From Dubai to Alice Springs, Capetown to Calabria, designers and makers from around the world are exploring how craft and design can adapt to a global market. 

Parallels – Journeys into Contemporary Making was a rare opportunity to hear leading international and local makers, designers and curators share their view on the changing worlds of craft and design. 

Presented by the National Craft Initiative and the National Gallery of Victoria, the event brought together 200 of the brightest and bravest designers, makers and curators to consider the future of craft and design in Australia. 

It revealed a world in which local cultures underpin global festivals, and cutting-edge arts practice sits easily inside trade shows and fairs. 

British Council was thrilled to be at Parallels 2015, with Country Director Helen O’Neil acting as a panel moderator and rapporteur for the conference.  

“Parallels showed that 2015 is a great time to experiment as an artist, and a great time for collectors of design,” O’Neil says. “Using new event forums and market places − plus emerging digital platforms − all of us who want to are able to explore and discover more about the objects we live with and the people who make them”.

“The clear message from the conference was that innovation and experimentation are essential as designers respond to a world that demands instant, digitally-enabled access to work from around the world, but one that is also still in search of the authentic and handmade.”

The panel included leading craft and design practitioners from around the world.

Among them was UK designer Simon Hasan, who talked about his archaeology work in design – experimenting with traditional crafts in leather ‘Cuir Bouilli’ (once used for making leather armour) and using them for contemporary objects. 

Cyril Zammit of Dubai’s Design Days revealed his plans to bring International Design Weeks from around the world to show in his festival event, and also spoke of his commitment to the Middle Eastern craft artists who use local crafts and materials. 

Husband-and-wife team Trevyn and Julian McGowan from South Africa's Southern Guild spoke about their commitment to showcasing one-of-a-kind South African design pieces at leading shows that star in contemporary venues but draw on deep traditions.

Brodie Neill, an Australian now working in London as Creative Director of Made in Ratio, talked about creating boundary-pushing furniture that challenges industry convention using new technologies and materials. 

The British Council creates links between designers and cultural institutions around the world through a diverse range of projects. We are currently bringing artisans and designers together through projects in Morocco, Afghanistan and Thailand, as well as working with the UK Craft Council to bring UK work into international spaces.

As Australia renews its practice, industry structure and policy base, we recently supported Fleur Watson from RMIT University’s Design Hub to attend this year’s Design Connections programme, which offers directors and curators from internationally renowned design museums, centres and festivals an inspiring and immersive introduction to the best of the London Design Festival.

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