A Few Stories (and Podcasts) from the Source: Radical Craft

“Radical” means edgy, out there on the fringe, but it can also mean root, or even effecting fundamental changes in current practices. Over two days in March at the Radical Craft conference at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, more than three dozen speakers tried to explain—sometimes directly, and sometimes by demonstrating their own work—what the term “radical craft” means in the world of design. And, consequently, in the broader sense in which we live. It wasn’t easy: “craft”, like “design”, is a slippery idea, especially when it’s applied not to macramé but to (among other things) spacecraft, magic, music, lexicography, New Yorker cartoons, and (of course) iPods.

I spoke with six of the Radical Craft speakers, several of the conversations were conducted right after their presentations. Two of the speakers are from design’s corporate realm: Claudia Kotchka, Vice President of Design Innovation and Strategy at Procter & Gamble; and Jim Hackett, CEO of Steelcase, who brought along James Ludwig, his director of design. Two speakers approach design as a political tool: Maurice Cox, the former architect-mayor of Charlottesville, VA and a professor at UVA’s school of architecture; and Martin Fisher, CEO of KickStart, a non-profit selling a water pump as a means to eradicate poverty. One approaches design from outer space: Constance Adams, spacecraft architect. And finally, Chee Pearlman, guest program director refines the term “radical craft.”

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