Smart works: design and the handmade

30 March - 4 November 2007 Powerhouse Museum

Smart works looks at the inspirational work of 40 Australian and New Zealand designers and makers. It explores what ‘the handmade’ means to each of these individuals and partnerships in relation to contemporary design and production.

For these people, their understanding of materials and technologies is essential to the success of their designs. They value skills and many have made lifelong commitments to a materials-based practice, often making one-off or limited series work for a specialised marketplace at home and overseas. Audiences who seek their work also want tangible personal associations with objects, through the way they look and feel and through knowing who made them.

However, these designers and makers also like to design objects for production and Smart Works documents the many different ways in which they have researched solutions and made their decisions. It looks at the ways they are meeting the challenges and opportunities provided by their relatively small local markets, their distant location from others, and the varied manufacturing capabilities of their region.

Smart Works looks at individual responses to some of the questions all are asking, including:

  • How do they develop sustainable, viable businesses?
  • How does production change the value of the handmade?
  • Can they produce their designs themselves?
  • Should they contract aspects to specialist industries?
  • How do they integrate new technologies with hand skills?
  • How important is their knowledge of materials?
  • What are their experiences in working in other countries?
  • Where are their markets and how do they reach them?