International Journal of Art & Design Education

A Collaborative Design Curriculum for Reviving Sheet Metal Handicraft (pages 369–377)

Volume 34.3   2015



Galvanised sheet metal was a popular and important material for producing handmade home utensils in Hong Kong from the 1930s onwards. It was gradually replaced by new materials like stainless steel and plastic because similar goods made with these are cheaper, more standardised, more durable and of much better quality. The handicrafts behind sheet metal products are also phasing out because the machine-based production process has become the norm. Today sheet metal handicraftsmen in Hong Kong are facing a survival problem. This article is a case study on the design of a 14-week curriculum, an assignment design and follow-up events aiming to preserve and disseminate the knowledge and skills of the craft to a younger generation of designers, who typically lack hands-on design-and-make experience since such hands are mostly replaced by computers. With the collaboration of a university design school, an NGO and a practising sheet metal handicraftsman, this design curriculum managed to achieve multiple-level objectives: the galvanised sheet metal handicraft being appreciated and inherited, the anonymous and forgotten blue-collar craftsmen being recognised as professional artisans, the birth of innovative products employing the material and the craft, as well as new job opportunities and markets explored for the profession in the contemporary world. From a pedagogical perspective, it also evaluates why the students found it a satisfying learning experience. The significance of the study is that it suggests a similar collaborative curriculum design could be applied to a broader scope of traditional handicrafts for cultural inheritance.