oral history

8 interviews complete …

Jesse and Nikki are continuing our oral history interviewing blitz. It is absorbing and rewarding work. At this stage, we think we will end up doing more than the original planned 12 interviews (maybe 16?), because there are so many diverse, fascinating stories out there.

Oral history is an inherently slow process: the interviews are long-form, whole-of-life style, and then the processing of the audio at the National Library of Australia also takes a while. After that, the interviews are sent back to us, and Enya Moore (the project’s Research Assistant) writes a “timed summary”, and the interview is also professionally transcribed. Finally, once we have the summary, transcript and the audio MP3s, the “analysis” can really start.

Typically, Jesse listens to the interviews in-full again, at least once, often twice… as well as thoroughly scrutinising the summaries and transcripts.

Once the material has really “soaked in” it is possible to pull out some strong connecting themes and start drawing conclusions. Right now we don’t use software like NVivo or Dedoose, but that is certainly a possibility if the number of interviews were to increase from 12. 12 is manageable “in your head” – the stories linger, and it is possible to know them well. Beyond that, software helps to keep things sorted.

So far we have interviewed:

2 industrial modelmakers (1 employee, 1 business-owner)

A furniture manufacturer & designer, with a background in fabric screen-printing and stone-masonry

A fashion designer & creative director determined to keep things local and made-to-order

An artist and arts-technician with a background in boat-building, photography and engineering draughting for petrol-pump manufacturing

A textiles-patternmaker, patternmaking educator and fashion designer

An engineering patternmaker with a specialisation in making patterns for railway and heritage castings

A textiles craftsperson and artist with experience working in an industrial textile mill

Still to come – we have an interview with a design educator who worked on reforming NSW design education in the 1980s, a blacksmith and TAFE educator, a mould-making specialist who works across manufacturing and the art world, and more…

oral history

Interviews have begun!

Jesse Adams Stein and Nikki Henningham have (respectively) begun to undertake oral history interviews for the Makers, Manufacturers & Designers Oral History Project, to be collected with the National Library of Australia.

At the time of writing (18/3/22), we have completed four interviews, with several more scheduled for the coming months.

Already, we can see clear connections emerging between manufacturing, creative industries and technical education. The current group of interviewees have such diverse life experiences, but to give you some idea, we’ve been talking about: textiles patternmaking, industrial model-making, boat-building, manufacturing business management, surf-brand textiles production, art-making, industrial draughting, screen-printing, bespoke and by-demand production, industrial design education, sustainable furniture-making, readymade assemblages, offshored 3D printed prototypes and textile mills.

The importance of the local – and of face-to-face contact – is emerging as a key theme. Geographically specific zones of expertise and shared practices are core to how many small manufacturing businesses operate, and the digitised and globalised culture of free-market capitalism has brutally fractured (but not entirely destroyed) tight-knit communities of makers and technicians.

We have our fingers crossed in relation to future Covid variants and climate-change-related weather disasters – but so far so good. Who knows what could be around the corner … but we hope to continue the interviews throughout autumn and winter 2022.

Geographically, the planned interviews cover Melbourne and regional Victoria, Sydney, regional NSW, and South Australia. We hope to include other states and territories as the project grows – although given Victoria and NSW’s history as manufacturing centres, those states tend to feature more. And WA remains a goal – if you’re a maker, manufacturer or technical educator from WA and you’d like to be involved, let us know!