills could be more effectively integrated within the manufacturing mainstream. In particular, the model draws on recent influential and radical economic arguments propounded by Porter and Kramer in their papers on ‘shared societal value’, demonstrating that the crafts have much to offer the joint authors quoted primary aims of ‘reconceiving products and markets’, ‘redefining productivity in the value chain’ and ‘building supportive industry clusters at the company’s locations’. The paper concludes with strategic arguments for the necessity of further research in the field – particularly in case-study work linked to the six critical generic production areas, identified at the outset. And the desirability of a broader, more unified vision for the crafts which unites the traditional and the contemporary - the skill-based and the conceptual - in a ‘transferable craft ethos’, previously advocated in a related context by the author.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalMaking Futures
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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