A definition and description of craft process and practice is complex, and will include the contemporary and the designer-led crafts alongside those located in heritage, conservation, architecture and the built environment.
Craft can be defined as intelligent making. it is technically, materially and culturally informed. Craft is the designing and making of individual artefacts and objects, encouraging the development of intellectual, creative and practical skills, visual sensitivity and a working knowledge of tools, materials and systems.
Within the cultural and creative sector, craft has shifted from the commercial position in the museum or gallery shop to be included in the intellectual space of the gallery. Craft curatorship is gaining ground alongside curatorial practices in other disciplines. Within the economy crafts people are positioned within the creative industries , often working as a creative industry of one, or as part of a small or medium enterprise or studio, with 425 trading from a formal workshop at their home. Significantly, over 72% are developing international contacts. Nearly 20% are exporting and the most common exports are ceramics, followed by jewellery and textiles. ( Arts Council 2007)
The heritage crafts can be further defined as practices which employ skilled use of hand tools and an understanding of materials and have their roots in traditional functional design. Heritage is not the same as 'old'. What do we value from the past and through tradition, and what do we want to pass onto future generations?
Craft is active and consistently re-positioning itself alongside cultural and market forces. In times of local and global austerity and increased awareness of environmental issues , the craft attributes 'make do and mend' have shaped and informed the concepts of re-cycle, re-claim, up-cycle and vintage.
The conservation profession also interrogates craft values, to include craft as knowledge, as a learning and economic process, and with social, religious and cultural contexts. Crafts are not simply a way of making objects but are bound up with the structures, values, history and identities of the communities in which they are located. What are the best strategies for protection and what are the implications of intervention?
Linked to both conservation, and forward facing through professions to include architecture, surveying, engineering, town planning and landscape design, the crafts and craft makers are located within architecture and the built environment. Alongside traditional work in wood, thatch, brick, glass and stone, craft skills, and makers provide solutions and concepts for housing, public buildings, installations and spaces, combining technical and material expertise with creative thought and expression.