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First Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.

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Mapping the Australian craft sector 9.15 MB

The National Craft Initiative (NCI) project was established to realise a number of strategic objectives for the Australian craft and design sector over the three years 2013 - 2015. The Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts has provided project funding to the NCI project to be managed through a partnership between the Australian Craft and Design Centres (ACDC) and the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).

The National Craft Initiative is designed to strengthen the Australian craft and design sector through identifying strategies which would deliver greater career development support and opportunities to craft and design practitioners, encourage innovation and excellence in their practice, build capacity, collaboration and unity of purpose of the support infrastructure bodies and foster wide appreciation and participation by communities both nationally and internationally. The Program Vision of the National Craft Initiative (NCI) is that excellent, innovative craft and design is valued as integral to Australian society.

The key outcomes for the NCI are intended to include:

• Research Report (Released early June 2014, with findings to inform sector discussion)

• Strategic Planning Event (late July 2015)

• Major Conference (To take place July– November 2015. EOI by invitation process to open June and close July/August)

• Sector Positioning Document (December 2015, with recommendations to inform policy and strategy in the sector)

This Research Report addresses the first phase of the NCI project with the overall aim being to provide the foundations for action in building a sustainable, strong, and highly valued crafts industry in Australia.

This Report will provide the rationale for and facilitate sector planning and discussion about:

• Current sector climate and trends

• Potential future directions for Australian craft and design

• Scope of services needed for the craft and design sector including advocacy, sector leadership, training, profiling and networking, advice and opportunity creation

• Policy advice and referrals

• Sector collaboration and development

Key Findings

The Report findings will inform the discussions at a strategic planning session designed to develop strategies, content and outcomes for the National Craft Initiative’s 2015 major conference. This facilitated planning event will bring together key thinkers from across and beyond the craft and design sector and take place in 2014. The key findings from the Research Report have been drawn together from extensive sector consultation, surveying and desk research and are as follows;

1. The definition of ‘craft’ continues to change There are many ways of understanding craft as a major art form connected with art and design. Increasingly practitioners are interdisciplinary and the borders between different artistic modes are porous. As the nature of craft continues to evolve to embrace new and hybrid art forms, the supporting infrastructure of organisations and institutions needs to innovate to maintain relevance and support.

2. New models of sustainability are needed Building sustainable practice, both in terms of ecology and economics, continues to provide challenges for the sector, largely due to contracting funding support. To support the future health of the sector, new models of working need to be explored that look at applications of craft to other industries, new markets, increased commercial and private sources of support and greater collaboration within the crafts community.

3. Technological change is being embraced Exciting opportunities are developing with the continuing evolution and rapid take up of new technologies. The rise of the digital practitioner is especially significant as is the use of the online environment in all aspects of the design, making and manufacturing, delivery, promotion, exhibition, sale and critical discussion of craft and design. The virtual is interacting with and influencing handmade modes of practice.

4. Changes to education and training require new approaches Over recent years there has been a widespread threat to atelier-based, tertiary craft courses both in university based art schools and vocational education. This is reducing choice and diversity of learning experiences which is being addressed through practice. Greater opportunities are required for the transfer of knowledge following the completion of tertiary education through mentorships/apprenticeships and professional and career development training, which are increasingly being provided by industry organisations and bodies.

5. International engagement opportunities are expanding With globalisation, there are opportunities to increase international engagement with Australian crafts by building relationships between practitioners, audiences and the market both locally and internationally especially throughout the Asia Pacific region. This can be fostered through exchanges of Australian and overseas curators, writers and critics as well as practitioners. The interest in Indigenous practice continues (though it has decreased to some extent). There are challenges in bringing Indigenous work to the market with integrity and a need for consumer education to support informed purchase choices, locally and internationally.

6. New infrastructure business models are developing Craft and design organisations and groups which underpin the health of the sector continue to grow and expand the quality and diversity of what they provide for practitioners and audiences. There are increasing challenges with funding, private sector support and earned income and new business models are being trialled.

7. Community engagement is increasing Crafts play an important role in revitalising communities, especially in regional locations. As the popularity of the crafts continues to grow for both audiences and participants, curating of craft exhibitions and consolidating public knowledge of the crafts and design becomes increasingly important. Through the development of collections, exhibitions and events, well-researched publications and active public programs, craft can play a practical and important role in building community engagement and participation.

These findings and the underpinning research suggest contemporary craft is facing a period of unusual turbulence characterised by a number of challenges and exciting opportunities that require new approaches in order to shape the future landscape of Australian craft. The history of the sector indicates that craft practitioners and the surrounding ecosystem have demonstrated the capability to re-think and re-invent their practice to adapt to new and complex circumstances that the Australian and international landscape present. The findings from this Report, together with innovative ideas that will be generated at the subsequent NCI strategic planning session and Conference, will seek to develop new approaches to supporting a highly diverse, vibrant and sustainable Australian crafts sector.

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