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  • Coral Study, by Crafts Council Maker Anne Haworth

Research and Policy Brief February 2019

This month –

Trends in the craft sector

Need a quick summary of what we know about craft? We’ve published a short animated summary of Crafts Council and selected national findings about craft to help keep you up to speed. You can find links to all our research reports on the same page.

Special Interest Group on Arts, Crafts and Mental Health

The Crafts Council is a partner in The MARCH Network which is seeking to transform our understanding of how social, cultural and community assets can support mental health. The Network is free and open to anyone with an interest in the role that social, cultural and community assets play in mental health and wellbeing – you can join here.

We are also co-chairing (with Dr Susan Hogan, Professor of Arts and Health, University of Derby) a Special Interest Group on Arts, Crafts and Mental Health – click to join the discussion on haptics and the role of touch in craft.


A decade-long study of more than 30,000 Florida students shows how art and music classes can boost academic performance. The findings suggest that students who chose to take an arts class in middle school (equivalent to years 7 to 9 in the UK) subsequently had significantly higher grade scores, and decreased odds of school suspension, compared to students not exposed to the arts.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has noted in a speech on educational leadership that character and resilience are as important as academic achievement. The Minister’s 5 Foundations for Building Character include creativity, in which he explicitly references craft – “this involves all creative activities from coding, arts and crafts, writing, graphic design, film making and music composition.”

The Edge Foundation has published its plan for 14-19 education, calling for the scrapping of GCSEs and a review of qualifications. A poll of parents in England and Wales shows that almost three-quarters (73%) saying they believe there is too much emphasis on exam grades achieved in secondary school. Studying Craft, the Crafts Council’s time-series study of craft-related education and training, shows a decline in participation in Art & Design and Design & Technology at GCSE and the latest results from the Joint Council for Qualifications reveal a 57% drop in the number of students taking Design & Technology between 2010 and 2018.

Creative clusters and the evolution of knowledge and skills: from industrial to creative glassmaking explores the relationship between industrial and post-industrial knowledge, with a focus on glassmaking. The paper by our partnership PhD student, Lauren England, and Dr Roberta Comunian, King’s College London, calls for greater understanding of the resilience of these skills across the craft sector. A summary of the paper is available on our website and there is now a (time-limited) free link with publication reference to the full paper.


Crafting Self: Promoting the making self in the creative micro-economy explores how online distribution is changing the environment for operating a creative micro-enterprise in Australia. The report will resonate strongly with the experiences of makers in the UK, in the descriptions of the challenges of developing skills, making a living, marketing products, running a business and generating the ‘self-making’ skills required to succeed in this competitive environment.

Creative Fuse was a three-year project to explore the “fusion” between creativity, culture, and digital technology in the North East of England. The study supported innovation and growth among ‘microbusinesses’. The findings show that the ability to procure services, become stable, increase staff wellbeing and develop “creative confidence” are more important and more reflective of common staff aims. 9% of the businesses supported were in crafts, the third largest participation figure of all sectors. 30% of businesses in the North East consider access to appropriately skilled labour to be a problem.

Creative and Cultural Skills have published a workforce analysis dashboard that presents the size and characteristics of the creative and cultural workforce. The findings are intended to help the sector set new benchmarks around diversity and inclusion as well as growth. The figures show that craft makes up 3% of the sector which is consistent with Creative Industry Council figures. However, the wider range of craft industries and occupations that we include in Measuring the Craft Economy shows the true value of UK craft to be ten times higher at £3.4bn.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have published an estimate of the contribution of DCMS Sectors (including the craft sub-sector) to each region in the UK, measured by GVA (gross value added). They have given us a breakdown by region of craft GVA between 2010 and 2017 as measured in the creative industries and in culture (different approaches). The data show the most significant increases in the North East, the East Midlands, the South East and Northern Ireland. However, DCMS only measures part of the craft sector, compared to full estimates in our 2014 study Measuring the Craft Economy.

A new craft mapping of rural Wales commissioned by Merthyr Tydfl Borough Council explores interest in the idea of establishing new craft networks. It seems to suggest a growing interest amongst Welsh central and local government in policy for craft as a force for regeneration especially in rural areas.

The British Business Bank’s Our Small Business Finance Markets 2018/19 report shows that just 36% of smaller businesses now use external finance compared to 44% in 2012 and over 7 in 10 firms say they would rather forgo growth than take on external finance.

An enquiry supported by the UK’s four arts councils recommends that creative industry tax reliefs should be extended and that cities across the UK should introduce measures such as a tourist tax to fund culture. The Cultural Cities Enquiry recommends the creation of ‘cultural compacts’ to secure the social and economic benefits of embedding culture in civic life.


Arts Council England’s diversity report show that people who identify as BME and disabled remain under-represented in the largest core-funded arts organisations in the country.

Art Fund’s Calm and Collected report suggests that engaging with art collections more frequently can help improve wellbeing. The report’s key finding was that those under 30 are twice as likely to visit a museum or gallery at least once a month in order to ‘de-stress’.

RSA’s Cultural Learning Evidence Champions handbook is a practical guide to getting to grips with evidence and how to demonstrate it in arts and cultural learning. It aims to support all cultural and educational professionals to become ‘evidence champions’ – regardless of the level of experience they have in conducting evaluations. 

EU member states have agreed a precedent for the ‘right to repair’ that will require manufacturers to make available key spare parts to professional repairers for at least seven years after selling the last unit of a model. This will make many more repairs viable. From 2021, a range of appliances sold in Europe will have to be designed to allow the replacement of key spare parts using commonly available tools, without causing permanent damage to the appliance.