24th July 2020

Craft / Featured / Standard Practice

Standard Practice, Engaging Communities Through Craft: An Original Interview with Some Good Ideas

9 7 mins 0

SStandard Practice is a dynamic studio team of designers and makers that takes a DIY approach to the built environment. We discuss how they aim to inspire creativity in others, the importance of engaging people in making and how coronavirus has changed their perspective of craft and technology.

Some Good Ideas: Hi Jess, will you tell us a little about Standard Practice and some of the work you do? 

Jess at Standard Practice: Hello! And of course. At Standard Practice, our aim is to keep places engaging as a true reflection of people and culture, often taking a DIY approach to the built environment to enable community engagement and involvement in city building.

Our most well-known project – other than building stools with the lovely people at the Good Life Experience in 2019 – was the Pilcrow Pub in Manchester, which we created over the course of twelve months with over 600 volunteers. Since then, we have worked with Manchester International Festival on large scale ceramics workshops; built a playground designed with school aged children from across the city for U+I; and have taken up residence in a number of civic spaces around the city, most recently the Old Bank Residency at NOMA. 

SGI: How do you inspire creativity in others? 

SP: We most regularly use creativity as a catalyst for conversation. We inspire creativity by creating an atmosphere in which everyone feels equally capable and empowered, where the outputs of the activity in question are very rarely what we’re actually looking for!

SGI: Why is it important to engage people with craft? 

SP: Craft is often seen as something beyond the grasp of day-to-day life, something only to be engaged with when you have the time or something that can make you money, so one of our aims is to remove this feeling and to reconnect people regularly with getting hands-on, exploring and embracing whatever level of creativity they feel comfortable with. It’s been especially noticeable during lockdown how people are turning to ‘craft’ (and actually the arts and cultural sectors in general) to find an outlet for their emotions.

Further to this, it’s important for people to engage with craft – be that making, doing, acting, singing, painting – to recognise the influence it has on the economy and the world we live in. It’s not a flowery sector which is only for the select few, it’s a massive industry which contributes £8.5bn to the UK economy annually. Over the coming months, we’ll see even more need to support our arts sector in tangible ways as we see the continued effect of Covid-19, so it’s essential that we continue to help in whatever way we can.

SGI: Typically, your workshops and events are a hands-on experience; how have you been navigating the obstacles Covid-19 has thrown at you?

SP: We’ve definitely had to embrace technology more than we have before. We’ve often referred to ourselves as ‘Luddites’ in the past but that’s definitely less of an option now!

For our main space at the Old Bank Residency in Manchester, we cultivated a programme of creative activities, demonstrations and discussions within the first week or so of lockdown, to offer a bit of an escape. They covered everything from Joe doing pottery demonstrations in his back garden here in Manchester, Charlie Manthorp down in London running sessions on sourdough and fermentation and Found Fiction in Leeds hosting interactive workshops in blackout poetry. Through trying to navigate the situation Covid-19 has thrown at us, we’ve expanded our pool of workshop leads and activities while also expanding our audience, with people tuning in from across the globe.

We were lucky that, through our funding from NOMA, we could also offer this for free so the only limitation we had was the technology – something I think we are all trying to tackle at the same time.

Stepping away from physical spaces has also forced us to reconnect with our more experimental side, too. We recently worked with Manchester based artist Joe Whitmore to create an interactive 8-bit game version of the NOMA neighbourhood, where people can visit all of the buildings and even pop into The Pilcrow for a virtual pint! It’s fair to say we wouldn’t have struck on this if we were still working on our usual programming.

Stepping away from physical spaces has also forced us to reconnect with our more experimental side, too.

Standard Practice

I think this will have a positive impact on our work in the future, and really dig into the accessibility of all of our activities. Why don’t we do more online engagement, for people with other commitments or who cannot physically access civic spaces? Ultimately I hope this question gets asked more broadly in our cities, too.

SGI: What does the future of craft look like? 

SP: I think 12 months ago, this would have been a much easier question to answer but the reality is, we don’t know. And that’s completely invigorating and exciting!

For us, the concept of craft and creative collaboration in the future will likely involve us stepping away somewhat from building, making and putting more physical items out into the world and instead, looking to engage through telling better stories of cities, development and architecture. We’ll be presenting the loose ends of projects for the public to help us finish; slowing our pace to take time to listen, understand and think; and embracing the ambiguity of the world we’re now in.

SGI: And finally, where do your good ideas come from? 

SP: I think our good ideas come from the combination of people and personalities at Standard Practice. We each have different backgrounds, different interests and different reference points, meaning we can approach projects from a variety of angles. Combine this with the public’s and the aims for our clients and you’ve got a recipe for some very exciting outcomes!

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Based in Manchester, Standard Practice are a dynamic studio team of designers and makers that takes a DIY approach to the built environment. They specialise in informal urbanism to strengthen, support and challenge traditional urban practices.

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