Supporting Diversity and Expertise Development in the Contemporary Craft Economy [Phase 2]

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: ADM Birmingham School of Media


This project focuses on supporting diversity in the contemporary craft economy, drawing on research from the UK and Australia. The project continues an ongoing collaboration between Birmingham City University and Crafts Council UK which seeks to highlight the experiences of makers of colour in UK craft, and work towards supporting a more inclusive sector. During the first phase of the project we have carried out interviews and produced a podcast series called Maker Stories. The research carried out so far suggests that the craft expertise of women of colour is questioned or devalued primarily because of their ethnicity, but in some cases also because of their class. As a result it is difficult for them to establish themselves or gain visibility in the UK craft sector.

During phase one the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, and the utility of craft skills became apparent as some makers used their skills to help with the response, and craft became even more popular as a means to pass the time (Murray, 2020). At around the same time in 2020 there was increased activity around the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK, which helped to draw attention to the whiteness of UK craft. Though the UK craft economy has grown significantly over the past decade, the proportion of professional makers of colour has stayed the same, at 4% (Crafts Council, 2020). Phase two of this project will explore how craft can be more inclusive, looking at how inequalities around race, class and the digital divide are manifest in craft, providing practical interventions to address them and exploring alternative pathways to market, so that more people can contribute to the craft economy and aid its recovery post-pandemic. Some of the research will be carried out in Australia, where craft is also hugely popular, but where there is also racism in the sector (Taylor, 2019).

The project will focus on areas of the craft economy which lie outside of the professionalised sector, namely community crafts and social enterprises. This will involve interviews with makers, observation of community craft groups and craft social enterprises in the UK and Australia. This work will raise a greater awareness of the specific experiences of makers whose work is not necessarily considered 'expert' or valuable. This is because it lies outside of the professionalised domain, which tends to be allied to high art aesthetics and white, middle class, Eurocentric tastes (Luckman, 2015). This research seeks to challenge these existing hierarchies of craft within two countries where craft created by migrant and diasporic communities in the UK (see Bhachu, 2004), and indigenous communities in Australia (Myers, 2002), are devalued [see Patel_CfS]. The research will inform thinking around how hierarchies of craft can be challenged or disrupted, to foster a more inclusive sector. The research will also include online ethnography, which will focus on social media platforms such as Instagram, where debates about racism in knitting and fibre crafts have been occurring since 2019. These debates have often resulted in makers of colour feeling targeted and stigmatised online. Research from phase one of the project also suggests that some makers of colour are reluctant to have a significant online presence, for fear of abuse. Some online spaces have emerged which aim to support makers of colour, such as BIPOC in Fiber in the UK and Sydney is Cancelled in Australia. The online ethnography will explore how the makers involved manage their online presence, and what the aforementioned safe spaces do to foster inclusion.

The research will inform a toolkit with practical guidance for craft and creative organisations and craft education providers (in further and higher education) to adopt, to make their spaces more inclusive. We will also produce academic outputs and a two-part audio documentary to raise awareness of the specific challenges makers of colour face.


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Patel K (2022) Special issue introduction: Craft economies and inequalities in European Journal of Cultural Studies

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Patel K (2022) In conversation with Deirdre Figueiredo MBE, Director of Craftspace in European Journal of Cultural Studies

Description Citation in Mento/Mentee report by University of South Australia
Geographic Reach Australia 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to new or improved professional practice
Description Crafts Council Collaborate project fund
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to new or improved professional practice
Description Crafts Council UK 
Organisation Crafts Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research from this project will inform Crafts Council UK's diversity and inclusion strategies, and also inform training provision.
Collaborator Contribution Crafts Council UK provide expertise on the UK craft sector, networks and public engagement opportunities for this project.
Impact Blog posts and initial working paper -
Start Year 2019