I hold a PhD in Language Discourse and Communication awarded by King's College London.
I am interested in the relationship between craft and language; what language does for those who work in a group of disciplines and practices often portrayed as being 'other' to language; where that language comes from, and what kind of language is used to represent craft.
The crafts literature has made a great deal of the tacit nature of practical skills: of how difficult it is to talk or write about making things. On the one hand this has exoticised craft skills and has gone some way to establishing craft's particularities. Yet on the other hand it immediately creates a gap between craft and language, portraying craft practices as having little to do with language. With such a focus on tacit skills other aspects of craft practice have not benefited from theoretical attention.
Nonetheless, at the same time, craft skills are often acknowledged to be socially distributed, and craft objects are often represented as being amongst the most humanistic, or socially connected of the plastic arts. In addition none of us are isolated, separable individuals. Like almost everything else we do as people, craft practice relies on interaction and communication and language can be seen as the prime nexus of many of these interactions.
My research focussed on the use of talk between craft practitioners in a professional situation - a 'gallery conversation' prior to an exhibition private view. The thesis uses recognised discourse analysis tools (small story research, positioning theory, membership categorisation analysis, and performance) to show that far from lying outside of crafts practice, language is a key component of these people's working lives used to map out, represent, and substantiate creative practice.
Somewhat paradoxically I did this research within the framework of a recognised academic structure – the thesis-based PhD. My principle reason in adopting a genre that appears so different to what I am studying – everyday talk, was to bring rigour and analysis to the framing of a subject that might be described as unplanned, contingent, and ephemeral – qualities that also lend talk its beauty and peculiarity.
I am not advocating that academic writing is necessarily the proper genre for all practitioners to communicate the concerns and orientations of crafts practice, but rather, I have used it to properly validate the role of language in craft practice. Through this method I show that craft practice has a much greater co-dependency and more equitable relationship with the language around it than canonical accounts allow for.
The thesis can be downloaded as a PDF here.
Book chapters and conference papers:
From In Our Houses to The Tool at Hand: Breaching Normal Procedural Conditions in Studio Furniture Making. In Marchand, T. (Ed) 2016 Craft as Problem Solving. Pp115-132 Ashgate.
Stories From The Workshop: Communicative Practices Amongst Craft Practitioners. Refereed paper given at the Making Futures Conference, Plymouth College of Art, September 2013. Navigate to p48 of the conference proceedings pdf here.
History in the Making: The Use of Talk in Interdisciplinary Collaborative Craft Practice. in: Sandino, L. & Partington, M. (2013) Oral History in the Visual Arts. Bloomsbury. See the book here.
The Trouble With Verbs. Tools and Language. This was commissioned for the catalogue of the Tool at Hand exhibition and project. The online version can be seen in essays section of the website.
Listening to the Particular (2018). Catalogue essay for In Search of the Vernacular. It is available on this page.
Locally-made identities: Interactional positioning in the small stories and counter narratives of a group of crafts practitioners. 'Discourse: Multidisciplinary Perspectives symposium' The English Language & Linguistics group at the University of Sussex. 18th November 2016.
Meaning Making in the Moment: Small Stories-in-interaction Enabling Critical Reflection. To Think is to Experiment symposium, Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London. April 29th 2015.
Triangulation: Working Towards a Practice of Collaboration. Co-authored with Alice Kettle and Jane Webb. In Revetz, A. Kettle, A. Felcey, H. Eds. Collaboration Through Craft, Bloomsbury 2013.