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Diversity in Craft

February 22, 2021
Published on:
January 22, 2019
January 5, 2021

diversity in Crafts

The Crafts Council works to promote diversity in several ways. These include:

Common Thread - a celebration of the diverse creatives in the UK and beyond

Common Thread was a celebration of the spirit of Notting Hill Carnival that ran from August to October 2018. The Crafts Council joined forces with Creative Debuts and Dazed media to launch the campaign to promote diversity in the arts.

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(Above: The Common Thread exhibition drew a young audience. Image credit: Sam Conley)

The aim was to provide a platform for the talents of tomorrow to tell their stories. It launched in August by holding an exhibition featuring 25 artists from the UK and beyond in a celebration of African-Caribbean identity and culture through craft, design, and art. Works included photography, ceramics, textiles, embroidery, digital art and film and there was an opportunity for participants to make something.

The Crafts Council also held a panel talk to coincide with Black History Month in the UK. The Talk was hosted by actress and dancer, Kelechi Okafor, and its panellists included graffiti artist Dreph, entrepreneur and presenter June Sarpong MBE, music and culture journalist Jesse Bernard, South African singer Toya Delazy, and visual artist Simone Brewster.

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(Above: Visual artist Simone Brewster. Image credit: artist's own)

Creative Debuts supported events management and developed the graphic identity of the campaign. Dazed ran a feature on the exhibition and artists as well as running social adverts to support promotion of the campaign.

The primary audience was 18 – 25 year olds and the secondary audience was 26 – 35 year olds. The campaign reached over 2 million people and 866 people attended the events, 89 per cent of whom were 19 – 34 years old.

Watch a short clip on the exhibition below.

Diversifying recruitment in Hothouse

Hothouse is the Crafts Council’s programme of creative and business development opportunities for talented makers at the start of their careers.

Last year the Crafts Council reviewed the recruitment process to increase the diversity of makers, with a particular focus on working with more Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and/or disabled makers. It knew it needed to improve language and tone, to use images and case studies that reflect different demographics and to form partnerships to reach more diverse audiences and participants across all of its Talent Development programmes.

To do this, the Crafts Council:

  • Undertook facilitated focus groups with support from MeWe and Daisy (Disability Arts in Surrey) and sought advice and guidance from Unlimited and Shades of Noir
  • Recruited ambassadors (reflecting the demographics targeted) to go to local events, degree shows and showcases to spread the word about Council work
  • Introduced a guaranteed interview scheme for those who met the essential criteria for the programme
  • Hosted Facebook live promotions, enabling the Council to speak and provide support to the 2,500 viewers, and introduced video applications
  • Reviewed recruitment of speakers and trainers to work on Council programmes.

The Crafts Council has seen a huge impact from this work - the percentage of BAME and/or disabled applicants has risen from 11 per cent to18.6 per cent and the number of BAME and/or disabled makers selected onto the 2018/19 programme has doubled.

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(Above: Jenny Chan, a Crafts Council Hothouse programme participant. Image credit: artist's own.)

Researching diversity in Craft

The Crafts Council is a partner in several Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs). The following studies are taking place with students:

Diversity in Craft – the project is exploring and experimenting with ideas of craft and making in diaspora communities living in the UK. The PhD project with Kingston University started in October 2018.

Using studio practice alongside participant observation the project aims to understand and make visible the contributions of Black and Ethnic Minority migrants to the UK craft industry. The intention is not only to develop concepts for how the diversity of craft cultures can be supported and made visible but to question and redefine current understandings of craft practice.

Using digital technology to understand and support diversity in craft practice - How do diverse makers use social media? explores how social media could be used to support diversity in craft practice. This post-doctoral research project with Birmingham City University started in January 2018.

It complements the Crafts Council’s wider ambition to achieve the highest standards of practice to stimulate, promote and celebrate diversity in contemporary craft and audiences. The findings are intended to help articulate how digital technology can be used to support skills development and entrepreneurship in craft. The research will contribute to critical understandings of digital technology in craft practice and will result in a series of academic and policy outputs.


Find out more about diversity initiatives across the creative industries

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