Lecturer in design education at Goldsmiths University
While there have been several efforts to make the craft and design sectors more diverse, many of these offer short-term fixes for what are long-term issues. These efforts provide companies with their checklist for meeting targets. What is needed now is change. Instead, design and craft organisations should look to implement longer term, five to 10-year plans to tackle the problem. A long-term approach will mean that major policies can be enacted, rather than just yearly, short-term, tick-box fixes with limited engagement.
There also needs to be clearer, joined-up thinking across the education sector, from primary through to higher education and beyond, in terms of what space art, craft and design inhabit. With this, there must be a greater focus on craft as work, with a future and a career, not only as a hobby. The stories commonly told are about turning what is termed a ‘kitchen table hobby' into a career. With craft being the career to dream about, it is often those who already have the funds that can pursue the dream.
The fact is that success in craft and design, far too often still relies on having access to various forms of cultural capital that gives you a foothold in the industry, alongside financial capital to assist with funding for equipment, studio space, and further training. There is also the continuing question of unpaid internships, with the arts and creative sector still one of the few sectors offering the largest number of unpaid internships. I ask what has changed in 30 years? As a student in the 1980s, I had to turn down an unpaid four-month placement with a prominent designer because I could not afford to live in London without an income.