Garland 2.0 ✿ Building a new garden of stories


12 November 2020

Garland will begin a new journey this year, bringing cultures of the wider world together to share key questions about how we go forward.

The first Garland journey aimed to discover important objects being made in the wider world today. Our appreciation of art is often limited to official channels, such as museums and galleries. We ventured beyond familiar spaces into everyday life where objects have meaning, including the village, street, temple, home, festival and in nature. Along the way, important questions emerged about how we can come together, particularly how we bridge the gap between humans and nature, rich and poor, East and West, past and future.

In the second phase, we will explore ways to bridge these divisions. “Walking we ask questions.” We will move forward by inviting stories that respond to a key question. In this way, we offer a space to weave together many conversations across the wider world, underpinned by the objects that give it meaning.

The story thus far

By the end of 2020, the Garland platform will have hosted around 1,000 stories by more than 600 authors from 20 countries. Particular themes have emerged, such as:

  • the revival of traditional artefacts,
  • a partnership with nature,
  • the value of the crafted object in everyday life,
  • how we keep stories in objects,
  • and offering as an expression of gratitude.

These raise challenging questions, such as our relationship with nature, how cultures connect and the relative value of work coming from studio and workshop, gallery and shop.

The 21 issues of Garland have an average of 30 stories each. We tried to be inclusive in order to open our eyes to what is happening in each place. The quarterly essays have helped to contribute stories with personal, artistic and historical depth.

There have been some important developments in our journey.

Loop – giving voice to key stories

At the start, we began publishing an occasional story in our blog between issues. This has gathered momentum and we are now in the position to publish a new story every day as part of the Loop. A number of organisations have come on board as partners to provide us with stories, though we do demand that they have an individual voice rather than the generic style of a media release.

Audience – passage to India and beyond

Naturally, our readership has expanded since the beginning. Currently, we have about 20,000 people accessing each issue. Recently we’ve also seen a rise in interest from India, which is sometimes the largest source of website visitors. We do keep the door open to China through Weibo, but this has been compromised lately with growing distance from the West.

The next challenge: bringing people together

The next challenge is to bring this community together around common questions. Yarning with engaged thinker-makers will help us develop the question for each issue. The questions for next year can be found in our itinerary. We will continue to invite stories but focus especially on models and modes of practice that engage with the issues in a material way. The initial questions are:

  • What is our relationship with nature? (March)
  • How should we regard the past? (June)
  • How can cultures connect, particularly between East and West? (September)
  • What does elite luxury craft have in common with objects for everyday use? (December)

Sharing time together

While our social media channels have grown steadily over the years, they haven’t been the source of much real dialogue. Our screen meetups have been more successful in bringing people together. These offer great promise as a place for our network to connect.

We are currently exploring our chat channel as an alternative forum with the hope that the questions will generate discussion. We have started a series of podcasts that offer a deeper exploration of the work of new craft thinkers.

A circle of culture makers

One of the challenges in maintaining the Garland platform is to provide value for subscribers without diminishing the availability of stories. Contributors and subscribers become part of a Circle. Besides access to essays, the Circle receives a monthly email newsletter which helps stay in touch, including a digest of what’s been featured in social media, to save from the daily distraction.

Thinker-maker residencies

Instead of quarterly essays, the aim is to host a “thinker-maker” residency for each issue. The thinker-maker residency reflects the way knowledge can be created using the language of material and produced objects that bring ideas into our world. The residency will include an article, a podcast, an object, a community partner and forum.

Global local

One of the key themes in our journey was the Japanese concept of “living craft” (生きている工芸 Ikiteiru kōgei), which highlighted the value that handmade products can give our lives. This has added importance in a post-COVID world with disrupted supply chains. Garland 2.0 will help share knowledge about reviving local production and develop new pathways such as the Story-Making and the Airloom project for online commissions.

Reinventing the wheel

To help bring constitute a network, a formal organisation is being established that will give individuals and organisations an ongoing affiliation. This will include a “knowledge house” for gathering and sharing our learnings. The discussions that are produced through Garland can then contribute to a field of inquiry.

During the next five years, we hope to see a flourishing conversation across the wider world that gives value to the objects that given meaning to our lives. We hope now to build bridges inspired by the energy created when different cultures talk to each other.

Join us in realising the promise that has grown so far.

Help us build a new garden

The content of Garland has outgrown our website. The more than 1,000 stories need a space which is easier to navigate and read.

We are seeking support to help us create a new garden of stories for Garland. Our target is $AUD 5,000, which is around $5 a story. While subscriptions help us cover overheads, we do need a one-off investment to take the next journey. Your donation will help us re-plant this rich knowledge for future enjoyment and learning. The new platform will include:

  • Navigation pathways for exploring themes, materials and places that feature in the stories
  • Better reading experience with improvements in clarity of colours and formatting
  • Expanded space for accommodating new stories
  • A gateway including useful information about current exhibitions, upcoming talks and festivals.
  • Knowledge weaving that develops new concepts for connecting together stories

With these improvements, we hope that our garden continues to be a source of pride for the writers and inspiration for the readers.

Your support through our GiveNow campaign would be much appreciated.

Like the article? Make it a conversation by leaving a comment below.  If you believe in supporting a platform for culture-makers, consider becoming a subscriber.


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