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Shifting Values: Parametrized Object Representations of Experience (2023)

Greg Sims, I'thandi Munro (RA)


Shifting Values investigates the creation of parametrically-designed objects based on data derived from a given survey. The initial proposed questionnaire will be directed toward students regarding their potentially racialized experiences at the post-secondary level. The project is comprised of; 1) the development of a functional and flexible parametric model 2) corresponding inputs posed as a student-facing survey 3) investigation of resulting objects and production 4) presentation of the resulting forms. Questions are focused on participants’ racial and ethnic identity, family make-up, access to community supports, institutional barriers and personal motivations. Data derived from the survey will inform the parametric design of a series of individual objects, beginning with a simple ring. The jewellery ring format is familiar, intimate and has functional aspects that may or may not be impacted by the data set.  

Once 3D-printed, these objects will be presented to the individuals whose experience – mediated through the survey - modelled them. Facilitated conversations in small groups will provide the opportunity for intimate discussion as participants interpret the objects produced in the context of their own experiences. This will provide researchers with the opportunity to capture more narrative/qualitative insights and responses. It is hoped that this conversation will not only serve to answer our initial research questions, but also contribute to a broader discussion of racism and its impacts in post-secondary education.     


We believe that the project has potential to start a meaningful conversation about injustice and racism and to identify issues, barriers faced by certain groups and individuals within a given system. As craft practitioners, we have experienced first-hand the ways in which objects can be used to create meaning, and want to engage participants in discussion regarding not only the particularities of their experience, but their views/assumptions/appraisal of the ability of objects to convey personal narrative. Once developed the project can potentially be applied to any line of questioning to illustrate disparities among respondents.

Craft and the Digital: Navigating the Folds (January 2023)

Craft and the Digital Turn: Navigating the Folds stems from a Canada-wide project investigating synergies between craft and the digital. Stories shared by Canadian academics and students in craft programs have been translated into a VR experience, revealing the ways in which the digital realm intersects with craft skills. 

The viewer navigates through a virtual Canadian landscape encountering fabrics and structures while listening to a soundscape made up of recorded voices and ambient music. This in-person VR experience invites 15 participants to sign up for 30-minute time slots to wear a headset and explore the virtual environment.

Love Letter to Ironing (2023)

Ironing can be deeply satisfying, completely tedious, a mindful meditation or mindless time drain. But what does it have in common with learning to build a digital world? This exposition explores the nature of learning and unlearning through the juxtaposition of craft skills, such as ironing, learned for the most part through unconscious absorption, versus creating through a digital interface.

Response to Anne Wilson's Davis Street Drawing Room (October 2022)

The Davis Street Drawing Room aims to foster invention and critical thinking; slow looking and complexity; textile histories, the everyday, and contemporary art. Textile parts, excavations from years of Anne Wilson’s art-making, form an archive displayed over multiple horizontal surfaces and walls in the studio (or drawing room) at 1302 Davis Street, Evanston, Illinois.

The notion of craft and working by hand are inextricably linked in the popular imagination. Wilson’s work, composed of hand and digitally manipulated lace structures invites the viewer into a material process and meaning which displaces that notion.  

The control of creative methods and output through materiality, tools and process is a central concern in craft methodology. The Davis Street Drawing Room project allows our research project to collect examples of ways in which craft practitioners are realising pedagogical, technical and methodological developments through craft perspectives.

Images: Anne Wilson


Thinking/Sinking Into the Folds of Craft and the Digital Turn

Presented at the 13th International Conference of the Society for Artistic Research (SAR) by Dr. Lynne Heller, Tricia Crivellaro Grenier, Dorie Millerson, and Kathleen Morris, Thinking/Sinking Into the Folds of Craft and the Digital Turn is a virtual reality project that explores the synergies between craft and digital methodologies within Canadian colleges and universities.
These synergies are explored through the collected narratives of craft focused students and educators about their experiences with digital tools, processes and networks. We have created an extended virtual reality visualization of historical and perceptual stories we have gathered from faculty and students of the post-secondary craft community in Canada. This Virtual Reality experience explores the synergies between craft and digital methodologies within Canadian post-secondary educational institutions.
In order to imagine the future of craft, we created a speculative topographic environment by trying to situate and interact with voices across specific locations in the country. This is explored through narratives of the relationship with and to digital tools, processes, and networks. To that end, an extended reality visualization conveys the complexity of the relationship between craft and digitality as expressed through historical and personal stories gathered from students and educators. Blending craft, artistic research, and digital space, the immersive artistic project seeks to exceed the bounds of convention by communicating affect and sensation along with data while encouraging alternative hierarchies of knowledge acquisitions.

Presentation of Thinking/Sinking into the Folds of Craft and the Digital Turn at the 13th SAR Conference, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.
The data we creatively engaged with has been drawn from two surveys conducted in 2020-2022. The first, directed at faculty and technicians across Canada aimed to establish a historical timeline of digital adoption and engagement in post-secondary craft programs. The second survey was directed at undergraduate students in the Material Art & Design program at OCAD University and craft-focused students at Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts). We asked about their experiences with digital methods as well as the shift to learning craft online during the pandemic.
Topography was a critical part of our concept. We started with a map of Canada, then created a collage of nine overlapping landscapes of the provinces, and used data derived from LIDAR measurements to create textured height maps. We visualised some of the educational institutions to help ground their locations in relation to the accumulated data and voices. We positioned the five Canadian institutions involved in our project: NSCAD University, OCAD University, Sheridan College, Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts) and Emily Carr University of Art + Design. The choice to use only the outlines of the buildings suggests the idea of seeing into and through the walls. This open structure could also indicate the unknown future.

The speculative topographic environment imagines the future of craft by trying to situate and interact with voices across specific locations in the country. This video gives a sense of the VR experience that conference attendees were invited to try for themselves with the VR headset. 

We are most grateful to Ted Carrick for the development and composition of the VR audioscape.

Shiny New Toys: A History of Digital Technology in Canadian Post-Secondary Craft

This presentation was drawn from the initial findings of our survey of students, faculty, staff and technicians in post-secondary craft studios. We are investigating the history, implications and emergent futures of digital technology and curriculum as well as community engagement and perception of the digital turn.  

Students, faculty, and technicians in craft-based programmes explore the relationship of handwork to digital technologies daily with varying degrees of access to tools and facilities. Due to a lack of research available on craft and digital pedagogy in Canada, our project is tasked with furthering our understanding of the history and present conditions of the adoption of digital technologies—tools, methodologies and networks—and how they intersect with traditional processes. 
We focus particularly on embodied pedagogy and digital technology through the lens of precariousness for this talk. With the advent of an international pandemic and distance teaching, makers and educators have been catapulted into digital immersion. This development has lent further urgency to our project. By offering up both historical and current insights from across Canada, through research findings and data captured from surveys of faculty, students and technicians at post-secondary institutions, we look in depth at aspects of precariousness and precarity, differentiate between the two and relate these concepts to craft and digital ubiquity. We speak specifically about the practices of Downloading Risk and Responsibility from institutions onto individuals; Loss and Opportunity within digital ubiquity; the issue of Shiny New Toys destabilizing traditional craft practices; and the Seismic Shift Online as a response to the threat of the pandemic. 
Lynne Heller, Dorie Millerson

A series of ten posters were created for the pilot research project Craft, Pedagogy and the Digital Challenge. The image is based on the suffragette banner, Standing Together…, by the National Women’s Party, 1913-1920, as photographed in the exhibition Agitprop! at the Brooklyn Museum, 2016 by Alex Kittle. These posters are an example of the team exploring the conventions and practicalities of a historical means of visualizing feminist voice and imagery. The images were digitally collaged, printed out in black and white and then hand coloured using pastel chalk.
Lynne Heller, Dorie Millerson

Integral to our research is the production of a visual representation of our enquiry through a Research Wall which will be documented on an ongoing basis for inclusion in our articles and presentations. This is a space where visual material, images, symbols and artefacts will be assembled. This visualization is critical to developing an understanding of the accumulated data and will facilitate a creative interpretation of the findings. The manifestations of the Research Wall will be a traveling exhibition.
© 2024 Craft and the Digital Turn