A stylized image of various colourful craft and design materials on a black background


A Making & Thinking Symposium

November 14–21, 2020

A Virtual Event at harboufront.live

$22.50 / $11.50 Student


“Necessity is not the mother of invention – only of improvement. A man desperately in search of a weapon or food is in no mood for discovery; he can only exploit what is already known to exist. Innovation and discovery require aesthetically motivated curiosity; they do not arise under the pressure of need, although of course once new properties of matter or new mechanisms become known they are available for use. This may sound strange, coming from a technologist, but the fact is that down through history most of man’s inventions have first appeared in decorative rather than practical applications.”

— From “Aesthetic Curiosity – The Root of Invention” by Cyril Stanley Smith, August 24, 1975, The New York Times Archives

Allowing for outdated language, this extraordinary quote understands that it is humans’ innate “aesthetically motivated curiosity” that first discovered the characteristics and possibilities of materials and techniques – not need. The earliest excavated ceramics represented mystic cosmologies created to give meaning to the ineffable, not functional vessels to hold food and water – that came later. Artists and craftspeople led the way.

Harbourfront Centre, in partnership with Craft Ontario, will deliver a symposium that brings together craft and design professionals to explore and discuss intersections between making, culture and material innovation. Inspired by a connection to the University of Toronto’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and looking at current discoveries of new materials and applications, we plan to create a symposium environment where local, national and international participants can explore craft through the lens of material sampling.

The theme of material sampling is rooted in the relationship between professional craft practice and the development of new materials and techniques. The theme plays off the notion of sampling as a teaching/testing process, common to all craft practice. The connection between the making of objects and the science of materials is an age-old dynamic, with each fostering innovation in the other. Craft practice embraces material fluency, intention and discovery, and within the context of today’s global issues, this includes economic disparity, waste and environmental destruction. The methods and local applications of craft can offer solutions and meaning.

Symposium Schedule

Seetal Solanki Keynote
Materials: Translating Meaning

Saturday, November 14 at 1pm

Keynote speaker Seetal Solanki speaks on materials as a way to translate meaning.

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Glenn Hibbard, Jessica Lertvilai, Cole Swanson, Michael Massie
Material Curiosity

Sunday, November 15 at 1pm

Panelists speak on material curiosity as a creative driver followed by an interactive break-out session moderated by Gordon Thompson.

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Jonathon Anderson, Cody Norman, April Martin
Materials & Meaning Part 1

Thursday, November 19 at 7pm

Panel discussion on material sampling and iteration as experiment, followed by an interactive break-out session.

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Katherine Gray, Jay Havens, Karin Jones / Cocktails and Trivia Night
Materials & Meaning Part 2

Friday, November 20 at 7pm

Panel discussion on materials and embodied learning followed by a virtual Cocktail and Trivia Night.

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Amber Zuber, Brigitte Clavette, Meghan Price
Materials and Embodied Learning

Saturday, November 21 at 1pm

Panelists speak on materials and embodied learning followed by an interactive break-out session.

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In Partnership With

Craft Ontario logo

Artist-in-Residence Program Partner


Making & Thinking: Contemporary Craft & Design Series

This dynamic series addresses current topics of significance and interest within the contemporary craft and design field by inviting artists, curators and writers who are spearheading contemporary thought and practice.