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Translational craft: Handmade and gestural knowledge in analogue–digital material practice

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This article investigates how craft knowledge can be utilized and acquired in the handcrafting process using digital tools and digital fabrication methods. It is based on a study that seeks ways in which craft-making and handcrafted objects can be translated using digital technology and addresses the following questions: (1) What forms of knowing and meaning-making are evolving in a craftsperson working with digital means? (2) What does it mean to manipulate material in computer-aided design through virtual reality, and how does this inform analogue material practice and experimentation? The study was carried out through the author’s craft practice. Originating with a hand-knotted artefact, the author transformed this analogue form into digital form using a range of techniques. The activities act as both a survey of digital fabrication capabilities and a way of exploring new thinking mechanisms offered by this emerging form of practice. The study broadens our understanding of the craftsperson’s role within the capabilities and limitations of digital interface and tools. Several iterations of digitally fabricated objects were documented and reflected upon. This emerging craft practice acts as a catalyst for established disciplines within art and design to collide and interact. Outcomes of this study include mapping new workflows and the translation of gestures within digital and analogue material practice and reflection on how the materials and methods used in digital fabrication have the potential to expand the meanings connected to the things that are created. These outcomes evidence not only how the craftsperson utilizes her previously acquired knowledge in a new context of working with digital tools but also how she acquires new handmade knowledge through the act of translating analogue practice into a digital one.
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Keywords: CAD; craft knowledge; digital fabrication; gesture; handcrafting; knotting; new craft; virtual reality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: OCAD University, Canada

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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