In recent years an array of community-oriented craft initiatives have emerged, including makerspaces, online networks and campaigns to repair, rather than replace, consumer goods. Enabling peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge, tools and materials, these non-capitalist initiatives disrupt industrial production and resist the individualisation inherent in consumer culture. Their ethos of openness places them within the realm of the commons: a versatile concept of collectivity being explored in a multiplicity of practical and academic contexts.

The Crafting the Commons network brings together makers, curators and academics to creatively interrogate intersections between craft practices and emergent academic research on the ideas, stories and politics of the commons to develop new understandings of craft and generate further practical craft-as-commons propositions.

The network will inform the development of We are Commoners, a major touring exhibition by Craftspace. An announcement of the launch date and venue will be made once known. Academics with expertise in craft/design and commons are participating in the network alongside the exhibition’s curators and commissioned makers.

In summary, the network will investigate three research questions:

  • What forms of commons can be created or animated through craft, making and repair?
  • What are the political dimensions of these practices, and what is their transformative potential?
  • What mythologies and narratives are drawn on in the creation of these ‘craft commons’, and how are these translated into social and material practice?

Crafting the Commons is led by Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd (Nottingham Trent University) and Dr Leila Dawney (University of Exeter) in partnership with Craftspace and Midlands Arts Centre, and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The exhibition and accompanying catalogue, a podcast series and academic articles, along with this website, will publicise the network’s findings. A sharing day (date to be confirmed) will share stories from the network and provide space for attendees to develop their own thinking about the transformative potential of commons thinking, in the craft sector and beyond.