In December 2016, six students from the Royal College of Art travelled to Southeast Asia to explore the lives and crafts of women in Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar and the problems and potential opportunities for further development and expansion of the craftwork, while at the same time improving the lives of the women and bringing economic growth to their communities. What they found was a vibrant craft industry, full of rich tradition and cultural influences, with great potential but conservative attitudes, though there were some areas of computerisation and mechanisation, men becoming involved in design and manufacture and university support for further development, such as Fai Gaem Mai, a 20-year old university initiative which operates seven teaching facilities across northern Thailand. One of the key issues is encouraging the younger generation to take up craft design and manufacture, which currently has too large a concentration of older workers.
The exhibition “On the Line” at Aram Gallery, portrays a sense of optimism, but also urgency for change, hence the title of the exhibition, which needs to come both from within and with the support of external partners:
“Craft doesn’t mean going back to pre-industrial ways of life, it opens up new possibilities for a post-industrial age” (Sandra Sordini, RCA).