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New support for professional development in the Creative Sector

In 2014, the Crafts Council report Measuring the Craft Economy (2014) noted that craft skills contribute £3.4 billion to the UK economy. In the Creative Industries, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a well-established process which encourages activities that contribute to, and enhance, the creative, professional and business professional development of individuals. However, it can be difficult for mid-career and established creative practitioners to use the traditional intensive residency model which requires time away from creative work (and income generation) that are hard to justify.

The CinBA research project (Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe) funded through HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) explored whether the creativity in Bronze Age craft can inspire contemporary makers. In collaboration with the Crafts Council the Contemporary Maker Engagement Project was created as part of the Perceptions of Prehistoric Craft research theme aimed specifically at established craft makers – 6 contemporary makers were selected and given a wide range of opportunities to interact with archaeologists, museums and academics on the wider research project on a flexible timescale, allowing the researchers to explore the potential impact of prehistoric craft objects to inspire contemporary makers.

ODYSSEY by Gary Wright and Sheila Teague, 2013. 22ct gold, sycamore, aluminium, wax, fragrance (amber, pine, fig, frankincense). Credit: Gary Wright and Sheila Teague

CinBA was a transnational multidisciplinary and multi-partner collaboration led by the University of Southampton and involving the University of Cambridge, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, the National Museum of Denmark and the Natural History Museum Vienna, with non-academic partners the Crafts Council and Sagnlandet Lejre. The project focused on exploring creativity during Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe (1800-800/500BC) through developments in decorative motifs, techniques and skill for three different materials: pottery, metal (bronze) and textiles. The Contemporary Maker Engagement Project allowed the 6 contemporary makers the opportunity for interdisciplinary intellectual engagement divorced from regional constraints (a common factor of current opportunities), providing them with contacts and experiences across the UK and Europe.

Sheila Teague and Gary Wright of jewellers Wright & Teague (est. 1984) were one of the selected makers. Having never engaged in formal CPD in the last 30 years, the experience allowed them the safe space to experiment creatively drawing on inspiration from the research and to produce new works completely distinct from their jewellery practice. From the interaction with artists, CinBA has been used as an example of good practice for at least 8 successful funding bids including support worth £49,000 from Arts Council England. The model of CPD offered by CinBA has been recognised as being different, tangible and replicable. As a result, the Crafts Council have worked with CinBA to identify how research, intellectual content and practice-based research can be used to deliver CPD mechanisms for mid-career makers and have since developed a range of mechanisms that echo the principles of CinBA.

Julie Bennett, Head of Research and Policy from Crafts Council gave the following quote, “We were delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate on the CinBa project, bringing together established makers with a research environment. The project delivered even more than anticipated, it had a significant impact on how the Crafts Council viewed CPD, but more particularly on how makers viewed CPD - demonstrating that for many makers their practice is a means of research. The value makers can bring led us to seek further collaborative research projects with higher education, such as the Parallel Practices residencies in partnership with the Cultural Institute at King's College London (launched 2014), that informed both health outcomes and artistic practice. As an equal partner in CinBA, we demonstrated how craft could genuinely drive research as well give makers opportunities to develop their practice.”

This case study was featured within the AHRC 2014/15 impact report. (PDF, 7.7MB)

Gateway to Research Project Links: HERA CinBA Follow On Study (Nov 14 - Apr 15)