This provocative question is posed by a highly interesting symposium, initiated and organized by Central Saint Martins College London and Cockpit Arts London, which will explore and question the values of beauty in making and craft. Practitioners, researchers, policy makers and educators will raise the question of how comfortably material practice sits within our need to radically transform economic, educational and social structures in times of multiple crises. Is Beauty Enough will be hosted online, free to attend and open to all. See full programme below:


Monday 26 April, 5.30–6.30pm
Economics for a Just and Regenerative Future

For the opening session of Is Beauty Enough?, Rob Shorter (Communities and Education Lead at DEAL) will consider how ecological and social foundations must be paramount to building new, transformational economies. He will also be joined in a conversation hosted by Debika Ray (Writer, founder of editorial consultancy Clove Press and contributing editor at Crafts magazine) and with Annie Warburton (CEO, Cockpit Arts) and Rachel Dickson (Dean of Academic Programmes, Central Saint Martins). Together they will ask:

  • What can we learn from doughnut economics in order to reach a just and regenerative future?
  • What assumptions do we rarely unpick when talking about economics in art, craft and design?
  • How can we avoid economic contradictions where sustainable products are made only for the elite?

Book for Economics for a Just and Regenerative Future.


Tuesday 27 April, 5.30–6.30pm
Beauty, its power dynamics and its prejudices

More than mere ornamentation, the beautiful objects we make and surround ourselves with are the physical embodiment of our identities, traditions and relationships. Yet, often the narrative told about our material culture – whether in museums, magazines, academic courses or mainstream discourse – is incomplete, shaped by unequal power dynamics and historic prejudices. In this session, Debika Ray (Writer, founder of editorial consultancy Clove Press and contributing editor at Crafts magazine) will host a conversation between Christine Checinska (curator of African and African diaspora fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum), Steve Ali (silversmith, founder of jewellery brand Road From Damascus and co-founder of the Refugee Media Centre) and Taslima Ahmad (textile designer, founder of Manchester based non-profit Creative Design & Manufacture UK and winner of the 2020 Heritage National Lottery Award). Together they will ask:

  • How can we ensure the fields of design and craft open up so that everyone has the opportunity to discover their talents, express themselves and make their mark?
  • Should we consider people’s right to express their identity and culture through making to be a basic need? If so, how can we ensure that what we collectively value reflects the richness and diversity of human society?
  • What can craft and design learn from other disciplines, with fewer hierarchies between different types of practice?

Book for Beauty, its power dynamics and its prejudices.


Wednesday 28 April, 5.30–6.15pm
Is Beauty Enough?

Objects can easily speak a thousand words. They bring along with them the artistic expression, imagination, creativity, perspective and historicity of their makers. Yet – as sustainable or beautiful as they may be – are we able to tell if the objects around us are forces for good? Or instead, do all our objects come with an unseen cost?

In this session, Jeremy Till (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Central Saint Martins) will present a short provocation for a debate around the role of beauty in object-making and its influence on contemporary consumer culture and desire. Framing thought within the context of sustainable practices, this session will ask:

  • If our planet is overburdened by production, distribution and consumption, can we justify continuing to make objects for their beauty alone?
  • Have developments in art, craft and design over the past decade genuinely helped us produce alternative models to conspicuous mass production? Or do we mostly continue to produce beauty as either unattainable or unsustainable luxury?
  • What role do beautiful objects play in our world today? Are the objects around us forces of good or bad?

Book for Is Beauty Enough?.


Thursday 29 April, 1.00–2.00pm
Placemaking and Planetary Care

Over the last ten years, the term Placemaking has established itself as a multidisciplinary approach to improve public realm within our cities. ‘The community knows best, is a slogan often associated with good Placemaking, drawing on the local potential of a place with the intention of creating more inclusive and diverse spaces. This lunchtime talk proposes to shift the focus and asks what Placemaking looks like when it centres the non-human and foregrounds planetary care as a key concern. In short, what if ‘the planet knows best’? Together, Andreas Lang, Torange Khonsari, Seetal Solanki and Anita Mckeown will ask:

  • What voice does the non-human have in the Placemaking conversation and how can it be heard?
  • What would regenerative Placemaking look like, which actively counters climate change and biodiversity loss and foregrounds planetary care?
  • What new forms of governance need to emerge if we shift the focus from Place-making to Place-care?

Book for Placemaking and Planetary Care.


Thursday 29 April, 5.30–6.30pm
Making beauty in an endangered world

Endangered species. Endangered crafts. Endangered ways of life. Is this the new normal? In a world where our natural resources are under pressure more than ever, with one million species at risk of extinction, how do we reconcile human making with the survival of non-human species? And how do we situate the meaning of beauty in this critical context?

Jared Diamond argues that we must learn from previous societal collapses to prevent the next one. Can we designers truly provoke new models for making? Our panellists Kate Goldsworthy, Maurizio Montalti and Ali Rakib will discuss the notion of making beauty in the context of shifting economic models such as the circular economy, collaborating with living systems and adopting biofabrication principles. Lead in a conversation by Carole Collet, they will also provide an anthropological perspective on the value of craft knowledge in the context of a climate and biodiversity emergency, asking:

  • What does beauty mean in the context of a circular economy?
  • How do we generate beauty when working with living systems?
  • What can anthropology teach us about making beauty in an endangered world?

Book for Making beauty in an endangered world.


Friday 30 April, 1.00–2.00pm
What Futures are there for Beauty?

Over the past week, Is Beauty Enough? has staged numerous conversations, debates and talks which have sketched out the role of beauty across regenerative economics, the circular economy, Placemaking, activism, consumer behaviour and identity and culture in craft, art and design. For its closing session on 30 April, we’ve invited UAL students and recent graduates to showcase their response to one or all these themes by asking some central questions:

  • How can we defend material practices and object-making in a world overflowing with stuff?
  • What role(s) do we play as makers and designers in redefining beauty?
  • In the context of multiple crises which we are facing, is making and designing for beauty enough?

Book for What Futures are there for Beauty?.

Image Sources:

© I Belong – Nitya Anand, Graduate Diploma Fashion, 2020

Ingrid Ruegemer

Fields of Expertise: Art, Craft, Design