Lisa Cahill on trends, challenges and what’s new at The Australian Design Centre

Lisa Cahill

Lisa Cahill

The Australian Design Centre (ADC) are a leading centre for contemporary craft and design in Australia. The Centre plays a critical role in building a significant design culture for this country by nurturing a nation of innovative makers and thinkers, and inspiring audiences to use design in their lives.

The ADC have a great range of events coming up to keep you inspired – we interviewed ADC’s CEO and Artistic Director Lisa Cahill to find out more about their workshops, talks and inspiration.

What’s trending and what are some of the challenges facing the industry?

A renewed appreciation for the handmade is seeing a revival of interest in craft and design. Craftspeople are working with designers and designers are applying making skills in their practice in greater numbers, turning the myth that craft is somehow antiquated on its head.

We’re seeing contemporary artists embrace craft, blurring what some may see as dividing lines even further. ADC on Tour, national touring exhibition Obsessed: Compelled to Make, is  emblematic of a celebration of creativity right across the art/craft/design spectrum. This focus is even more present when we work with Indigenous artists – the divide doesn’t exist – all artforms are valid and entwined. We’ll see this in October when we present the wonderful touring exhibition In These Hands Mara nyangangka: Celebrating 70 Years of Ernabella Arts by Sturt Gallery and Studios and Ernabella Arts.

Design has the capacity to make our lives better at every level. Generating a greater appreciation for design as a driver of innovation is top of mind for us in the work that we present.

Among trends we are seeing an increased use of 3D printing – a topic on which we recently published a collection of essays as part of our Object Platform ideas in craft and design initiative.

Sydney Craft Week kicks off in October with this year’s theme – Mindful Making. Can you tell us about the program and what you’re most looking forward to?

Sydney Craft Week is a ten-day festival of craft starting on 5 October. Making something with your hands is without doubt a calming, restorative activity and an antidote to our screen-obsessed lives. The Festival celebrates making, makers and everyone who wants to have a go at making something with their hands.

This year we have over 95 events – exhibitions, workshops, talks, dining events, markets and lots of school holiday activities. There truly is something for everyone. I’m so proud that the community has got behind this festival and believed in ADC’s capacity to deliver. I’m looking forward to the many events we have at ADC and get out and about across Sydney on the Craft Up Late nights, to see what others are up to. I always look forward to our makers market in Palmer Street Darlinghurst, alongside the Centre.

Design and contemporary art practices are embracing new technology like VR, what impact do you think this will have on the industry?

VR is fascinating. I think it has incredible application across many creative forms, but we need to remember that it is a tool. Artists have always been at the forefront of using technology when it is in its infancy to test its capacity and VR is another challenge for creative minds to lead the way with innovative applications.

ADC is also hosting the Real to Reel Film Festival for the first-time next month. What can audiences expect?

Yes, we’re presenting the UK Crafts Council  Real to Reel: The Craft Film Festival in Sydney on 5 and 6 September 2018.

Real to Reel celebrates craft and making in all its facets: traditional, contemporary, subversive and diverse. Featuring an eclectic program of 28 short films (across two screenings), the films have been selected from around the globe. There’s an incredible array of styles, people and approaches – from BAFTA-winning, hand-crafted animation and music videos, to glimpses behind the scenes of makers’ studios, a life-size ceramic car and more.

You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy these films – themes are at times playful or meditative, some highlight social impact projects, there’s poetry and song, even boxing! Crafts include glass, basketry, ceramics, weaving, felting, letterpress, blacksmithing and metalwork, puppet and violin making. One of the films we made earlier this year as part of our Obsessed: Compelled to make exhibition was selected for the festival and so we’re delighted to be the only Australian film – a challenge to others for next year.

Why are events like Sydney Craft Week and Real to Reel integral to profiling and celebrating craft and design practice in Australia?

I think festivals are important for shining a spotlight on the craft and design practice and bringing artists’ work into contact with a broad audience. They really do provide a showcase of practice that demonstrates the incredible creative talent that we have in Sydney and gives people a chance to have a go and find a form of making that works for them or to own a piece of handmade work by an exceptional artist.

Film is great for delving deep into practice. And who doesn’t enjoy a film festival – to see things that you would otherwise never have the opportunity to see. So, join us through September and October for a feast of craft practice. I promise it will be full of fun, stimulating events.