This website is a legacy for 'the shape of things' which gives access to the rich archive of information which was generated over the life of the project's main delivery phase 2010-2012: photographs, films, essays, catalogues, commentary, and audio

What was ‘the shape of things’?

the shape of things was a national initiative which considered what distinctive contribution culturally diverse artists whose practice is contemporary craft make to influence or reflect national identity

the shape of things encouraged new thinking about cultural diversity within the crafts sector in relation to professional practice, developing audiences and creating new markets

The main delivery phase of the shape of things was from January 2009 to June 2012 following an extensive development and action research period


To provide bursaries to artist makers for the production of significant bodies of new craftwork as a context for considering and debating what distinctive contribution artists make to influence or reflect national identity, to connect Britain with global cultures and to reference the intercultural nature of British society

To create opportunities for that work to be presented in specific locations and venues, and to introduce artists and curators to each other’s work thereby supporting their creative and professional development and enhancing their professional profile

To connect the process of commissioning contemporary craft with that of making acquisitions for public collections, and to explore ideas for extending audiences, and the market for private buyers

To provide a programme of professional development events to engage those creatively involved in making, presenting and interpreting contemporary crafts in critical debate, and build a strong network of those concerned with diversity in crafts

To add value to the work of museums and galleries in education and enhanced curriculum development, as well as in building audiences and marketing for exhibitions

Main activities

Nine artist’s were awarded bursaries to create new work which was exhibited in galleries across England: Rezia Wahid at the Crafts Study Centre (Farnham) and at the City Gallery (Leicester); Rosa Nguyen and Alinah Azadeh at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Halima Cassell and Seiko Kinoshita at Bilston Craft Gallery and Touchstones (Rochdale); Tanvi Kant and Taslim Martin at Touchstones; Chien-Wei Chang and Maggie Scott (exhibited separately) at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery (Leicester); all the artists also exhibited at Flow Gallery (London) and the Crafts Study Centre.

The exhibitions were supported by curators Simon Olding, Julia Carver, Emma Daker, Yvonne Hardman, Natalie Cole, Sophie Heath, Kathy Fawcett, Hugo Worthy, and Yvonna Demczynska

A public engagement programme linked to the exhibitions, including participatory workshops for the public, opportunities for the public to talk to the artists, and workshops for undergraduates

A programme of professional development including seminars, a Symposium, an audience development toolkit, and on-line essays, films and commentary

Key Outcomes

the shape of things:

- Stimulated rich debate within the crafts sector about the term ‘diversity’
- Was a forerunner to Arts Council England’s ‘Creative Case for Diversity’
- Positively challenged museums' programming
- Built new audiences for participating venues
- Challenged audiences’ understanding of the parameters and definition of contemporary crafts and applied arts
- Developed the professional practice of the bursary artists
- Impacted on the curators' learning and development

For much more detail about the outcomes read 'sharing the impact' (below and download right) and Hybrid's evaluation


Director: David Kay (2003-2011), Ruth Hecht (2011-2012)

Craftspace was the managing agency & provided administrative support - Melissa Davies-Lawrence and Emma Syer

Steering Group: Deirdre Figueiredo, Alnoor Mitha, Kathy Fawcett, Lesley Butterworth, Julia Carver, Rosa Nguyen, Taslim Martin, and Jackie Lee

Curators: Julia Carver, Natalie Cole, Emma Daker, Yvonna Demczynska, Kathy Fawcett, Yvonne Hardman, Sophie Heath, Simon Olding and Hugo Worthy

Bursary Artists: Rezia Wahid, Rosa Nguyen, Alinah Azadeh, Halima Cassell, Seiko Kinoshita, Tanvi Kant, Taslim Martin, Chien-Wei Chang and Maggie Scott

Others who worked on the shape of things on everything from management and audience development to documentation and PR: Munsur Ali, Ed Chadwick, Caroline Griffin, David Hyde, Sophie Mutevelian, Bharat Patel, Mary Rahman, Chris Smart, Richard Van Gramberg, Samina Zahir and Joanne Peters (Hybrid), Smith and Milton. Many other artists, curators, journalists and arts managers contributed to the shape of things including: Bim Adewunmi, Lucy Bayley, Emmanuel Cooper, Emma Crichton-Miller, Liza Cody, Anita Dinham, Bonnie Greer, Momtaz Hussain-Begum, facilitator Will Kay, Magdalene Odundo, George Ruddock, Vannetta Seecharran, Erica Steer and Takeshi Yasuda

the shape of things was funded by Arts Council England with significant support in kind from the participating venues

sharing the impact

summarises the achievements we made and outlines key facts about the programme

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