Advanced manufacturing technologies and design-led innovation have been heralded as a life-raft for Australian manufacturing. While these tools offer opportunities in industrial design and engineering, the same cannot be said for manufacturing trades—the formerly secure cornerstone of working class employment. Rather than framing manufacturing tradespeople as having redundant skills, this research asks: What are our existing strengths?
This project endeavours to provide an historically informed understanding of Australia’s creative and technical capacity, which avoids nostalgic representations of craft. Focusing on the trade of engineering patternmaking, the project explores how contemporary patternmaking has been outsourced and/or reduced to ‘just finishing’ computer-generated forms. Its proposes how patternmakers’ extensive design knowledge might be recognised, reimagined and integrated into future vocational and design training.
One key output of this project involves oral history interviews with manufacturing tradespeople, giving these skilled craft workers a voice. These interviews are being archived in the National Library of Australia, filling a gap in the Library’s collection. The research will be analysed to develop academic and policy arguments about how to support people through the significant social and cultural shifts being experienced in manufacturing communities.
Planned publications include a book entitled Just Finishing (manuscript in preparation), oral history interviews and a HistoryLab podcast. This project is funded by the UTS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, the National Library of Australia, and the Faculty of DAB.