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Stephen Bottomley, Jennifer Gray, Geoffrey Mann

Beneath the Surface / eca: Digital-craft borderlands in education

Stephen Bottomley, Jennifer Gray, Geoffrey Mann

Affiliation: Edinburgh College of Art / University of Edinburgh

Key Words: Integration, (Im)-materiality, Practice-led teaching

Conference activity: Presentation Thurs 10th July,  Pop Up Exhibition Trelissick House

Project Summary:

This presentation explores the current craft practices and ethos of academic craft makers within the Design school at Edinburgh College of Art / The University of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) has had a strong virtuous tradition of studio-based practice dating back to the 18th Century and now with an increasing community of digitally versed makers, practices go beneath a material surface to investigate shared themes of production, narrative, and memory raising the following questions:

  • How are digital methodologies being introduced to traditional studio based craft programs like Glass, Jewellery and Silversmithing by subject practitioners (Mann, Bottomley and Gray) and applied by their new emerging makers?
  • Have values of craftsmanship altered when operating in the territory between craft culture and digital making?

To explore these questions the philosophical approaches of Bottomley, Gray and Mann to research and practice, will be examined in relation to the academic curricula they shape through projects and post-graduate research at eca (e.g Bo-Wen Chan 2011).

Examples will include:

LTD Edition’ an undergraduate project, now in its sixth consecutive year (2009-14), for the digital design and manufacture of small batch production runs of jewellery utilising industry level rapid prototyping manufacture and casting and most recently sintering technologies.

Otherwise Unobtainable’ an undergraduate project that introduces digital fabrication as an integrated tool within studio glass. The project was designed as a response to the growing aesthetic language of digital manufacture.

This paper will demonstrate how the digital alone cannot deliver polished and beautiful finished products and recognise the importance of integrating essential hand skills and tacit material knowledge with the use of modern digital technologies.


Adamson, G., 2013, The Invention of Craft, London, Bloomsbury

Shillito, A., 2013. Digital Crafts, London, Bloomsbury

Harrod, T., 2003. Otherwise unobtainable: the applied arts and the politics and poetics of digital technology.  Canada, The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

One question that arises from your project: How are digital methodologies being introduced to traditional studio based craft programs by leading subject practitioners and applied by their new emerging makers?

Full paper

Bottomley, S. & Gray, J. (2014). Beneath the Surface: Digital craft borderlands in education. In K. Bunnell & J. Marshall (Eds.), All Makers Now: Craft Values in 21st Century Production, International Conference Proceedings, Autonomatic Research Group, Falmouth University, 10/11 July 2014 (pp. 23 – 27). Falmouth University, ISBN 978-0-9544187-9-3


Image Credits: Alice Bo-Wen Chang MFA ECA 2011, hand held object