National Craft Initiative Research Report 2014 Mapping the Australian Craft Sector – Findings and Recommendations

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National Craft Initiative Research Report 2014

Mapping the Australian Craft Sector – Findings and Recommendations

Joe Pascoe


Mapping the Australian Craft Sector – Findings and Recommendations
National Craft Initiative Research Report
First published Sydney, Australia, 2014
Author: Joe Pascoe

Research and Attachments: Bridie Moran

Editor: Prof. Robert Pascoe

Reader and Google Map: Pip Menses

Manager National Craft Initiative: Bridie Moran
National Craft Initiative Steering Committee:

Brian Parkes

Prof. Ian Howard

Tamara Winikoff

Pippa Dickson

Liana Heath

Rae O’Conner

I would like to thank the steering committee, craft makers and industry leaders and my family Lyndel, Eve and John. Special thanks are gratefully extended to Bridie Moran and Tamara Winikoff for guidance. This report is dedicated to my three muses Ailsa Giles, Pam Gullifer and Grace Cochrane.

Supporters and sponsors:
(Logos) NAVA, ACDC, Australia Council, Insect

Cover: Roseanne Bartley Intersection – Brooch; wooden ruler, 925 silver, stainless steel.

2006. 8cm diameter. Image Credit Terrence Bogue 2006

Text copyright Joe Pascoe 2013


1.  Executive Summary 4

2.  Definitions of Craft  6

3. History and Evolution & Identified Trends  9

4. Current Landscape  16

5. Key Issues  44

6.  Where Should We Be Heading?  52

7. Recommendations 56

8. List of Attachments 61
1.  Executive Summary

1.1 Overview

Elements of the Australian craft sector are world class. Exceptional craft works are often made, over 2 million Australian make craft, however organizations within the craft sector infrastructure are all at different phases of business development, and are not in a position to fulfill their potential.

This report does not play the blame game, but rather puts forward a set of recommendations that are designed to drive structural reform that will set the craft sector on a path that should bring a heightened benefit to Australian society.
Its drivers are; changing the business plan methodology that underlines the national funding regime, establishing a new professional association open to all craft organizations and conducting a national conference that is open, exciting and informative. Two other legacy-style projects are advocated; a real-time information portal that identifies opportunities for craft makers and an online register of post-graduate research on the crafts, so as to address the profound issue of intergenerational knowledge transfer. A sixth recommendation is conducting a pilot program with one of the new type of craft organizations that are emerging.

1.2 research process

The methodology was based on honouring the idea that there now many ways of crafting, acknowledging that craft making is happening in the home as much as via professional situations, consideration of the history of Australian craft, a widely distributed online survey, in depth discussions with some 30 industry professions, and analysis within the context of international developments, and an analysis of previous research and current events.

The Attachments are all very much worth studying, as they contain an impressive array of material that is immediately useable, whatever your interest in the crafts may be. The message is that in Australia, craft is an artform open to everyone.

1.3 Recommendations

  1. It is recommended that the forthcoming NCI conference seek to have a broad foot print in the Australian craft sector, so as to cross fertilize the sector, and re-establish the crafts (and its organizations) as a significant component of the Australian cultural landscape.

  1. It is recommended that NCI start planning to establish an online portal by 1 June 2014 that offers highly relevant career enhancing information to Australian craft makers, and, that the portal has an easy to use ’Craft Knowledge’ section that acts as an online register of post-graduate and doctoral research on all aspects of Australian craft.

  1. It is recommended that the NCI Steering Committee engage with the Australia Council to discuss and implement changes to the Business Planning template advocated by the Australia Council for the funding of cultural infrastructure, which has the capacity to introduce macro planning concepts into the sector, including joint ventures with cultural outcomes.

  1. It is recommended that the NCI Steering Committee engage with Australian Craft and Design Centres to re-birth ACDC into an ‘Australian Craft Association’.

  1. It is recommended that a policy be developed for supporting Australian craft, through a sector led process.

  1. It is recommended that the National Craft Initiative encourage new modes of craft making through the active support of innovative new models and platforms for craft making.

2.  Definitions of Craft 

Defining the crafts has been a considerable issue for the sector. The public often describes the crafts by example, naming an activity such as knitting, while those within the sector often refer to the notion of process and types of material. Craft makers themselves may use media specific terms such as jewellery, especially if their qualification is in that area. The following selection of definitions scopes some options, to then nominate a preferred term for this report.

  • The Merriam Webster online dictionary offers a short and a long definition of craft1.


noun \ˈkraft\

: an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands

: a job or activity that requires special skill

crafts : objects made by skillful use of the hands

1:  skill in planning, making, or executing :  dexterity

2a :  an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill craft> craft of writing plays> <crafts such as pottery, carpentry, and sewing>

b plural :  articles made by craftspeople crafts> crafts fair>

3:  skill in deceiving to gain an end craft and guile to close the deal>

4:  the members of a trade or trade association

  • The online Oxford dictionary also gives the origins of the word craft.
Old English cræft 'strength, skill', of Germanic origin; related to Dutch kracht, German Kraft, and Swedish kraft 'strength'. sense 3 of the noun, originally in the expression small craft 'small trading vessels', may be elliptical, referring to vessels requiring a small amount of ‘craft’ or skill to handle, as opposed to large ocean-going ships

  • Wikipedia offers a traditional view of craft, though impressively readable as an extended article with links.

A craft is a pastime or a profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work. In a historical sense, particularly as pertinent to the Middle Ages and earlier, the term is usually applied to people occupied in small-scale production of goods, or their maintenance, for example by tinkers. The traditional terms craftsman and craftswoman are nowadays often replaced by artisan and rarely by craftsperson (craftspeople).

  • And from Mark Jones, former Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (2001-2010) comes this evocative definition.

‘Craft is remembering that art is seen, felt and heard as well as understood, knowing that not all ideas start with words, thinking with hands as well as head.’

  • Grace Cochrane, eminent Australian craft curator and writer opens up a range of ways of defining craft in her contribution to this report, without out locking it as a term (see Attachment B re Interviews for full text):

‘- The practice of hand-making today is diverse: across these generations, you could perhaps describe an arc between art, crafts and design with people located at different points:

- those in the centre who are dedicated to contemporary expression and ideas based on traditional values, forms (often functional), materials and processes in the crafts

- those who work out of that background to make works that are conceptual in their purpose as ‘art’ in its intent, and

- those who work out of that background to make works in a ‘design’ context, often using new technologies and specialist industries, but with a crafts approach to materials and skills at the core

- Some focus on materials; some on functions; some on forms; while bringing all together in a personal interpretation of an idea.

- Some like an association with industry; some want an independent studio practice; others choose to employ skilled assistants; others want to work within a community.

- Some see their work as part of a philosophical path to self-fulfilment and many see it as an escape from the ‘rat-race’.

- Others see it as an important part-time amateur activity.’

  • ‘The C word’. In 2010 Craft Scotland launched a high profile campaign to update people’s perceptions of craft, via a striking visual video clip campaign that combined music, close ups and an evocative script; While not a strict definition of craft, it opened up the idea of craft by using words such as cutting edge, generational, unique and so on, to convey craft’s potential emotional impact.

  • And to quote the brief for this research project, ‘As part of the National Craft Initiative (NCI), this report shares the following vision; excellent, innovative craft and design is valued as integral to Australian society (Design, in this context, refers to an element of the creation process of craftspeople).’ Whilst this statement is not in itself a comprehensive definition, it offers a useful framework for the consideration of the word design in relation to craft, noting that design can be a process used in the crafts as part of the creation process.

With a view to contemporary craft making in Australian, the following definition of craft was used in the business plan of Craft Victoria, Melbourne.

craft – most broadly but not exclusively, a type of art object or activity that generally exists in service to society and that has an aesthetic quality and or practical application, based on a creative process connected to materiality (Craft Victoria Business Plan 2014-2016).


Australia’s Asia-Pacific location and multi-cultural heritage, gives craft makers in Australia many options on how they use and define the word craft. The definition that has been used for this report is the Craft Victoria definition above, for its emphasis on an implied moral position for craft making, which reflects the NCI program vision;excellent, innovative craft and design, valued as integral to Australian society’. The definition also contains references to materiality and process, two defining aspects of craft making. In Australia, contemporary craft is often understood in terms of being at the meeting point of craft, design and art – depicted diagrammatically as three overlapping circles.

3. History and Evolution & Trends 

3.1 Craft map of Australia

This Google-based craft map of Australia has three layers;

  • Retail and Residences

  • Craft Markets

  • Craft collections, Guilds and Australian Craft & Design Centres.

In the next phase of the NCI Research Project, other elements of the desk research conducted for this project (Attachments K – Y) will be integrated where relevant into this map.

Access google map:

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