Hands-on Intellect: Integrating Craft Practice into Design Research
Nithikul Nimkulrat


Over the last two decades, craft practice has played a considerable role in practice-led design research, especially as the subject and the vehicle for theoretical inquiry. This article aims to reveal how craft as a way of thinking through material can be incorporated into practice-led design research. The author’s completed dissertation exploring the expressivity of materials in textiles is used to demonstrate how craft can drive a practice-led research process and how research can enhance craft practice. The dissertation exemplifies how the author employed her own craft practice as the main method for design research. The method was utilized in relation to Merleau-Ponty’s and Heidegger’s phenomenology and the method of questioning viewers during two exhibitions featuring artifacts resulting from the author’s craft practice. Positioning craft practice in a research context can facilitate the reflection and articulation of knowledge generated from within the researcher-practitioner’s artistic experience, so that the knowledge becomes explicit as a written text or as a means of visual representation. Research can not only transform ways of designing or making artifacts, but also theoretically inform practice so that the practice can develop the practitioner’s aesthetic intelligence, the results of which are craft objects that can be understood more easily by viewers.

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