Dr. Emma Shercliff’s professional output

On Not Knowing How To Make

Conference – Published 10th Sep 15

Creative practice research inevitably involves attempts to explicate the role of silent, tacit knowledge in the research process. Finding words for the sensations and gestures of that which is known through our hands, and its influence on shaping the design of the research presents several challenges.

For example, as an experienced maker and trained designer, I take it for granted that I know how to shape and transform material, but because I am usually paying attention to what is happening at the end of my fingertips – responding to the resistance of materials and adjusting the pressure or position of my tools – I am not necessarily questioning how I know this, nor what the implications of this knowledge might be more broadly. Using examples from my doctoral research, this paper explores how I approached bridging this gap between implicit and explicit knowledge, and maps out my journey from a practitioner knowing how to make things to a researcher not knowing how.

The results suggest that an embodied knowledge of a craft like hand- stitching requires the body to recognize particular sensations and patterns as an order or standard by which one measures one’s ability. Not recognizing the patterns creates a sense of disembodiment from the tools and materials in the form of physical discomfort. In my view, this emphasizes the importance of the body as a site of knowledge generation that to some extent renders objects and texts inadequate as containers for this experiential knowledge, but raises questions for researchers concerning the documentation and dissemination of sensation and experience.

Publication details

Publication status unPublished
Refereed 1