From fashion to film, hospitals to heritage, manufacturing to mental-health projects, contemporary craft makers are applying their skills in multiple sectors to make a difference to the quality of life.
Craft makers contribute to economic growth in sectors such as manufacturing, driving innovation in products and processes through their knowledge of materials. Their particular understanding of how people relate to material qualities and objects, in both a functional and emotional sense, informs distinctive contributions in fields as diverse as healthcare and cultural tourism and also in more directly commercial markets such as luxury.
Below, you can watch Rosy Greenlees, Executive Director of the Crafts Council, talk about the renewed interest both overseas and in the UK in the country's craft practitioners.
UK craft makers are renowned for their innovation. Objects three-dimensionally printed from a bed of nylon powder; shapes appearing to morph and merge with each other seamlessly; materials etched and cut by computer-controlled lasers and milling machines; movements and sound waves captured and translated into physical objects by sensors and scanners; and new forms randomly self-generated by computer software – all these are areas in which the UK excels.
Technological advancements are presenting UK craft makers with liberating opportunities. They are able to use digital software and fabrication tools to produce objects that move beyond the limitations of the hand.
The UK is home to leading educational institutes relating to craft and design. The London-based Royal College of Art is a public research university specialising in art and design. It is a wholly postgraduate institution with an international reputation for its teaching in the fields of textiles, ceramics and silversmithing, architecture, automotive design, photography, industrial design, communication design, interaction design and fashion.
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, has always had a special mission as a national educational institution. The V&A brings together world-class collections with the skills of creative practitioners and the knowledge of leading experts. Through their programmes and resources they engage with many of the key social and educational concerns of the day. Other important collections can be found in Stoke on Trent, Glasgow, Cornwall, Cambridge and Birmingham.
Individual UK makers are strongly connected to rich and varied traditions of practice that can, in some cases, be traced back hundreds of years. There is almost no area of craft in which the UK does not have some historic link, in part a reflection of its global, trading past and its multicultural present.
From leather stitching to the intricate metalwork on a statement mirror, weaving to jewellery, the UK has a strong heritage to draw on. The UK has industry initiatives, such as the Hothouse programme run by the Crafts Council in partnership with many others, to support individual makers at different stages of their development.
Craft has the potential to play a pivotal role in the UK’s social, economic and cultural life. Everyone should have the opportunity to make, see, collect and learn about craft, and the UK is lucky to have many fine exponents of craft skills. The strength of craft lies in its use of traditional and contemporary techniques, ideas and materials to make extraordinary new work which is carried forward from generation to generation.
It is a widely-held belief among UK bodies such as the Crafts Council that children and young people must be able to learn about craft at school and have access to excellent teaching throughout their education. Read more about the Crafts Council's work here.