Making Stuff Matters

1Eighteen months ago a small group of people interested in making things came together at The King Edward VI School for the first time, to learn from each other and experiment.Now, every other Tuesday during term time, everyone meets up to explore and create things from scratch ie using basic materials as much as possible.

The idea is to start with a specific material and explore its possibilities through an identified project.

A
project is suggested from within the group and we experiment with a view to offering the tested project to a wider community. We tend to spend 2/3 sessions on a given material, borrow skills from traditional crafts and where possible produce our own tools. Materials that we have used so far are: Polymer Clay, Acrylic paints, paper, card, Decoupage products, wool, fabric, Air Dry Clay, beading products, Sterling Silver. Particular attention is made to design and quality production. It’s important to enjoy both the process and the outcomes.The aim is to produce a beautiful, hand crafted item.

Each workshop tests the suitability of the project, adjustments are often made and a kit is then produced. We have developed a ‘Making Framework’ to promote access to a wide range of users via our Framework through workshops, online materials/support and written instructions.


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People have always made things. Whether driven by need, challenge, spiritual or artistic expression. Creating personal and household articles from natural materials has always been a human activity. Making crafted items seems to have three historical stages.Prehistory:

Prehistory: First there is the time when everything is hand made. All processes of making are hand processes, whether utilitarian, ritual or merely decorative and often, one cannot separate these functions.

Renaissance time: Later,at least in Europe, from the Renaissance onwards, it is possible to distinguish two further stages of development. There was an intellectual separation between the idea of making crafted things and that of fine art, which eventually came to be regarded as superior. Later, with the Industrial Revolution, there arrived a separation between a crafted object and the thing made by a machine ie an industrial product.

The industrial revolution moves crafting objects from functional to decorative.Decorative home crafting, as we recognise it today, came into being as a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th century. Many utilitarian household articles that were previously made by its members ie clothing, utensils, furnishings etc could now be mass-produced at low cost.

In western culture, home crafting turned to the decorative and folk arts. Fabric crafts and needlework were principal, but every available material was used. The thrifty and creative Victorians, those with time on their hands, recycled household materials into decorative or useful objects. Since elaborate ornamentation was the style of the day, crafted items were often highly decorated and embellished.

Crafting ideas and instructions appeared in women’s magazines of the early 19th century. By the 1880’s, several crafting how-to manuals had been published, including the Young Ladies Journal Complete Guide to the Work-Table. These guides offered illustrated instructions on needle crafts like quilting, Berlin work (needlepoint), crochet, knitting, knotting and macrame, lace making and netting, Poonah painting (colour by number), and tatting.

Also popular were familiar crafts like glass and porcelain painting, paper crafts, weaving, jewellery making, wood and metal engraving, dried flower and seed crafts, and beading, as well as some forgotten crafts like taxidermy and hair work. Hair work was very fashionable in the mid-19th century, and ladies would weave and braid the hair of their friends and relatives into items like bracelets, rings, chains, purses and even riding crops. Scrapbooking was also a growing family pastime in the late 18th century as a way of chronicling relationships, events and family histories through collected memorabilia and journaling. By 1830 it was a full-blown craze, only to reach new heights with the availability of photography in the latter half of the century. MAKING stuff seems always to have mattered.

2Crafting and scrapbooking has also experienced a 20th century revival and with the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement and functional art in the early 20th century, home crafting was again renewed by an increased interest in natural materials and handcrafted quality. The 1920s-50s saw the re-establishment of many Craft Guilds, the formation of crafter organisations, and the founding

The 1920s-50s saw the re-establishment of many Craft Guilds, the formation of crafter organisations, and the founding of craft industry associations. This interest continues today in a worldwide community of crafters and scrapbookers, aided in part by craft magazines and publications, instructional television programming and the Internet. The Craft Council have also added their weight to the craft movement and have a comprehensive range of programmes promoting contemporary Making and craft activities including exhibiting collections of work and organising events. They encourage innovation and develop international links as well as provide learning and professional business opportunities.

In 1971 the Crafts Advisory Committee (CAC) was formed to advise the government ‘on the needs of the artist craftsman and to promote a nation-wide interest and improvement in their products’. In 2011, its 40th anniversary year, over 400,000 visitors saw its five temporary exhibitions, 27,000 people attended its craft fairs, and over 7,000 children and young people participated in its nationwide initiatives. Perhaps, MAKING stuff does matter ?

Why should you get involved in Making ?

There seems to be an inherent pleasure in making. The sheer enjoyment of making something exist that didn’t exist before, of using one’s own design ideas, dexterity, feelings and judgment to mould, form, touch, hold and craft physical materials and anticipating the fact of its eventual beauty, uniqueness or usefulness. Alongside the pleasurable, perhaps there is also an argument to support the physical ? Can MAKING stuff develop and maintain skills. Perhaps, bilateral coordination via crafts such as colouring, drawing, cutting, all requiring the use of both hands together. This skill is important in other areas of life and can help long term with writing, tying shoes, typing and so much more! Fine motor skill co ordination maybe enhanced with drawing shapes, cutting patterns, and hand writing.These skills similarly translate to other areas of life, such as dressing ,eating, and in the academic settings. Making activities that require drying time – this is a great lesson for anyone to develop or practice self control and patience. Also, as always things might not go exactly as we hope and we need to learn to deal with the consequences. Making activities are a great way to promote flexibility – often there is no right or wrong way in exploring one’s own creativity! Perhaps, above all other personal development is self-esteem, we want to challenge Makers but it’s also important to initially choose Makes that are presented at an appropriate personal skill level. Completing a project successfully will give a great sense of accomplishment and pride. As the Maker explores more projects and challenges, self- esteem will increase. The group workshop is a great way of developing communication and bonding skills, experiencing fun with others. I’m convinced there will be many more skills that maybe developed via Making.

Making in one way or another has been present in our lives and perhaps its because making matters.We are on a mission to encourage a making Community embraced by all and would welcome new members with or without developed making skills. Our work to date has included groups from First Schools to Care Homes. We welcome individuals as well as enquiries for groups.

If you would like to get involved please get in touch via gillmiller2004@yahoo.co.uk. Most of our taster sessions will cost between £5-£7 which includes all materials and tools as well as tea/coffee.

Workshops will be available in our Making Workshops or we could hold sessions in your own space if you are a group. If you would like more background and regular updates, you can read about The Making Framework each Tuesday on my blog. In our experience MAKING definitely matters.

Gill Miller

Maker Artist

Group Volunteer