What is the place of craft in the 21st century textile industry?
The story goes… In the 19th century, industrialisation was at odds with traditional crafts, particularly hand-weaving. In the 20th century, this conflict was diffused with the emergence of the studio craft movement, which found a secure place for the handmade in the context of art. The reduction of craft skills in factory production continued with relative little resistance.
In the 21st century, much textile manufacturing has moved West to East, particularly southern China. While this was initially associated with lower consumer prices, it is now linked to loss of jobs in the West. As many question the future of the consuming West, craft skills are being re-valued as testimony that not all productive capacity has been lost: there is still a place for local manufacture. Some craft artists are using denim as a natural medium of democracy. What does denim, and other ‘industrial crafts’, say to us now?