This paper reports upon very early findings from a three year ARC Discovery project exploring how online distribution is changing the environment for operating a creative micro-enterprise, with a specific focus on designer-makers. A key research question for the project is: what are the ‘self-making’ skills required to succeed in this competitive environment? In addition to interviews with peak organisations and established makers in the design craft sector, the project is keen to capture rich information on the experience of establishing oneself in professional practice immediately following graduation from tertiary study. A cohort of around 40 graduates from key national art/design/craft degrees will be approached to participate in annual 1-Up interviews across the life of the project (2015-2017) in order to identify the complex decision-making which underpins this critical moment in professional development. Unlike other studies which use Census or ABN registration records, this approach valuably captures data from those who may fail and/or choose to leave creative practice, generating invaluable information about failure as well as success. However, the process of identifying potential project participants revealed wide discrepancies between institutions in regards to how they approach final year exhibitions and catalogues as potential sites for student promotion and professional transitioning. Given the competitive creative career marketplace into which our graduates emerge, it will be argued here that across the sector more consistently outward-looking, digitally-engaged transitioning and promotional strategies need to be embedded in final year assessment activities to better prepare students for the professional challenges ahead.
About the author
Jane Andrew is an educator and researcher working at the University of South Australia in the School of Art, Architecture, and Design where she is the Director of matchstudio, an interdisciplinary research and professional practice studio that supports students’ transition from university to work through the participation in client based project activity. Jane’s early career as an artist/designer-maker, together with her role as Executive Director of Craftsouth (now Guildhouse) inspired her teaching and research career In 2004 she was awarded an APAI scholarship and commenced a PhD as part of an ARC Linkage Project at the Centre for Labour Research/Australian Institute for Social Research and what was then the Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s, Strategic Projects Division. Her thesis ‘Beyond the Creative Quick Fix: Towards an understanding of Creativity’s place in South Australia’s Economic Development Agenda’ argues for a more collaborative and systemic approach to fostering creativity through activating and demonstrating the nexus between teaching, research, policy, professional creative practice and economic development.
Susan Luckman is Professor: Cultural Studies in the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages at the University of South Australia. Susan is the author of Craft and the Creative Economy (Palgrave Macmillan 2015), Locating Cultural Work: The Politics and Poetics of Rural, Regional and Remote Creativity (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), co-editor (with Nicola Thomas) of the forthcoming collections Craft Economies: Contemporary Cultural Economies of the Handmade and Craft Communities: Collective Practice, Social Media and Alternative Economies of the Handmade (London, Bloomsbury 2016), and the anthology on creative music cultures and the global economy Sonic Synergies (Ashgate 2008), and numerous book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles and government reports on cultural work, creative industries and creative micro-entrepreneurialism. Susan is an interdisciplinary cultural studies scholar whose work is concerned with the intersections of culture, place and creativity. Using mostly interview and ethnographic methodologies, her research has explored these relationships in relation to craft, creative and cultural industries; digital media; and grassroots innovation. Twitter: @SusanLuckman