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


Welcome to the third edition of Making Futures. 



Both the 'Full Conference Programme' and more detailed 'Parallel Sessions Programme' are available for downloading as PDF documents from the 'Programme' page. As will be seen, there are many new additions, including two new Keynotes (Maria O'Brien and Gareth Neal) and three related conference exhibitions, including a Private View for delegates arriving in Plymouth early Wednesday evening.


We sincerely aplogise to those still hoping to register for MakingFutures, but this edition has reached its delegate limit and is now fully booked.

It is likely, however, that in the weeks preceding the event, some further places will become available. In anticipation of this we have established a reserve list. If you would like your name to be added to this please email:

We will endeavour to contact those on the list on a first-come-first-serve basis, but because places that do become available will have to be processed as a matter of urgency, please also provide a contact telephone number if possible.

Yours sincerely,

Malcolm Ferris, Making Futures curator


Making Futures 2013 builds upon the success of the previous (2009 and 2011) international research conferences, and will be held on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 September 2013 within the magnificently sited Mount Edgcumbe estate on the River Tamar opposite the city of Plymouth, Devon, UK.

Making Futures aims to bring together an international cast of practitioners, academics, curators, campaigners, activists, and representatives from associated organisations and agencies, to investigate contemporary craft as a 'change agent' within 21st century society - particularly in relation to global environmental and sustainability issues, socially embedded practices and social innovation.

Environmental sustainability issues constitute some of the most pressing economic and cultural challenges facing societies across the globe. Climate change, environmental degradation, the loss of indigenous species and cultures, resource depletion and rising costs of energy and materials – all these gathering factors are forcing wider changes in thinking and behaviour that point to the urgent need to develop new socio-economic paradigms, practices, and ideological rationales. The ideological is paramount here, in so far as it gives form to the politics of choice and action, and thus shapes social justice and social innovation agendas that cannot, in our view, be divorced from sustainability programmes.

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 reduction in our collective sense of agency and well-being.

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.

In addressing these issues, this edition of Making Futures will approach contemporary craft, sustainability and social innovation agendas from a matrix of overlapping perspectives, facilitating what we trust will constitute a timely and helpful engagement with key debates.

As well as running the all-important simultaneous thematic sessions that will be developed and explored as core facets of the Making Futures programme, (see ‘Conference Themes’ for details), this edition will, as the strap-line 'interfaces between craft knowledge and design' indicates, bring the craft-design relationship into focus, exploring their interactions at various scales and in various media as sites of challenge and opportunity in relation to the broader social equity and sustainable themes that constitute our agenda.

Our keynotes will contribute by developing a series of associated points of departure. Adélia Borges, author of 'Design and Craft, the Brazil Path' will explore the craft-design nexus in the context of the Southern hemisphere, particularly Brazilian, experience; Jaideep Prabhu, from the University of Cambridge, will discuss 'Jugaad' innovation and its relation to craft communities in India and elsewhere; while Tomas Díez Ladera, from Fab-Lab Barcelona, will speak on digital fabrication and its impact on creative grass roots making. 

In addition we will mount three Research Workshops that will explore particular facets of the topic: one in conjunction with the School of Oriental and African Studies will bring makers and social anthropologists together on 'Craft-work as Problem Solving'; another, in conjunction with the School of Materials at the Royal College of Art, on 'Crafting with Digital Technologies' will extend the Tomas Díez keynote with a much closer look at the pros and cons of digital manufacture in relation to craft; and our third workshop, run in conjunction with the EC funded Crysalis network, will explore 'Transformative Practices in / through Textiles'.

In drawing this 2013 conference together, we invite a diverse range of responses, perspectives and experiences - including those from artists, craftspeople, designer-makers, industrial designers, campaigners and activists, curators and theorists - that challenge and develop the topic, workshops and thematic fields in ways that will help the community take these agendas forward.


Plymouth College of Art wish to acknowledge the contributions made to this years Making Futures by the following organisations:

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