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Study information

Common Threads: Art, Craft and Activism

Module titleCommon Threads: Art, Craft and Activism
Module codeAHV2019
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Daniel Fountain (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Through feminist, queer, and decolonial frameworks, this module explores the ‘common threads’ between art, craft and activism. You will begin by unpicking and unravelling the power dynamics traditionally associated with textile materials and practices from the Renaissance to the present day, but you will primarily explore their relevance in a range of contemporary art and ‘craftivist’ initiatives that exist today. To fully examine artistic production and the politics of making, while also engaging with critical theories and debates in art history and visual culture, teaching will consist of a combination of lectures, seminars and practical workshops.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module you will be introduced to the main theories and debates relating to the relationship of art and craft, and how this is implicitly tied to issues surrounding gender, sexuality, class, and race, among other intersecting factors. Using a combination of lectures, readings, seminar discussions, group work, visual analysis, and practical workshops, the module will acquaint you with the histories of craft and the ways in which they draw from and feed into these wider political and theoretical debates on the relationship between art and craft today. Although designed to give you a broad overview of various materials, processes, and histories, we will specifically hone our focus on textiles in the socially-engaged work of contemporary artists and ‘craftivists’ who create work to explore identity, contemporary socio-political issues, and to engage in institutional critique.

Uniting both creative practice and theoretical engagement, you will also develop an embodied understanding of these materials and processes, having the opportunity to express your own creativity and ultimately discover your own critical position relative to recent and current debates on art, craft, and activism. The individual portfolio will consist of an illustrated essay, where you will document objects created in workshops and independent study time, presented alongside a critical reflection linking your practice-research to wider contextual examples, as well as theoretical concepts and debates in relation to feminist, queer, and decolonial approaches.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Critically evaluate some of the main theoretical concepts and debates framing craft, particularly in relation to feminist, queer, and decolonial approaches.
  • 2. Identify and express your own critical position relative to recent and current debates on art, craft, and activism.
  • 3. Analyse crafted artefacts coherently, convincingly, and in relation to some of the philosophical, historical, and political framings of craft production and circulation.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Independently research, present and critically evaluate examples of art and visual/material culture in relation to wider intellectual and socio-political discourses.
  • 5. Apply a variety of methodologies and theoretical approaches to the interpretation of art and visual/material culture, including object-based research and practice-research.
  • 6. Critically engage with relevant scholarly texts and historical documents, and relate them to a range of artistic practices.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Demonstrate the capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose.
  • 8. Show basic proficiency in research and bibliographical skills, information retrieval, analysis and sharing.
  • 9. Develop appropriate time-management skills for private study, and working collaboratively with peers.
  • 10. Demonstrate confidence in both written and verbal communication, complete with an ability to work creatively and imaginatively both individually and in groups.

Syllabus plan

Lectures will be structured thematically in order to address core topics relating to the relationships between art, craft, and activism, as well as relevant scholarly works and critical creative projects. Indicative weekly topics include:

  • Craft in Context
  • Subversive Stitching and Craftivism
  • Feminism and Craft
  • Queer Craft
  • Colonial Tears, Decolonial Repairs
  • Fashioning Activism

The module also includes six 2-hour seminars dedicated to close readings of core texts relevant to the weekly theme, along with critical analysis of creative projects and visual material. Furthermore, two 2-hour practical workshops will allow you to explore more practical aspects of the course, getting acquainted with object-based research and practice-research. These may be co-taught with invited artists subject to prior arrangements and availability.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching77 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching126 x 2 hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching42 x 2 hour practical workshop
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Tutorial guidance for reading, research and essay preparation
Guided Independent Study126Study group preparation and meetings, seminar preparation (group and individual), set readings, creative projects, research and assessment preparation.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral presentation10 minutes1-10Oral feedback in class
Project Proposal 500 words 1-10Written feedback with opportunity for follow-up tutorial

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Portfolio 1003,000 words1-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for follow-up tutorial

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual Portfolio Individual Portfolio (3,000 words)1-10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Adamson, Glenn. The Invention of Craft. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2018.
  • Adamson, Glenn. Thinking through Craft. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2018.
  • Arabindan-Kesson, Anna. Black Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton, and Commerce in the Atlantic World. New York: Duke University Press, 2021.
  • Auther, Elissa. String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.
  • Benda, Camille. Dressing the Resistance: The Visual Language of Protest. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 2021.
  • Black, Anthea and Nicola Burisch, eds. The New Politics of the Handmade. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2019.
  • Bryan-Wilson, Julia. Fray: Art and Textile Politics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017.
  • Chaich, John. Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community. CA: Ammo Books, 2017.
  • Fountain, Daniel. Crafted with Pride: Queer Craft and Activism in Contemporary Britain. Chicago and Bristol: The University of Chicago Press and Intellect Books, 2023.
  • Greer, Betsy. Craftivism: The Art and Craft of Activism. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014.
  • Parker, Rozsika. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine.London: Women’s Press,1984.
  • Plummer, Sharbreon. Diasporic Threads: Black Women, Fibre and Textiles. Norwich: Common Threads Press, 2022.

Key words search

Craft; Contemporary Art; Activism; Practice-Research

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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