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Conference themes

1. Stepping Up – the Changing World

Around 500BCE Heraclitus said "The only thing that is constant is change". Despite intermittent periods of relative stability, change continues to be a central characteristic of life, particularly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. As a group of people who work with or are associated with one of the world's oldest art materials, how do we adapt to or, indeed, drive change? Ceramics courses in universities (and those TAFEs that are still running them) are being cut to save money, whilst community pottery groups are booming, and international residency opportunities and mentorships are increasing.

So what will ceramics training and education look like in the future?

From the rapid prototyping of old (throwing on the potters' wheel), 3-D printing is being explored in ceramics – it is fast becoming commonplace in other materials. What are the implications of this for studio pottery and ceramic design? Will the seductive power of 'new' technology spell the end of studio practice as we have known it, or will clay – the material of our current creation – prove resistant to uptake? Laser and waterjet cutting have found their niches in craft practice (including ceramics), as have many other industrial processes; so is there a studio of the future that will engage with all of this?

By 2020, over one third of the world's population will live in China and India, and when the whole of Asia is counted, projections have more than 50% of the world's population living in this region. Australia is well placed to be active in securing a seat on this express train, but what are we doing about it now? How will this affect our practices, our output, our livelihood and our understanding of 'our' culture?

2. Stepping Up – Your Role in the future

Although there persists a romantic view of the potter or ceramic artist working alone or in a small team – either in a rural or urban setting, how closely does this reflect the truth? We are all citizens of the world and, as such, have a responsibility to contribute to its betterment and that of the ecosystems it supports. This engagement can take many forms, and the opportunities to use the skills and understanding that we have to useful ends are many and various. Personal concern, within our own studios, about our impact on the environment and our own health; official aid programs, development projects and community events, targeted at improving health outcomes for those populations who are disadvantaged or in need of assistance are just some of the many ways in which meaningful engagement with the broader world can take place.

3. Stepping Up – Making Money

In discussions at ceramic gatherings, the elephant in the room is often money and economic survival. It is essential in today's connected world that we utilise all marketing resources available. But this can mean much more than developing a website or printing business cards. The way in which social media, industry collaborations, networking and fundraising have become the norm rather than the exception in the commercial world demands that we explore, as creatively as possible, all avenues for selling our work or our skills. One all too often witnesses a slight sniffiness associated with the whispered comment 'commercial' when people see selling exhibitions, marketing strategies or advertising ploys that do not pretend to be otherwise. To what extent are we selling our souls to the devil when we 'make to sell'? What are alternative and creative ways to develop commercial partnerships, and novel ways to raise capital for ventures both inside and outside the studio?


Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre Australian National University Canberra Potters' Society Strathnairn Arts Association The Australian Ceramics Association