The economy and organization of craft: An itinerant symposium – 2-4 May, 2024

An itinerant symposium - 2-4 May, 2024 event

In collaboration with the Biennale Craft Days of West Sweden, the Horizon project Hephaestus is hosting a symposium on the economy and organization of craft. As we are witnessing a revival of interest in craft in society and politics, we have invited scholars and practitioners to a shared reflection on craft, its economy and organization, in a two day itinerant symposium in West Sweden. Policies like the EU’s The New European Bauhaus and the Swedish Gestaltad Livsmiljö (Policy for Designed Living Environment) emphasize the role of craft and other forms of creative work, like arts, design, and architecture, for the development of a sustainable and inclusive society. This political vision is summarized in the NEB slogan “beautiful |sustainable | together”.  In this symposium, we want to focus on the economy and organization of craft as urgent issues to investigate both for craft and for society at large. We see the craft economy as rich of both emerging and traditional forms of organizing where aesthetics, ecology, ethics (of care) intersect in different ways with the economy. At this intersection, the materiality of craft, which is both natural and technological (of old and new technology) play a significant role beyond, or maybe through, the so-much-discussed hand-making. Like the design boom of the last decades and the aesthetization of consumption testify, the aesthetic-economy relationship has become increasingly important for users’/citizens’/consumers’ judgment of what is valuable. The ecological and ethical dimensions of craft organizing raise also interesting questions about the relation between craft and community development. Often craft offers alternatives for local- and community-based forms of organizing the economy, in which craft-culture, -nature and -businesses play a central role.

Although we want to highlight and unpack these dimensions of positive contributions of craft to society and sustainability, the economy and organization of craft are not without problems. The conditions of work of many craft makers may be economically precarious and, especially for some crafts, environmentally difficult. Some crafts are also organized in traditional gender-unequal communities. We see a need for collectively also discuss the problematic dimensions of craft economy and organization and how they unfold in practice.

Bringing together an international group of scholars and practitioners, the contributors of our symposium reflect on the varieties of ways in which craft is practiced and organized in Europe and other continents and on its relations with the economic, political, and cultural history of the ecosystems in which it develops. Behind the overarching umbrella created by the English term craft, there are in fact a number of local variations and translations of crafts, that we want to bring to the table of debate.

We have received contributions from 12 countries and have selected 26 which will be presented in our itinerant symposium in different ways. The symposium is also presenting two exhibitions as a way to reflect on the economy and organization of craft: Semblance at Röhsska Museum of Design, curated by Rob Curran, Alice Kettle and Jokum Lind Jensen and Craft and A brave new world. Tales from a divergent history, curated by the artist duo D20.

We look forward to our discussions and engagements!

Elena Raviola, Helena Hansson, Karl Hallberg, Samantha Hookway, Ulises Navarro Aguiar and Natalie Novik (the organizing team at the University of Gothenburg) and Marta Gasparin (PI Hephaestus).