Barber, Claire and Macbeth, Penny (2015) Craft in Unexpected Places. In: Transition:Rethinking Textiles and Surfaces, 26th November 2014 - 27th November 2014, University of Huddersfield, UK. (Submitted)

Within the shifting territories of craft practice, the handmade has become a relational form of contemporary activity that transforms our understanding of place through a hands-on minds-on process of collective making. The conceptual significance of craft is activated through a chance encounter with the hand-made in daily life
The point of departure for this paper was a conference Outside: Activating Cloth to Enhance the Way We Live held in the winter of 2012 at the University of Huddersfield, the conference convened by the authors attempted to explore:
Cloth’s value, relevance and impact on societies today, recognising the constantly evolving fields of expression, often sited beyond art mediated contexts, to bring a fresh encounter with the latent possibilities of cloth, its ability to bear witness to events, often the visceral evidence of peoples’ lives.
A recently published book of the same name develops the ideas and experiences a step further. This paper is the next stage, bringing a line of continuity from our previous enquiry. During the paper we will consider with renewed interest the collective activities and the confluence between crafting, social engagement, volunteering and the realms of education and creative practice that we have both experienced first-hand. We hope this paper will be a useful signpost for exploration of this rich area of practice that we hope to extend to a co-curated exhibition in the year 2016/17.
What will be revealed will be the voice of practitioners’ collectively exploring cloth’s potential as a metaphor for consciousness, carrier of narrative, and catalyst for community empathy and cohesion. We will discuss the events and projects that we have experienced, created, or participated in. This will include work by the American artist Jennifer Marsh, whom we have collaborated with since 2008, through her developing Dream Rocket Project. This global collaborative crafting project exemplifies the active process of inclusive community engagement. We will also present colloquial, intimate reflections as portrayed in Betsy Greer’s anecdotes and reflections on the hand-made and use of the internet and on-line crafty sharing. We will explore Claire Barber’s insights into cross-cultural craft exchange during her recent involvement in an intergenerational project conducted in partnership with Professor Lesley Millar. These collective visual narratives will inform our perception of Craft in Unexpected Places and bring visibility to a selection of craft interventions through a visual juxtaposition of evocative photography inviting the delegates to take an active part in making links between the wide reaching possibilities for craft based practices and the social


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