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The Sustainable Practice
Robert Mitchell, Ryan Taylor, Dr. Alia Weston and moderated by Ken Vickerson

What factors make a craft practice relevant, as well socially and economically viable in the 21st century?  How can research, invention and reimagined business models support these goals?  What is the difference between needs and wants and how much “Stuff” is enough? How can makers maintain passion for their practice and produce objects with utility and meaning? What can we learn from craft specialists from other cultures? How can challenges refresh and sustain a craft practice?  Does diversifying dilute or strengthen craft practice?  Moderator, Prof. Ken Vickerson (OCADU) and panelists Ryan Taylor (FTJC), Dr. Alia Weston (OCADU) and Prof. Robert Mitchell (OCADU) will explore these questions and present diverse examples, in an effort to bring practical approaches to strengthening our personal pursuits.

Robert K E Mitchell
Robert Mitchell



Robert has created wearable art for over 25 years, generating exhibition work and custom one-of-a-kind pieces that are included in private and gallery collections.  He has exhibited both nationally and internationally in group and solo exhibitions winning numerous awards for his work, including Ontario Arts Council and Craft Council grants. He represented Ontario in 2009 in the “Unity and Diversity” exhibition at the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in South Korea.  He received the Best in Show award in 2013 for his work in “Transformation”, Zilberschmuck’s 9th Annual National Juried Exhibition of Canadian Fine Jewellery & Metalwork. He was also a juror and coordinator for “OPINE” a national student exhibition hosted by OCAD University and held in conjunction with “Meta Mosaic”, the 2013 Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) Conference. Additionally, Robert recently collaborated with the AGO and the Thomson Group creating a complex mount for a delicate piece of ivory, St. Sebastian by Jacobus Agresius (c. 1638), from the Thomson private collection currently exhibited at the AGO.

A professor in OCAD University’s Material Art & Design Program since 1998, Robert received the Price Award for Teaching Excellence in 2008. He is currently a masters candidate in the Strategic Foresight & Innovation program at OCAD University, focusing on global water issues and urban agriculture. Robert received patents in 2012 and 2013 for a passive irrigation system based on Biomimicry and design principles and is looking forward to utilizing his design skills to develop sustainable urban agriculture practices in the future.


Ryan Taylor
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Ryan Taylor is the designer and co-founder of the Fair Trade Jewellery Co (FTJCo), North America's original fairtrade fine jeweller. He is a Graduate Goldsmith who has studied under a diverse collection of designers, master goldsmiths and contemporary artists.

Concerned with where his materials were coming from, Taylor was inspired to create the FTJCo in 2006 to emphasize premium standards in quality of design, source materials, and narrative. Taylor drew his inspiration from the stories he grew up listening to from his father, uncles, and grandfathers on both sides who lead their lives in the mining industry. His grand-aunt Viola MacMillan was the first woman inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.

Specializing engagement and wedding rings, the FTJCo honours this legacy with a commitment to fairness, sustainability and community holding a number of certifications including Fairtrade, Fairmined, Responsible Jewellery Council and BCorporation.


Dr Alia Weston
Alia Weston - Photo 



Dr Alia Weston has an expertise in the areas of creative design and business management. She has an undergraduate degree in Jewellery design as well as postgraduate degrees in business management and in business studies research. She consolidated her expertise in these areas by completing a cross-disciplinary PhD which bridged the areas of creativity and management. Her research and teaching interests focus on the intersection between these disciplines.

Alia's research is focused on understanding how people creatively respond to challenges in their social and organisational environments. In particular, she studies creative engagement and related practices such as innovation, entrepreneurship, art and design to explore how these can contribute to social transformation. Key themes in Alia's research include exploring creative work practices within resource constrained environments, such as the informal economy, and exploring how creative business models can contribute to solving key challenges in society.

Creativity in the Informal Economy video:

Ken Vickerson
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Ken Vickerson graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design 1982. In 1985, he established a goldsmithing practice in Toronto, producing commissioned work for the local market. In addition he has exhibited widely, including shows in Europe, Asia, America and Canada. Mr. Vickerson's work has been featured on the cover of Metalsmith Magazine, a publication of the Society of American Goldsmiths, and his critical writing has been published in numerous journals and magazines. Ken was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts in 2003. He holds the position of Associate Professor in the Faculty of Design and is Chair of the Material Art & Design program at OCAD University.        











Who We Are

Formerly the Ontario Crafts Council, Craft Ontario is a not-for-profit service organization that works to have craft recognized as a valuable part of life. We promote and celebrate professional craft through providing member opportunities, and advocate for craft practice by educating and empowering diverse audiences.