Resilience Narratives: Shifting imperatives of material-making during times of crisis

Dr Zoë Veness (University of New South Wales)
2021 Conference

This paper reflects on acts of resilience that have catalysed a radical rethinking of the future of material-making in design curricula. Finding new ways to socially reconnect is imperative for educators and students working from home during COVID-19 lockdowns. Material‑making courses have strong potential to nurture well-being and to re-build or re‑make communities that have fractured with the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Focusing on the Object Design specialisation of the Bachelor of Design at the School of Art & Design, University of New South Wales, the practice of making is introduced as a strategy of resilience no matter the material. For convenors, acts of resilience are evident in the commitment to overcoming the significant hurdle in 2020 of rapidly transitioning courses to online that were normally delivered in blended face-to-face and online modes. Adapting material-making courses to online learning environments shifted expectations regarding material use and craft skill. For design students in lockdown the use of alternative materials and processes – including everyday items sourced from the home to create models, prototypes or artefacts – demonstrates acts of resilience through resourceful methods to explore ideas about identity, time and place. The paper concludes that the designs produced by students during lockdowns are emblematic of resilience narratives in which conceptual provocations that frame project briefs find new resonance when examined in the context of personal and collective trauma.

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About the author

Zoë Veness is a designer, maker and Lecturer at the School of Art and Design, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, University of New South Wales. Her research explores innovative craft methodologies and place-based narratives through jewellery and objects. She has participated in over 70 national and international exhibitions and staged numerous solo shows including The Stream of Time at Woollahra Gallery, Sydney (2022), New Terrain in an Old World at Craft ACT, Canberra (2017), To Make an End is to Make a Beginning, her PhD exhibition at UNSW Art and Design (2014), and The Infinite Fold at Jam Factory, Adelaide (2009). Her work is currently on tour in Made/Worn: Australian Contemporary Jewellery by the Australian Design Centre and is held in public collections at the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia.