The manipulation of paper string became the author’s visual and tactile experience. Objects found in the studio served as sources for inspiration and as molds for constructing the works into particular functional forms. During the craft production, the eye focused on the moving hand that manipulated the material according to the image of expression arising in the mind (Figure 14).




Figure 14. Physical interaction between the material and the maker that stimulates an artistic expression in the maker’s mind, which then informs her hands to gradually form the material into an object.


“[Thinking] is a craft, a handicraft, and therefore has a special relationship to the hand. … Every motion of the hand in every one of its works carries itself through the element of thinking, every bearing of the hand bears itself in that element. All the work of the hand is rooted in thinking”, says Heidegger (1978, pp. 356-357). The movement of the hand knotting the material into artifacts facilitated the process of thinking and embedded the maker’s thought in the artifacts. Merleau-Ponty (1962, pp. 365-378) maintains that when one touches an object, the touch as physical contact searches for a relationship between the touched object and the consciousness of the person who touches it. In the author’s craft making, the sense of touch sought a connection between the image in the mind and the material in hand. The connection became information about how to implement the technique in order to actualize the idea in a physical form.


During the Paper World exhibition, questioning the audience as method was utilized. Feedback forms modified from those used in the Seeing Paper exhibition (Figure 5b) were distributed to visitors. The open answer on the form encouraged people to give their nuanced opinions. Their comments showed that they understood the meaning of the overall exhibition and exhibits the author intended to convey. Due to the material used, the viewers experienced the non-functional craft objects in the functional forms differently from the actual useful objects. Paper string hinted that the practical functions were inapplicable to them. This incident suggested the expressive potential of a material in giving new meaning to ordinary forms. By reproducing of the objects’ basic characteristics, form, and scale, Paper World not only represented the actual everyday objects but also highlighted the meaning of the objects represented. As Heidegger (1962, p. 191) points out, people know how they will interpret things before they actually see them, by relating what they are experiencing to the meaning of similar things they have earlier experienced. As the visitors to the Paper World exhibition knew the outward looks and the materials of everyday artifacts and the fact that a gallery is not an actual home but a place for displaying creative work, they understood that those forms of household artifacts were not objects that can be used, but representational artifacts.


Conclusion: Craft Can Lead and Be Informed by Design Research


This article has demonstrated through the author’s practice-led research project how craft as a way of thinking through the hand can be involved in design research as a research method. Craft practice facilitates and leads the research process into a particular direction in order to tackle the research problem. When the practitioner-researcher is able to pursue a suitable means for connecting creative practice with academic research, 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 and the results of it (i.e., craft artifacts) can be understood more easily by the audience at large.

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