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This symposium is organised by the Heritage Crafts Association and Ceramic Cultures, Practices and Debates Research Group at Staffordshire University. It is funded by The Pilgrim Trust and supported by Staffordshire University, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, and British Ceramics Biennial.

When: Saturday 16 October 2021, 9am to 5pm
Where: Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Bethesda Street, Hanley Stoke-on-Trent ST1 3DW

Speakers (in-person and remote) to include:

  • Dr Neil Brownsword, Professor of Ceramics, Staffordshire University
  • Mary Lewis, Endangered Crafts Manager, Heritage Crafts Association
  • Emily Johnson, Founder and Director of 1882
  • Dr Ezra Shales, Professor of Art History, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
  • Professor Xiaoping Yu, Professor, Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute
  • Dr Geoffrey Gowlland, Research Fellow at the Section of Educational Sciences, University of Geneva
  • Dr Laura Breen, Independent arts & museums researcher, Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Vicki McGarvey, doctoral research student, Staffordshire University

Global economics and advances in automation technology have radically transformed the landscape of the UK’s ceramic industry in recent decades. Whilst these transitions have facilitated greater productivity, once commonplace skills associated with ceramic manufacture have now been displaced, threatening the continuation of much traditional knowledge. Should such practices, deemed outmoded or economically unviable for contemporary ceramic production be simply relegated to history or the trails of heritage tourism? What value is there in safeguarding this knowledge for the future? How can traditional practices be revived through new modes of thinking and creativity in a digital age?

This symposium builds upon these questions, and highlights specialist skills at significant risk of being lost from the industry, surveyed through recent research for the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts. Making particular reference to North Staffordshire’s intangible cultural heritage, scholars together with former employees and current representatives from the ceramics industry, will explore a variety of perspectives concerning a re-evaluation of the industrial crafts and their revitalisation through contemporary exchange and adaptation.

Although the symposium will be taking place within a cultural event, it will discuss ways to connect with the local community beyond cultural institutions, so that they can develop, engage and participate in ‘their’ intangible heritage. It is hoped that this event will introduce new ways of valuing industrial ceramics skills that are not influenced by the immutable heritage discourse of experts, by facilitating those that were and are still involved in the industry to articulate the value of their own heritage.

Findings will feed into a future edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts and inform its advocacy work with UK government agencies and funding bodies.

The event is free to attend, and attendees must register via Eventbrite