KFI Associate Stephanie Bunn has just been awarded AHRC Follow-on Funding for her collaborative project, Woven Communities: the Warp and the Weft, on Scottish vernacular basketry.
In summary, Woven Communities: the Warp and the Weft aims to draw on practical basketry as a means of extending reminiscence-work within museums and exploring design- and hand-thinking through basketry. Stephanie is working with the Scottish Basketmakers Circle (partners from an earlier project), and 5 new partners: National Museum of Rural Life, the Highland Folk Museum, the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Shetland Museum, and An Lanntair, a multi-arts centre on Lewis.
The project has two key strands.
First, a social memory, historical and intergenerational aspect. Here, the group will carry out public engagement activities in museums linked to their basketry collections with the aim of eliciting life histories and social memories from the public. In earlier research, the group found that practice, ie. making and demonstrating craft activities such as basketry, was very productive in reminiscence sessions. They will demonstrate basketry in public engagement events at museums and galleries, linked to collections, to elicit social memories from the public.
Secondly, there is a more skill-focused, hand-memory and design-thinking aspect. Because basketry is not replicable by machine, many design processes such as planning, problem-solving and innovation are embedded in the practical act of basket-work. This has led the group to consider the value of thinking-in-practice and dynamic problem-solving attendant on basketry as an important aspect of design- thinking. Furthermore, the role of embodied hand-work in cognition, and the value of hand-work for eliciting memories with people with dementia (currently being developed by An Lanntair on Lewis) and for ways of focussing attention in mental illness are closely linked to this. The aim here is to develop material for informing craft policy on this theme. Along with the diverse communities involved, these two strands are the ‘warp’ and the ‘weft’ of this project.
Practical reminiscent events will be focussed around workshops and replica making in each venue, ranging from making Easter straw bonnets, fishing creels and sculls, to Traveller basketry, exploring the whole process from gathering raw materials (such as heather and marram grass) to finished product, and involving all generations. Through the regionally specific nature of these events, it may even be possible to link artefacts in collections with descendants of former users or producers. The group will video and sound record sessions to document memories and discussion linked to the practical events. This also aims to help us extend our capacity for conveying skills, and illuminate some of the practical aspects of design-thinking and hand-memory..
The project builds substantially on Stephanie’s work with KFI, including the workshops, labs and seminars she has participated in and /or led, which have developed experimental research on these themes. This has including exploring the role of craft in attention, and for constructive and analogic thought, and . The project is also intending to link with Professor Cathrine Hasse’s Programme for Future Technology, Culture and Learning Department of Education, University of Aarhus, (linked to KFI), on transformative and risky (as opposed to algorhythmic) learning practices through diverse media. This will inevitably cross-feed into her research in the Woven Communities Project.