Director, Crafts Study Centre

  • Academic
  • Research
Dr Stephen Knott

Stephen Knott is Director of the Crafts Study Centre (CSC), a specialist university museum based on UCA’s Farnham campus. The CSC holds acclaimed collections of modern and contemporary crafts and is both a research centre of UCA and a charity that serves to advance the study and enjoyment of craft.


Stephen is a writer, researcher, and educator, specialising in modern and contemporary craft history and theory. Trained as a historian at UCL, the focus of his research shifted toward craft, design and material culture during his PhD at the Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum where he researched amateur craft, supported by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award. Drawn further into the breadth, eccentricity, complexity, and global roots of modern craft during a postdoctoral fellowship at the CSC in 2012-13 that focused on craft education, Stephen has shown his commitment to craft studies through his editorship of The Journal of Modern Craft since 2012 and several notable publications. These include Amateur Craft: History and Theory (Bloomsbury, 2015) with its roots in PhD research and articles and reviews for Design and Culture, West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History and Material Culture, Performance Research, Crafts, Craft Research and The Journal of Modern Craft. In 2018 Stephen curated Tendenser at Galleri F15 in Moss, Norway, a showcase of contemporary craft and edited the accompanying catalogue and was co-curator for Presence and Absence (2021-22) at the CSC, an exhibition which responded to the lack of diversity within the Centre’s collections.

Previously, Stephen was Senior Lecturer in Critical and Historical Studies at Kingston University where his duties included module leadership, PhD supervision, a full contribution to REF 2021, teaching on the MA in Art and Design History, and curriculum planning. Stephen has also held teaching roles at Liverpool Hope University, The Royal College of Art, Camberwell College of Arts, and Buckingham University, and has been invited to talk at international events and symposium relating to contemporary craft and craft studies: for example in seminars and lectures in Norway, Sweden, France, as well as in the UK. He has collaborated with various craft-specialist institutions and networks including the UK Crafts Council, Norwegian Crafts, Craft Scotland, the British Council and Art Jewelry Forum.  

Research statement

Stephen is an active researcher within the field of craft studies that is both niche and global. Existing publications have explored craft in a variety of everyday contexts and the relationship between amateur and professional practice. This included a broad overview of the phenomenon of amateur craft in Amatuer Craft: History and Theory (2015) and more specialist research into a range of topics from the craft of fancy dress (Performance Research, article of 2021) and the history of evening classes in Britain (The Journal of Modern Craft, article of 2014) to the prevalence of visual mediation in contemporary craft (Watching Making, publication accompanying Tendenser, 2018). Current research includes a major monograph titled Making in Free Time (Bloomsbury, forthcoming) and a chapter ‘Society and Politics’ for The Cultural History of Craft in the Modern Age (Bloomsbury, forthcoming), that both explore craft’s connections to broader cultural and social history. Everyday material culture remains a core thread through Stephen’s research interests.

Recent research aligns with the CSC’s current priorities to decolonise its collections and more fully reflect the diversity of its audiences. Critical to this mission is to reflect the existing diversity within the CSC’s collections and tell different stories to the canonical narrative of British studio craft. In the 2021-22 exhibition Presence & Absence at the CSC that Stephen co-curated with Dierdre Figueiredo Director of Craftspace, objects and archival material were displayed to show the global dialogues that were integral to the formation and flourishing of studio craft in twentieth century Britain. The exhibition also identified absences in the CSC’s collections, and looked to the future, including a selection of work by Black British craftspeople working today. The exhibition coincided with the redrafting of the CSC’s Collections Development Policy that addressed the lack of diversity within the collections. These are initial steps: as a leading centre for craft scholarship and advocacy the CSC has the ambition to further its work on accessibility and diversity, building on the existing research specialisms of its staff and Director.

Research supervision

Current research students include

  • Charlotte Samuels, Kingston University, ‘The Wrens, Potterscroft and the Oxshott Pottery: Shifting the Story of Interwar Studio Ceramics from Pot to Process’.
  • Nicole Dillon, Kingston University, ‘Material Dialogues with Difference’
  • Daisy du Toit, Kingston University, ‘The Craft of Content Creation’

Professional Membership, Affiliation and Consultancy

  • Editorial Board, The Journal of Modern Craft
  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Member, Peter Dormer Committee
  • Oxford University, MSt History of Design, 2021-23
  • Birmingham City University, BA Jewellery and Object, 2018-2021
Dr Stephen Knott