Recrafting reclaimed waste from National Glass Centre: A collaboration between makers and matter.
Pailing, Helen (Started 2015) Recrafting reclaimed waste from National Glass Centre: A collaboration between makers and matter. PhD study, University of Sunderland.
Rooted in ideas of environmentally and socially conscious art production, this practice based research sets out to examine uses for secondary material viewed as waste within contemporary craft practice.
Through utilising recovered production materials from National Glass Centre (NGC) I will work towards a vision of ‘sustainability-as-flourishing’ (Ehrenfeld, 2013). NGC plays an international role as a production house and exhibition space for artists working with glass, and as a public space for cultural experiences. Since the decline of glass industries around the North East, NGC “has been dedicated to continuing the legacy of glass making, supporting and nurturing new glassmaking talent” (NGC website, 2015). I aim to explore how the recrafting of remnants from NGC can be viewed as a form of regeneration.
Over the past 100 years object-based art has been made to interrogate the relationship between ourselves and the material world. Today we are more aware of ecological and sustainability issues, and through technological advances we are able to learn about causality and waste practices (Braungart & McDonough, 2008). Lovelock (1979) points out that all matter, whether manipulated by nature or by humans, is derived from the elements that make up Gaia, the living earth. I intend to create ‘active’ objects for exhibition informed by ideas from environmental social sciences, appreciating all materials as valuable, vital matter (Bennett, 2010).
There is renewed interest in making, recycling and repurposing, something that has emerged at different times throughout history. The current resurgence of interest in skill and connecting with the physical world can be a means of understanding materials described as craftsmanship and cooperation (Sennett, 2009, 2013) and handwork (Crawford, 2009). This project aims to challenge the aesthetics of the recycling and examine the impact of individual and collective actions in the greater scheme of sustainability. It will draw upon ideas of Craftivsm (Greer, 2003) in the context of the current ‘maker culture’.
‘Recraft’ is a key term i.e. the material must have gone through a craft process. The process imparts a curious duality on the materials creating that which is prized and that which is rejected. Other contemporary makers applying remaking approach include: Fabien Cappello and Juli Bolaños-Durman (design), Aimee Bollu and Neil Brownsword (ceramics), Bridget Harvey (textiles), Kate MccGwire and Stuart Haygarth (art and design). I have positioned myself as artist in residence and through my work I am making the invisible visible, as Ukeles with her time at NYC Department of Sanitation from 1969.
This project is a collaboration between makers and matter because through the act of gathering and collecting materials, other makers become involved. All handmade objects have a story (Greenlees, 2011) and through my assemblages, new narratives are made. The exchange of materials and skills creates space for new approaches to making. There is potential for this transfer to be reversed so that the second maker (i.e. myself) interrupts or adapts the making process. This transfer of skills and haptic dialogue allows for new, unexpected outcomes and may impact on how makers work.
A cross-disciplinary approach to the methodology looks to actively explore contemporary craft production, bridging boundaries between fine art, design and applied art. With my background in embroidery, ‘stitch’ in the broadest sense will be used a making method.
The potential impact of this project for NGC could be for it to be a centre for excellence in management and reuse of glass. In the greater scheme of Sunderland, the project could help raise the profile of NGC, potentially helping with the city’s bid for Capital of Culture 2021.
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