Hold Everything: central theme of ‘the vessel’ provides a trans-disciplinary conceptual context and an interdisciplinary approach across contemporary craft studios

Ashley Eriksmoen and Niklavs Rubenis (ANU)
2017 Conference

In this paper, we describe the pilot version of Hold Everything, a new course utilising a trans-disciplinary framework of a single theme to deliver layers of value from a packed, multi-disciplinary studio experience to a seemingly bottomless well of metaphorical and conceptual territory. Students eager to “make something” as a break in routine received more than they bargained for as they expanded their awareness of objects, production, and definitions of “vessel”.


While handmade objects are generally valued in contemporary society, there remains a lack of awareness around materials and processes. In the first instance, this course aimed to increase exposure to ANU School of Art & Design (ANU SOA&D) craft workshops. The value of making by hand has been recognised not only as the means to the end product, but for the multiple benefits to the maker ranging from achieving a state of flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1997), to personal fulfilment and development of self-identity (Korn 2014), to expanding neural networks and capacity for lateral thinking (Wilson 1998). For casual students, increased awareness of the personal value of making objects by hand was a key outcome of the course.


Students also gained an expanded notion of ‘the vessel’ and its omnipresence. They interrogated metaphors and concepts of the vessel through tangible encounters with clay, timber, and fabric, taking into consideration the formal, the functional, and the personal. Through this lens, objects as mundane as a wooden spoon, a ceramic cube, and a printed t-shirt provided students valuable new perspectives of themselves and the world around them.

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About the author

Ashley Jameson Eriksmoen

Australian National University



Ashley Jameson Eriksmoen is a designer/maker with a practice straddling contemporary studio craft and critical design. Eriksmoen exhibits internationally, and is the recipient of awards including an Australian Council grant, the Windgate Fellowships at San Diego State University and Centre for Art in Wood (Philadelphia), and the Norwegian Marshall Fund Grant. Eriksmoen studied fine woodworking at the College of the Redwoods and earned an M.F.A. in Furniture Design at Rhode Island School of Design. Her work addresses the gap between the living world and the built world through animate, furnituresque objects. Eriksmoen’s research centres on issues of sustainability, natural resources, and waste. She is the Head of the Furniture Workshop at Australian National University School of Art & Design.


Niklavs Rubenis

Australian National University



Niklavs Rubenis is a designer, maker and curator with a diverse research and studio practice. He has been involved with projects spanning community, non-profit, commercial and cultural institutions, and has had work exhibited and presented nationally and internationally. Rubenis’ research revolves around consumption and production, material culture, technology and the importance of retaining, promoting and applying craft skills to the almost forgotten practice of re-use and repair as a tool for slowing down waste. He divides his time between practice and lecturing at the School of Art & Design, Australian National University.