Thinking about making, Sydney Craft Week

By Penny Craswell

Some of you may know that since April I have been working at the Australian Design Centre. As part of this position, one of my major projects has been to work with the team on a new festival, Sydney Craft Week, which runs until 15 October (there’s still time to check out events over the next three days – see the program).

Woodblock textiles printed in India, Galeecha Cultural Textiles exhibition at UNSW Art & Design, curated by Liz Williamson. Image: courtesy UNSW Art & Design

While exploring how things are made has long been part of my thinking on this blog and in my other writings, it is only now, thanks to Sydney Craft Week, that I have rediscovered my own love of making. When I was a teenager I painted, made candles, dabbled in making mosaics and more. Now I’ve taken up drawing, painting, pottery and knitting and am keen to explore other crafts (all at an amateur level of course).

As well as giving me a creative outlet, these projects remind me how meditative making can be. To knit, which is essentially a repetitive activity, has brought particular benefits like reducing stress and decompressing, not to mention reducing my screen time!

The benefits of making are nothing new. In his TED Talk, Bill Strickland describes himself as a black kid growing up in bad neighbourhood in Pittsburgh in the 1960s. He was walking down a corridor one Wednesday afternoon and was drawn to the art room by the smell of coffee. Inside he found the art teacher Frank Ross throwing a pot in a room suffused with sunlight. “He saved me man,” he says. He believes every individual should have a similar opportunity to shape their own destiny.

Strickland has since dedicated his life to elevating his downtrodden neighbourhood by introducing kids to the arts. As well as providing space for kids to be creative, the school has sunlight, orchids blooming in its reception, and colourful quilts hanging on its walls. Kids who attend the centre’s art programs are twice a likely to graduate as other kids in the area – in fact they are 98% likely to graduate.

Professor Jessica Hemmings from the Academy of Design & Crafts (HDK) at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who is speaking at UNSW Art and Design on Tuesday 17 October for Sydney Craft Week, says: “Our online lives are rotting our ability to concentrate. I think that so many of the problems that face society today are going to require concerted concentration to even begin to address.”

Read more on making in my Sydney Craft Week article Handmade in a Digital Age.

Stephanie Chambers (artist) and Amy Ranck (graphic designer) from Outer Island at the Australian Design Centre Makers Markets as part of Sydney Craft Week. Photo: Simon Cardwell
Emelie Röndahl, Rana Plaza – the Collapse (April 24th 2013) (detail), handwoven rya tapestry, recycled yarn, wool and recycled clothing. Showing at Barometer Gallery as part of Sydney Craft Week.

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