Research by Hand: Craft Making as Research Method

Author: Nithikul Nimkulrat

peer-reviewed conference paper, 2017

The resonance of a ternary between art, craft and design has been ongoing for over two decades. Attempts have been made to distinguish craft from art and design and to define craft as a discipline in its own right.

This paper, instead of contributing to these, considers craft as “a means for logically thinking through senses” and suggests the role of craft making as a research method in a process of inquiry. The paper will begin with recent discussions of craft in relation to art and design practice. It will then adopt the viewpoints on craft as “a way of thinking through practices of all kinds” (Adamson, G. Thinking through craft. Oxford, UK: Berg., 2007) and as “a dynamic process of learning and understanding” (Gray, C., & Burnett, G. “Making sense: An exploration of ways of knowing generated through practice and reflection in craft.” In L. K. Kaukinen (Ed.), Proceedings of the Crafticulation and Education Conference. Helsinki, Finland: NordFo., 2009) to ground exploration into the role of craft making as a research method dealing with the research question to which literature alone may not yield an answer. Three examples of Ph.D. research completed in Sweden, Finland, and Estonia will be used to illuminate craft as a method that the practitioner-researcher may utilize to tackle research questions arisen from within his/her art and design practice. These examples will demonstrate how craft in a research context has potential to not only generate new or enhance existing knowledge of the practice, but also transform characteristics of the creative artefact. The paper will conclude that without craft making, some practical and experiential knowledge embodied in the practitioner-researcher and embedded in a creative process would not have been made explicit.

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Suggested Citation: Nimkulrat, N. (2017). Research by Hand: Craft Making as Research Method. In Proceedings of the 1st Canadian Craft Biennial Symposium: Can Craft? Craft Can!. Burlington and Toronto: Craft Ontario.