How does craft find a place in the knowledge economy? Writers like Sennett have generalised the definition of craft to include more abstract processes like software coding. But this brings into question what value remains in craft as a material practice. To what extent can knowledge be understood as a "thing"? Perhaps have value as objects as much as temporary containers of information. Mythologies often source knowledge in objects such as the tree, Yggdrasil.
Today’s craft can be understood as a process of housing stories in objects that can become part of everyday life. Beyond objects, we turn to craft as a metaphor for thought, such as "to grasp" an idea. Recently, "knowledge-weaving" has emerged as a way of applying textile craft to information work. This has paralleled the emergence of the "thinker-maker", who uses objects to demonstrate ideas. We consider what constitutes the practice of a "thinker-maker" today. While there is an obvious place for this practice in the university, there are three factors that are conducive to its development beyond the academy. First is the growing prominence of Indigenous craftspersons, for whom making is a key part of keeping their culture alive, including its stories. Second is the increased popularity of hands-on workshops that attract non-specialists who are keen to connect with the values of craft. And third is the growth of social media including podcasts in which makers become storytellers. We consider some examples of thinker-makers and the questions it raises about the nature of craft.
Dr Kevin Murray is editor of Garland magazine, a platform for sharing the stories behind objects made by hand today. He is Secretary of World Crafts Council - Australia and Vice-President of World Crafts Council - International. 2000-2007 he was Director of Craft Victoria where he developed the Scarf Festival and the South Project. He has curated many exhibitions, including 'Water Medicine: Precious Works for an Arid Continent'; and 'Seven Sisters: Fibre Works from the West'. His books include Craft Unbound: Make the Common Precious (Thames & Hudson, 2005) and with Damian Skinner, Place and Adornment: A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand (Bateman, 2014).