This new strand of the PGR Studio blog profiles the exciting research and researchers of our Faculty to give you a taste of what post-doctoral life might look like. We kick off with a glimpse into the world of craft and the politics of expertise and diversity.


Project Title: Craft Expertise

Project lead: Dr Karen Patel, School of Media

I am currently working on a two-year AHRC Leadership Fellows project in collaboration with Crafts Council UK. The project, named Craft Expertise, focuses on the politics of expertise and diversity in the craft economy. Developing initial work in an AHRC-funded Creative Economy Engagement Fund (CEEF) project which examined how social media can support diversity in craft, the Fellowship intends to develop intellectual, practical and policy contributions pertaining to issues around diversity and skills development in craft.

The research seeks to problematise existing notions of expertise in relation to the craft economy, challenging notions of amateur, feminised, home based craft activities which are perceived to require a lower level of expertise compared to masculinised forms of craftsmanship, such as those lauded in Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman. By addressing the framing of expertise in craft, this research will contribute to knowledge on expertise in contemporary craft practice, and provide the underpinning research to address skills gaps in the sector, particularly digital skills.

The objectives of the project are:

  1. To develop a theoretical account of expertise in cultural work within the focused area of craft, to explore how inequalities and skills gaps in the sector could be addressed.
  2. To develop a STEAMLab workshop with makers which will refine and develop the social media resources produced during the Creative Economy Engagement Fund (CEEF) programme which explored how social media can support diversity in craft. STEAMLabs are a workshop programme which is a part of STEAMHouse, Birmingham City University’s interdisciplinary hub in central Birmingham designed to bring together practitioners and academics to work on projects with a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) emphasis. The STEAMLab workshop will explore principles of wellbeing and creativity through social media use. Insights will inform the Crafts Council’s Talent Development Programme to explore how social media platforms can be used for visibility, community and mutuality to potentially support diversity in the craft economy.
  3. To carry out an ethnography of makers in a range of spaces, settings and practices, including domestic-based individual makers, collectives, and workshops and events held by makers. The ethnography will consist of observation within spaces and settings, social media analysis and interviews with makers. The ethnography will provide insights into diverse forms of making in varying settings, from domestic spaces to purpose-built maker hubs.

The project outputs will include a conference, policy recommendations, practical resources for makers, a podcast series and a journal special issue/edited collection.


If you are interested in finding out more about this project, follow Dr Karen Patel on Twitter (@KarenPatel) or join Karen and her colleagues for a #WorkOfArt Live Dialogues on ‘Craft, Enterprise and Gender in the Digital Age’ in TV Studio A, Parkside on Friday 21 June 2019 (book your ticket here).

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