Design for ‘domestication’: the decommercialisation of traditional crafts

Amy delivered a paper entitled ‘Design for ‘domestication’: the decommercialisation of traditional crafts’ in the Design Research & Crafts track at The Value of Design Research, the 11th European Academy of Design conference in Paris, 22-24 April 2015.

You can read the abstract below, and access a pdf of the full paper here.


This paper explores the contribution of design to the ‘domestication’ of traditional crafts: the reframing and support of such practices as amateur activities. Informed by twelve examples, six design strategies for the domestication of traditional crafts are identified and discussed.

This issue emerges from a research project investigating the role of design in developing and revitalising culturally significant designs, products and associated practices. Within this paper, we focus on strategies that seek to revitalise traditional crafts by supporting domestic activity. This topic is introduced through a discussion of commercialisation, a more common approach to revitalisation.

Two contemporary social trends support domestication: the strong interest – particularly in post-industrial countries – in provenance, local distinctiveness and authenticity; and the growth of maker culture and its ethos of amateur creativity.

We gather twelve examples of various formats – such as books, kits, online communities, videos, workshops and holidays – which support amateur activity. The examples are analysed via a matrix, which considers their characteristics in terms of two variables: the way in which knowledge is exchanged, and the degree of experimentation facilitated by the activity. By categorising the examples, we identify six domestication strategies, each of which involves a different combination of design activities. Finally, we discuss domestication in terms of skill and innovation, arguing that amateur practice has much to offer in both respects.