Machine-made lace, the spaces of skilled practices and the paradoxes of contemporary craft production

Article


Fisher, Tom and Botticello, J. 2018. Machine-made lace, the spaces of skilled practices and the paradoxes of contemporary craft production. Cultural Geographies. 25 (1), pp. 49-69.
AuthorsFisher, Tom and Botticello, J.
Abstract

This article inspects a set of paradoxes that appeared in an investigation of contemporary
industrial craft in the last remaining factory making machine lace in the United Kingdom.
Its focus on a single site, set against a now global industry, means it can build on work in
cultural and economic geography to understand this setting as a heterogeneous space, with
links to a range of material and immaterial lineages, practices and networks. Ethnographic
fieldwork on the factory floor at Cluny Lace threw up three paradoxes inherent in the firm’s
continued survival in a context of industrial decline. The first of these paradoxes is the reconcentration
of material and immaterial resources in the factory both despite and as a
result of the global restructuring of the textile industry. The second is the embodiment of
knowledge, and therefore craft skill, both within persons and distributed through the
worker’s material environments. Third, is the recognition that the skilled practice the
workers carry is not uniform but is multiple, resulting from an unequal distribution of
opportunities within the lace industry and different versions of practice that result from
the re-concentration of human capital in the factory. This article demonstrates that skill is
not uncontested, but is power-ridden and value-laden, and transcends scale. It shows that
knowledge and skill are not bound within an individual but are distributed among social
actors, material objects and locales, where an attention to each is necessary for
understanding the spaces of skilled practices and the ongoing survival of contemporary
industrial craft production.

Keywordsembodiment; industrial craft; knowledge; machine-made lace; skilled practice; work
JournalCultural Geographies
Journal citation25 (1), pp. 49-69
ISSN1474-4740
1477-0881
Year2018
PublisherSAGE Publications
Accepted author manuscript
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1177/1474474016680106
Web address (URL)http://doi.org/10.1177/1474474016680106
Publication dates
Online09 Dec 2016
Print01 Jan 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited20 Feb 2017
Accepted19 Sep 2016
FunderArts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Arts and Humanities Research Council
Copyright informationFisher, Tom and Botticello, Julie A (2016) ‘Machine-made lace, the spaces of skilled practices and the paradoxes of contemporary craft production’, Cultural Geographies, 25(1): pp. 49-69. © The authors 2016. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.
LicenseAll rights reserved
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https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/8492z

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