About the Project

This will be the first project to explore the full and growing field of artisanal production and consumption in Australia.

By understanding the meaning and values underpinning people’s choices, and not just counting their economic effects, the project will be able to understand how small-scale and artisanal producers can maintain sustainable businesses, the cultural identities and discourses in play in the selling of Australian-made goods, and how locally made artisanal products can inclusively reach wider markets.

Artisanal practices have taken on new and more diverse characteristics as the local has become an important site of action during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, directly linked to supply chain impacts, global mobilities (or their absence), and the need to be more attentive to how and where we shop and produce. However, the issue of affordability continues to haunt the contemporary artisanal sector, with the higher cost of the artisanal raising ongoing questions about equality and access. Who is able to ‘turn to the local’ (either as a producer or consumer), and what does this mean for the sustainability and growth of local artisanal production?

To answer these questions, the project builds upon the previous collaborative work of the CIs, bringing together their respective expertise as media and cultural scholars exploring food (Dr Michelle Phillipov) and craft (Professor Susan Luckman) economies and their social worlds. Through this joint research, we have identified multiple alignments between food and craft economies and the ways in which they have become vehicles for a larger reimagining of ideals of production and consumption across much of the Global North. Central to this is the way that both sectors mobilise similar, and often intertwined, discourses that champion the local alongside other powerful cultural ideals around authenticity, retreat, and the celebration of the artisanal.

Project activities

The research will consist of three primary activities:

  1. analysis of media and cultural discourses, and government, social enterprise and NGO policy initiatives;
  2. a national survey of consumers; and 
  3. semi-structured interviews with small-scale Australian producers.

These methods will allow us to go beyond analysis of individual production or consumption sectors to investigate the broader ecosystems in which local production and consumption occur, thereby revealing the intersections and opportunities of artisanal and small-scale production as a broader field. By offering an integrated analysis of the interaction between artisanal production sectors, producers, consumers, and media and marketing texts, this project will explore the discourses and practices shaping local artisanal economies and identify new ways in which markets for the artisanal can be sustainably realised and grown.