One of the interesting talks I attended at Neocraft was presented by Amy Gogarty titled “China on my mind” or, ceramics and the “new orientalism”. Gogarty’s investigation brought into focus the practice of artists traveling to China and Japan to study and be inspired by the traditions and aesthetics of the regions, be it Leach and his followers or contemporary Western ceramists. What she questioned where the “less explored (..) contradictory issues of ethics, politics and culture that govern such exchanges in a period of extreme political, social and economic change.” The paper, a new branch of research for the writer has been richly researched through direct contact and discussion with artists whose practices are incorporating travel and research in the region.

One such artist, who is working directly with industry in China is Janet Deboos whose research has undertaken exploring the relationships between the handmade and the industrially produced object and the ethics and aesthetics of production. She has traveled extensively to China to work with the Huaguang Company’s bone china design group in Zibo, working with the company’s workers developing and designing molds, in the beginning from drawn designs and more recently from hand thrown models. The next stage is to work with the Rapid Prototype Unit at the Australian National University. Rather than put too much of this inspiring and timely research into my own words here are a few links so you can get it all first hand.

The first website, Design Hub has a video of her presenting the paper ‘Design meaning making: making meaning design’, at the ‘Smart works’ symposium at the Powerhouse Museum on 31 March 2007.

As the site states:
“Janet DeBoos believes that the priority that we give to different aspects of production will determine outcomes. These priorities can be (almost inevitably will be) altered by engagement with industry. In this talk, she examines changing priorities with respect to her experiences and attempts to make some judgement about their respective values.”

This video is taken from the Smart Works Symposium on Design and the Handmade. And oh how I love technology – you can spend an entire day (should you be so luck as to have one to spare!) going over all of the talks as podcasts.

Here’s some of the topics and speakers:
Peter Day (UK) – The Heartbeat Economy: surviving in a global world
Professor Xing Ruan – Ephemeral China/Handmade China
Rod Bamford: ceramics, NSW – Lost in translation: designed and made across cultures
Rebecca Eggleston: Designing Futures project, WA – Designs for a viable local industry
Robert Foster (F!NK and Co): metal, ACT – An organic process: the nexus between handmade and industry
Marc Harrison (Husque Pty Ltd):Qld – From waste to want? Sustainable design: recycled materials, macadamia shell
Alexander Lotersztain: design, Qld – Working between global manufacturing and encouraging village industries
Brian Tunks (Bison Australia): ceramics, ACT – Ceramic tableware: local employment; global market

There is also a publication that can be ordered through the site.

And Craft Victoria’s Craft Culture website has a a great review by Sue Green of two new books called, Handmade in Melbourne and Freestyle: New Australian Design for Living which discuss Janet’s work among other Australian designers/craftspeople.

You can also check out more on the Freestyle website, including all the participants in the exhibition, which brings together the work and stories of 40 outstanding designers. The book is available through their online shop.