Digital crafts

Nice article by David Crow

Craft has been rooted in particular tools and associated techniques, each defining its respective practice, as have the design disciplines, historically, and much of art: painting, printmaking, photography, typography and so on. But today anyone calling themselves a graphic designer or an artist will likely employ a wide range of tools and media, and quite possibly engage with the ideas surrounding each practice and its inherent ‘craft’. Yet despite the cross-influence of areas of cultural production on one another – or because of it – the habit of defining practice in terms of the use of tools is not helpful in the information age. This is mired in a discourse that has been static since the sidelining of the Arts and Crafts movement a hundred years ago. Nor does it recognise the
cross-disciplinary nature of contemporary practice.

Craft is so often described as a practice surrounding a specific set of materials. But in truth it is less the material that defines the practice as the process of play, experiment, adjustment, individual judgement and the love of a material – any material. Exploring craft through coding, these new digital artisans and designers share the love of material with their counterparts in ceramics or glass or textiles. Their wonderment at the possibilities is infectious and inspirational. Education must look to these individuals to help redefine our relationship with the computer, and to draw attention to the important fundamental values in the ‘traditional’ crafts, too. With the help of the programming community we can ground our graduates in the language of both physical and abstract material, and move from treating the computer as the mystery ‘black box’ to the box of magic it surely is.