Making Futures IV will be held on Thursday 24th and Friday 25th September 2015, at the magnificently sited Mount Edgcumbe House on the River Tamar opposite the City of Plymouth, Devon, UK. 

Making Futures places the material cultures of small-scale making at the centre of a critical debate facing global consumer society: how might we move beyond the reductive instrumentalism of ‘homo economicus’ and mass consumption, to a political economy capable of valuing our needs for social well being and resilient communities, that can also incorporate concerns for non-human environmental resources?

Under the (intentionally provocative) rubric Making Futures: craft and the (re)turn of the maker in a post-global sustainably aware society this 2015 edition will explore contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ within 21st century society, particularly in relation to global sustainability agendas, social entrepreneurialism and community regeneration.

Moving between the individual and the social, the personal and the collective, the conference will investigate what it means ‘to make’ and its future significations – personally, artistically, economically, politically… its impact on sustainable agendas, its subversion of mass consumption, its relation to new technologies, its contribution to community and ‘place-making’, and to the possible emergence of new political economies.

In addressing these issues, this fourth edition of Making Futures will build upon the success of the three previous editions, (2009, 2012 and 2013) to explore the notion of “the (re)turn of the maker in a post-global sustainably aware society” through examples of material thinking-in-action that seek to address our increasingly uncertain futures.



Our keynotes will develop a series of related points of departure:

Cameron Tonkinwise from the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University will open proceedings by exploring the notion of the (re)turn of the maker, and how this might extend the possibilities for individuals and communities to become more locally productive, resilient and ecologically mindful.

Rebecca Burgess, maker and founder of ‘Fibreshed’ in Northern California will discuss how this (re)turn can be practically taken into ideas of community engagement and place-making, while simultaneously embracing the ethical imperative of learning to live in ecologically sustainable communities.

Mark Miodownik, Director of the Institute of Making, UCL will discuss the future relation and integration of small-scale craft ‘making’ processes with digital technologies and new emerging materials, and their possible impacts on efforts to achieve more sustainable modes of micro-based production and consumption.

Artist-maker Keith Harrison will explore the aesthetic, social and environmental values associated with making and materials, and how these can translate into ideas of community and place-making. Around the time of the conference Keith will be installing a large-scale ‘environmental’ work on the Plymouth Sound breakwater and simultaneously showing in one of our associated exhibitions, Acts of Making.



As well as running the all-important simultaneous thematic sessions that will develop and explore core facets of the Making Futures programme, (refer to ‘Indicative Thematic Sessions’ under ‘Aims & Themes’ for details) we will also mount three Research Workshops that will continue to investigate themes introduced in the 2013 edition of Making Futures:

A Western Jugaad? Makers and Frugal Innovation: in conjunction with the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, and FabLab Barcelona, will bring craftspeople, designer-makers and those associated with the ‘maker movement’ together to explore the ideas of frugal innovation.

Place – Making – Space: in conjunction with the Community21 Sustainable Design Research Group at the University of Brighton, will extend aspects of the Keynote address by Rebecca Burgess to explore the tools and methods for ‘crafting communities’ and ‘making places’ in the post-global / post-localism era.

Digital Crafting – Defining the Field: in conjunction with the School of Materials at the Royal College of Art, will extend Mark Miodownik’s Keynote address and build upon the digital thematic introduced in the 2013 Making Futures.



Alongside the conference we will run two major craft and design-to-make exhibitions:

Acts of Making: a two-week festival of six artist-makers exploring process, audience interaction and engagement. A Crafts Council Touring Project in partnership with Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth City Council, Arts & Heritage.

2015 Jerwood Makers Open: a UK national group exhibition of five artist-makers commissioned by Jerwood Visual Arts.

Making Futures functions somewhat like a critically intensive, but extremely personable and supportive, two-day retreat. The 2015 event welcomes a diverse range of responses, perspectives and experiences from the international community – artists, craftspeople, designer-makers, Fab-Lab and maker movement enthusiasts, campaigners and activists, curators and theorists – that challenge and develop our central topic, our workshops and thematic fields in ways that will help the community take these agendas forward.