Making Surrey is a creative communities project run by Farnham Maltings and the Arts Surrey Partnership with the aim of empowering communities through craft and establishing a legacy of burgeoning makers through new connections. It is on this project that we took an understanding of community development from the service design sector and mapped it directly onto this project. We took up residency in a village called Hurst Green, a commuter beltway with scout huts and church halls, but no cafes, or doctors, and barely any shops. It was made hugely successful by my colleague Hannah Padgett’s ability to see right into the social fabric of a place and start conversations. This is now how we treat all our public projects, and was further validated by the commissioners, Farnham Maltings, later employing us to create a toolkit for craft makers interested in community engagement.
Working together in a co-creative capacity is very challenging, especially in a material they were not used to, and in many ways it would be easy to focus on one technique and repeat it over and over. But throughout the summer, we worked on a series of workshops exploring the breadth of ceramics so that the residents could make an informed decision about what they wanted to make, which turned out to be a set of large, stoneware tiles. We returned a year later to see the tiles being unveiled at the local train station where they are now permanently on display. The makers were initially from different social networks, but at the launch event we realised it was possible to create new connections through craft, and that the experience left all involved with a newfound sense of collective achievement.