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Re-inscribing the value of craft in times of dictated obsolescence

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This article introduces a design research mediation project, Anti-amnesia, that explores various connotations of ‘wealth’ as embedded in the material culture and human narratives surrounding traditional crafts in Portugal. The project argues that ‘wealth’ is undergoing a process of signification that is semantically reductive, being brought to tacitly invoke monetary gain rather strictly, if on an underwritten basis, and this is bearing an adverse effect in terms of perceptions towards other consequential but intangible values related to craft practices. In this regard, it presents the case of traditional Azulejos tilemaking, a long-established cultural archetype in Portugal, whose original technique is on the brink of dissipation due to the emergence of newer manufacturing and architectural paradigms. The article respectively reviews the actions of a collaborative initiative Azulejos do Porto that is focusing on the craft’s reanimation through making creative connections between culture and community development. The article correspondingly presents a case for design research and pedagogy to establish long-term hands-on collaboration with such restorative initiatives that are oriented towards traditional making. The project conjectures that the resulting interknowledge can reveal complementarities between all stakeholders: which can be tactical towards addressing critical issues that are affecting traditional crafts’ relevance to contemporaneity; provide suitable conditions for an extended evaluation of crafts’ multifaceted nature in terms of value to culture and society and can connect newer generations of creatives to their making heritage, thereby ensuring a continuity of specialized know-how.

Keywords: Azulejos tiles; active pedagogy; cultural conservation; design research; heritage crafts; interknowledge

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Porto/ID+, Portugal

Publication date: September 1, 2020

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  • The aim of Craft Research is to advocate and promote current and emerging craft research, including research into materials, processes, methods, concepts, aesthetic and style. This may be in any discipline area of the applied arts and crafts, including craft education.

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