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The GA Research Unit: A Mini-Lecture on Useful Craft by Ta

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As part of our drive to improve the permeability of how we work, and to expand who gets to contribute to the earliest stages of our projects, we launched the informal GA Research Unit, from which we are awarding a series of virtual residencies.

Our first residency, Useful Craft (No.1 Research Residency) has been awarded to duo Kimberley Chandler and Stephen Knott who work under the collaborative name Tan-dem. Their partnership aims to broaden their understanding of craft and materials, through writing, teaching and talking. Having already uncovered much to surprise and inspire you, Kimberly and Stephen fill us in on their progress to date with a short video lecture-blog.

A Mini Lecture on Useful Craft by Tan-dem

Craft is the great leveller. Nineteenth-century Arts and Crafts thinking and contemporary craftivism alike have a radical anti-hierarchical ethos at their core. There is nothing between the various branches of arts, no difference between your china plate and your oil painting, beyond different techniques and material. Manual skill is so often used as a marker of distinction and luxury, but it is also everywhere, in a myriad of different forms.

For our research residency on Useful Craft, we have been exploring examples from across the globe that link the making of things to social and economic purpose, the production of objects not for the things themselves, but for a specific function, a richer education, a better world.

We’ve been drawn to a number of case studies in our research that foreground the immediacy of craft. The ad-hoc: guile in the use of materials that are to-hand and responding to local need, not waiting for someone else to do it better. One example from the past is the little known early-twentieth century designer Louise Brigham who made furniture made up from packing crates and taught woodworking skills to boys in New York. The Berlin not-for-profit carpentry association CUCULA espouses a similar ethos. It provides employment to West African refugees in the city, producing contemporary iterations of Enzo Mari’s iconic Autoprogettazione chair using pinewood and salvaged refugee boat timber.

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