Monday 30 November 5pm (AEDT)
The strength of a culture depends on a diversity of stories and skills that are sustained over generations. Civilisations develop institutions to help preserve and develop those skills, including musicianship, dance, drama, art and craft. Craft has a particular value in the way it engages a full range of senses and gives meaning to everyday life. Without institutional support, Australia risks losing its capacity to make useful objects of beauty and meaning.
Being a manual skill, the teaching of craft can be more intensive than abstract knowledge work. Thus it is often targeted by managers of large institutions who seek to apply a standardised funding formula. But in no longer passing on that skill, we will have seriously diminished our culture.
There are recent proposals to cut tertiary craft courses at Griffith University and the Australian National University. If successful, others might be encouraged to follow.
In response to this threat to Australian culture, WoCCA has organised a forum to develop a collective plan to support craft education in the face of this challenge.
This is a public meeting. A wide range of perspectives is encouraged.
On 2 November 2020 Griffith University released the Proposal for Workplace Change Roadmap to Sustainability (R2S), advising that they plan to cut the Jewellery & Small Objects course, along with the printmaking and other fine art studios.
The justification is a $700m shortfall this year.
J&SO and printmaking have the highest student satisfaction ratings within the QCA. But the courses were identified as high cost with specific spatial and technical requirements.
No doubt, it would be cheaper to teach Photoshop in a computer laboratory. But we need to consider the long-term implications of this loss of specialisation.
President World Crafts Council – Australia, Jude van der Merwe, urges for a reversal of this decision: “The World Crafts Council Australia urges the university to reconsider this course of action and commit to a serious investigative study about the resulting employment, directions and profiles of graduates in these courses.”
The J&SO program is the only university course of its kind in Queensland and one of only five nationally. According to Dr Kevin Murray, author of Place and Adornment: The History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand, “The Queensland jewellery course is a national leader. It has a unique role in engaging with jewellery students and academics in our region, particularly Indonesia.”
The closure of this course will immediately lead to the loss of teaching and technical jobs. Queensland students will no longer have a pathway to future jobs in the jewellery and creative industries.
The skills and understanding of materials gained through specialisations like jewellery can benefit careers in other fields. The globally famous Australian designer Marc Newson first studied jewellery at Sydney College of Art.
Jewellery has a special value in Australia given the wealth of minerals from which the nation benefits. According to Dr Murray, “Despite humble origins as a convict colony, settlers found themselves on a land of great mineral riches. But we are left with more than holes in the ground. Australian art jewellery has gained a reputation on the world stage for its innovation and meaning. It proves that we are a country that can make things.”
The J&SO workshop at Griffith has taken years to develop. The loss of equipment and technical knowledge will be hard to restore in the future.
This decision goes against the grain of education elsewhere. RMIT University is about to implement a new craft specialisation program, led by its jewellery department.
According to Dr Murray, “Jewellery is one of the most dynamic art forms of our time. As wearable art, it offers an immediate and personal platform for creativity. Globally, art jewellery draws on democratic values that seek to transform a traditionally elite form into a medium for a diversity of experiences, including gender, colour, class. It has become a particularly important medium of expression for first nation peoples, especially in Australia.”
We urge you to sign this petition to help reverse this destructive decision.
World Crafts Council – Australia supports makers of handmade products that add pleasure and utility to our world. Works made by hand reflect an understanding of materials and the dedication of skill. These objects tell us stories that reflect our values.
But there’s a problem. Where can we find these handmade objects? Many makers live regionally, where they can find a slower lifestyle and proximity to nature. But this also makes them more difficult to find.
To meet this challenge, WoCCA is developing an Australian Craft Map. East Gippsland has been selected as a pilot region.
This is partly to support bushfire recovery. We have already been able to support re-building workshops, thanks to our generous World Crafts Council network. Now we are seeking to promote makers to a broader audience.
The COVID lockdown means that many have abandoned plans for overseas travel this year. East Gippsland beckons as a destination for Melbournians to leave the city where they have been confined most of the year.
This is a time when we are keen to support local communities to recover from the twin disasters of bushfire and pandemic.
We are developing a website and app that has information about where they can find handmade products in East Gippsland. This will include ceramics, jewellery, weaving, furniture, glass, painting, printmaking and photography with a handmade element. This can also include ephemeral products such as soap, which also reflect care and skill.
We are working in partnership with the Phoenix Trail, which is producing printed materials. Our component involves a website and smartphone app.
The hope is to establish something like a Wine Itinerary that can guide travellers to places where they can connect with locals.
The information provided can include specific times for studio visits (or by appointment), galleries or shops where works can be purchased and classes/events for the public.
To participate, you need to fill out your details in an online form. This information will be checked regularly for accuracy, to give you the opportunity to make changes. This will be monthly initially, then every three months after that.
This project is part of One Village One Product, a movement that began in Japan and supports local regeneration through specialisation. It is supported by a DFAT Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grant.
For more information, send an email to gippsland (at) wccaustralia.org.au
Below are some of the participants in the craft map:
I am a craftsperson with over 50 years of experience. In the 1970’s I remember participating in a crafts council initiative to spread the idea of craft, called the craft train. A carriage was simply set up as a basic studio, different craft practitioners travelled to rural towns where the carriage would be put on the siding and local residents were invited to come along listen to the tutors talk about their practice and then get involved in making something.
Watching the news and seeing the devastating impact on local communities and wondering if craft could be used to help heal and become a focus for communities to share and come together.
Men’s sheds are a great example of this. I wondered if a room or community hall could become a meeting place, I’m thinking for women but it may not be gendered. simple benches and tables, tools for Clay, painting, sewing, jewellery. A few mugs an urn.
Craftspeople may have equipment or materials they could donate, there may be local craft practitioners willing to share their skills. A community may band together with a grant to invite someone to demonstrate or run a workshop, using the grant for materials and to pay the craftsperson.
I wonder if ‘women’s sheds’ is a possible craft intervention. My niece Chloe writes about her grandmother’s crafting shed built in the garden when she retired.
I know some councils have clay studios and women come together to sew boomerang bags or volunteer in opportunity shops
Men’s sheds are essential but I do not know if sewing or ceramic groups operate in regional Victoria and elsewhere. I believe Women’s sheds could be useful in communities affected by the recent fires.
Thanks to generous support from the World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific community, WoCCA has some funds to offer short term assistance to those craftspersons struggling to recover from the devastating bushfires.
Our expressions of interest in funds for bushfire relief have closed. We’ll be in touch with the recipients on 6 April 2020.
Meanwhile, see below for information about how you can assist in bushfire recovery.
World Crafts Council – Australia would like to offer ways in which you can give support to those affected by the bushfires that have devastated so much of Australia.
The tragedy is immense. In the broad scale, it has taken many lives, killed millions of wildlife and destroyed the habitat in which they live. Specifically, it has directly affected many craftspersons who are drawn to the bush as an environment to make beautiful works. Some have had their workshops destroyed, and many more will struggle to recover their lives.
Your support is much appreciated. There are general fundraising campaigns to assist in community recovery and also specific initiatives to assist individual studios. We will keep a list of these on this website. We encourage you to submit any further information about initiatives, goods or services you may wish to offer, or requests from those affected. You can add a comment to this page, post on our Facebook group, or email us.
Craftspersons raising funds for general purposes
- Clay For Australia online ceramics auction until 31 January
- Jewellery Auction at Gallery Funaki
- Canberra Glassworks has a fundraising event on 22 February
Ways of offering goods or services for humans and wildlife
- Creative Responders Registration
- The link to koala mittens has been removed as they have received more than enough. Thank you!
Campaigns for specific studios
- Studio Kiln & Car for Ellie destroyed in bushfires (target achieved)
- Steven and Janine Harrison, Balmoral, NSW
- The Australian Ceramics Association links page to many fundraisers for potters
- The Clay Hen, Verona (Bega Valley), NSW, lost her studio on 31 December 2019.
- Daniel Lafferty and Gabrielle Powell, Cobargo, NSW: 31 December 2019; Their home was saved but the studio was destroyed and they need help to rebuild.
- Kees Staps of Yatte Yattah, Conjola, NSW, has lost his pottery gallery and workshop, and although his house has survived it is damaged.
- Fran Geale, near Tumbarumba, Snowy Mountains, NSW: 31 December 2019; Fran’s pottery studio has been destroyed; People can post donations to Fran (any tools – cutting wires, glaze tongs, books, underglaze colours, glaze ingredients, cones, bats) at PO Box 318 Tumbarumba NSW 2653.
- Peter and Vanessa Williams, Mogo Pottery, NSW: lost everything 31 December 2019; Their home and studio and all the contents have been lost. They aren’t insured. Their home and studio were two heritage churches they had relocated and renovated. St Mary’s was 120 years old and St. Bernards was 130 years old.
In August 2019, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Education delivered a report titled Performance-Based Funding for the Commonwealth Grant Scheme. This report included a recommendation to tie university funding to “overall employment rate”.
Employment for craft graduates is not typical of other vocations, such as accounting or engineering. Rather than a salaried position, craft often involves self-employment in running a small workshop. These make a concrete contribution not only to our economy but also the community which takes pride and enjoyment in what’s produced.
Traditionally, craft was taught in workshops by masters. Since the 20th century, these have gradually been replaced by formal institutions such as universities. Tertiary craft courses offer a level of sophistication that is important to a nation’s skill set.
Craft is a key strength in any society. Our craft skills reflect qualities of commitment, creativity and purpose. Civilisation is largely an evolution of the techniques used to fashion our world into a space of utility and beauty. With the use of natural materials, each society develops its unique capacities to transform its environment. Our museums offer testaments to this endeavour. In recognition of this, support for a nation’s craft capacity is growing in most governments around the world.
We call on the Minister to ensure that the “overall employment rate” takes account of the vocation outcomes for the craft sector.
I believe that craft education plays an important role in Australian life. Any changes to funding for universities should reflect the employment styles of craft practitioners.
You can sign the petition here.
The First International Handicrafters Festival will be held in Kokand, Uzbekistan, 10-15 September 2019. This coincides with the special issue of our Garland magazine on Central Asia.
The organisers are calling for craftspersons to apply as participating artists in this event. Travel and accommodation will be covered by the festival.
Applicants are required to submit:
- Three images
- Letter of Recommendation on having enough experience in the field of
handicrafts ,and participation in competitions and festivals held in their own country or abroad, issued by authorities of corresponding field
- Ten photos of craft products and or video of the technical process
This is the second in a series of Australia craftspersons who are eligible for the World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific Award of Excellence. These include finely made and innovative objects that are designed for everyday use. The objects in this spotlight show the value and appeal of Australian craft today.
Albert Tse is a Sydney-based metalsmith who employs 3D technology to make bold unisex jewellery.
3D printing allows me to create a 3D topographical view of Australia in fine detail with four different height layers that give you a view of what Australia looks like.Albert Tse
The Memento Australia cufflinks are designed and handcrafted in Sydney, Australia by Albert Tse. They are 3d printed in wax to maintain the sharpness in the layers, and then cast in 925 Sterling Silver and oxidised to enhance the detail.
Albert Tse can be found on Instagram at @alberttsemetalsmith
We’re very pleased to celebrate the acquisition of an important new fibre work by Gippsland Art Gallery. To contributes to Australia’s Heirlooms for the Future.
The artist Mae Adams provides some background:
Deep Space Dark Universe is one of several stitched and coiled wall mounted works I made in response to space exploration. In this work the natural colours and textures of Australian she oak needles and poa grass are combined with commercially dyed yarn. My work with plant fibres has evolved through my interest in restoring bush land, especially the indigenous grasses and sedges of South Gippsland in Victoria, where I live and work.
I am delighted that Deep Space Dark Universe has been acquired by Gippsland Art Gallery in Sale for their permanent collection. The work was acquired through the newly established Gippsland Textile Collection, which has come about through the generosity of a private farming family in Gippsland. The Gippsland Textile Collection is dedicated to Australian textiles in all its forms, with a focus on items created in or about Gippsland. The Collection was established to provide inspiration and enjoyment for visitors, and to become an educational resource to encourage knowledge and appreciation for textiles of all periods.
At the October 2018 National Gallery of Australia Memorial Celebration for Dr Robert Bell AM, NGA Director Nick Mitzevich announced the creation of the Robert and Eugenie Bell Decorative Arts and Design Fund. The Fund will support the acquisition of 20th and 21st century decorative arts, design and crafts for the National Gallery’s permanent collection.
Robert, who died in July 2018, was well known to the Australian and international craft communities as Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the National Gallery of Australia from 2000 until his retirement in late 2016, following 22 years as Curator of Decorative Arts at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. He and wife Eugenie provided an initial financial contribution to establish the Fund.
The Fund’s first target acquisition is Liminal, a major glass work by Canberra artist Mel Douglas, exhibited in the 2018 Hindmarsh Glass Prize. A serenely poetic work, Liminal has two elements which can be arranged in various configurations.
To make a tax deductible contribution in Robert Bell’s memory towards the purchase of Liminal, please visit www.nga.gov.au/giving