Humanity is one of our central values and it’s one we strive for in everything we do and we expect everyone we work with - our team, makers, partners and suppliers - to show humanity and respect it at all time towards others.
Over the last few weeks, and against the backdrop of global events, we have been reflecting on what this really means and how true we are being to it. We may have good hearts, honest intentions and be staunchly committed to equal opportunities but the reality demands more of us. The lack of ethnic diversity in the craft landscape - only 4% of craft makers are from a BAME background - and other parts of the creative industry, is systemic and it is our responsibility to act.
As a brand and business in this arena, we want to take steps to contribute to bringing about positive, real and lasting change. This needs to be done from the ground-up - tackling the hurdles and web of systemic issues which interlink with this under-representation. We feel that this can be achieved through altering our internal processes around staff and recruitment, how we seek out new maker talent, and using the voice and platform we have built to establish partnerships that provide means and access to a diverse set of communities and groups.
Outlined below is the framework for change that we are committing to.
Before we look outwardly, it’s important that our own house is in order and that means having basic systems in place to protect our team. At The New Craftsmen we do not tolerate any forms of discrimination and seek to protect our staff, makers and suppliers from discriminatory forms of behaviour. Assuming that good principles is sufficient does not go far enough. As such we have defined a clear process to be followed to address any discriminatory behaviour to protect our staff inside and outside the business, and are making this a clear part of our on-boarding process.
EDUCATION & LEARNING
To become a more aware and diverse practice, begins with education and reflection. We need to be embedding antiracism and diversity at all levels of our organisation. We are currently seeking the most effective training course for the whole team, as well as more in-depth training and support for those at management level. Whilst this is a start, we also acknowledge the need to actively seek out learning in all forms, especially from others, so that we continue to grow.
We are currently reviewing our recruitment process to ensure that we attract more diverse talent, particularly from BAME communities. This means examining where we advertise our job opportunities, the language we use, and the proactive opportunities we provide to build a more diverse make-up of individuals within our team. It’s also reflecting on all of the other creative individuals that we partner with on a project or freelance basis to realise imaginative work - photographers, designers, stylists, illustrators - looking beyond our own familiar circle to work with dynamic talent from all sorts of background. We will be partnering with different networks and not-for-profit entities to help us seek out and attract this talent.
The craft landscape is not a level playing field in terms of opportunity, especially for BAME communities. That is why we want to work with young people from different backgrounds, giving them insight into the craft (and creative) industry and the role they can play within it. We will be working with two different bodies to offer work placements and mentoring opportunities for young people that provide guidance, insight and real learning.
The hurdles that face makers - funding, studio, cost of tools and equipment space, living costs - are amplified amongst certain groups and communities, and we need to do more to help over come these hurdles. We are currently researching possible partners and bodies to establish the best way to improve access, including establishing an annual Award, that could help support crafts makers from BAME communities, on their journey.
It’s important that we reflect on our own biases around selection and the processes that we have in place that may perpetuate under-representation. In parallel, we also need multiple sets of eyes out in the industry and broader craft landscape that proactively bring to our attention the work of exceptional makers from all backgrounds. We are in the process of establishing a team of ‘maker scouts’ that will include BAME members who will be ambassadors and conduits for incredible talent as well as approachable and familiar figures in different communities that new talent can connect with.
MENTORING & DEVELOPMENT
For a maker, getting creative and commercial feedback is absolutely essential, especially for those in the early stages of their career. We are looking to establish an annual open event which provides face-to-face advice and guidance on portfolios with our Creative Director, Head of Product and potentially other makers. This will be open to all, but we will be taking steps to ensure that we work with specific groups to specifically target and encourage makers from a BAME background to participate. We will announce dates and timings for this soon.
INVESTING IN BAME TALENT
We have always strived to enable our makers to create new and ambitious work. Since our founding we annually invest our own Product Development funds to help makers realise collections and pieces that otherwise would have been challenging to conceive. To ensure that we are supporting a broader spectrum of talent, we will be earmarking a portion of our Product Development investment for makers from a BAME background.
We realise the enormity of the issue and that change will only come about through connected and concerted effort from us and others across the craft world. We don’t have all the answers and we still have much to learn, but we can and must do better.
We hope that with this framework we can contribute to positive and lasting change. Some of these actions will have an immediate impact whilst others will take longer to achieve, so it’s our intention to remain committed and focused for the long-term.
If you would like to get involved we would love to hear from you - just let us know how you think you can help. Please email [email protected].