Crafting Sustainability : A Study of Traditional Craft Practices in Central China

Zhang, Wanlin and Walker, Stuart and Hands, David (2022) Crafting Sustainability : A Study of Traditional Craft Practices in Central China. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Today, traditional handmade crafts with a particularly local provenance are being appreciated and valued by consumers around the world. Noticeably, many designers have been involved in the re-examination and reassessment about the contemporary value and contribution of traditional craft practices and craft objects or artefacts. In China, in response to the UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Convention for the Safeguarding of ICH (Intangible Culture Heritage), China has implemented a mechanism characterised as a combination of central initiative and local participation to create its own ICH and ICH Inheritors lists at multiple levels. Although much traditional heritage craft has been officially recognised as ICH, this does not necessarily mean that they are well-developed. This research aims to determine the relationship of traditional craft practices to sustainability in the Chinese context, to investigate and delineate the role of design in relation to Chinese craft revival activities, to identify sustainability-related issues, and to identify areas in which design can contribute to the long-term continuation of traditional craft practices. It draws upon the fields of craft and sustainability studies to provide a theoretical base for the research. The concept of ‘crafting sustainability’ is proposed, and four research propositions are formulated to explain the relationship of craft traditions to sustainability. Constructive methods are used in this research, including in-depth observations and thirty- two semi-structured interviews with a range of experts in craft fields. Primary data collected in three provinces of central China were coded and analysed. Analysis of the research helps validate the four research propositions developed from the literature. Also, their connections to place and people, significant values and ways in which craftspeople take their practices and conduct their businesses, and existing design interventions are interpreted from results. Overall, this study identifies 1) a variety of heritage making practices within the Chinese context; 2) a range of top-down support mechanisms provided by the Chinese government; 3) the relationships of craft makers and their practices/businesses to sustainability; 4) significant values that influence craft makers’ practices and their business; and 5) design opportunities for sustainability and viability.

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Thesis (PhD)
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22 Jun 2022 10:15
Last Modified:
11 May 2024 02:34