Dr Stephen Knott

School: School of Critical Studies and Creative Industries
Position: Lecturer in Critical and Historical Studies


I am a writer, researcher and lecturer in craft theory and history. I'm the author of Amateur Craft: History and Theory (Bloomsbury, 2015), a book derived from my AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) PhD at the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum.

I joined Kingston in December 2015, after lecturing posts at Liverpool Hope University, Camberwell College of Arts (University of the Arts, London), the Royal College of Art, the University of Creative Arts, and Buckingham University, where I taught courses relating to design history, critical craft thinking, and critical and theoretical contexts for art and design practice at BA and MA level. My teaching is particularly suited to the contexts of art and design education, with interactive, object and exercise-based methods of teaching often deployed to deliver critical and historical content.

I am one of the editors of The Journal of Modern Craft and have written articles for a range of publications, both academic, such as Design and Culture, West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History and Material Culture, and non-academic, including Crafts, Ceramic Review, Art Jewelry Forum and I was the Founder Post-doctoral Fellow in Modern Craft at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham.

Related links

Research expertise

My research covers the broad terrain of modern craft history and theory from 1851 to the present, with a particular focus on everyday making. The renewal of interest in a range of craft practices today foregrounds the ambiguous role of amateur making in modernity and its relationship with art and design practice in contemporary and historical contexts. I explored these themes and the historical antecedents to the contemporary revivals of craft in Amateur Craft: History and Theory, published by Bloomsbury in 2015. In this book I covered a range of much-maligned practices, from 1950s paint-by-number kits and suburban chicken keeping to amateur railway modelling. And I investigated the relevance of amateur making to contemporary art and design practice and education, in the context of access to sophisticated tooling and relationship to 'free' time.

Other areas of research specialism include the turn to the decorative and applied arts in France and Britain in the final two decades of the nineteenth century, modern histories of tooling and craft instruction (kits and manuals), histories of the Art & Crafts and Studio Craft Movements and inter-disciplinary pedagogy in art and design.

Teaching areas & responsibilities

Module Leader for MA module: The Politics of Design: Artefacts, Identity, Protest

Lecturer for Critical & Historical Studies (Design School)

Professional activity

  • 2013 - presentPanel member of the Peter Dormer Committee
  • 2012 - presentEditor, The Journal of Modern Craft (Managing Editor from 2012-2015)
  • 2009 - 2010Co-founder of 'Design in Dialogues' postgraduate seminar series, RCA

Educational and professional qualifications

  • 2012PhD History of Design/Jewellery & Metal, Royal College of Art/V&A Museum
  • 2008MA European History, University College London
  • 2006BA (Hons) History, University College London

Conferences & events


Ceramics and New Technologies Holburne Museum, Bath. Plenary co-chair (2016)

Book launch of Amateur Craft (convenor) with Professor Alice Kettle and Professor Joe Moran. Part of the Cornerstone Festival, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool (2015)

Book launch of Amateur Craft (convenor) with Dr Fiona Hackney, Professor Hans Stofer, and Dr Tim Watson. Model Railway Club, London (2015)

'Hello Goodbye' International Seminar on Contemporary Crafts (Moderator of the event) Norwegian Crafts, Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts and KODE, Art Museums of Bergen, Bergen (2014)

'Very Good' International Seminar on Contemporary Crafts (Moderator of the event) Norwegian Crafts, Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts and National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo (2013)

Amateur making Jerwood Contemporary Makers, London. Chair of panel discussion (2010)

Amateurism Department 21 and Dialogues in Design, Royal College of Art, London. (Organiser and speaker) (2010)

Symposia and conference speaker

The desire to get down and dirty, The Importance of Making, annual international craft seminar, Norwegian Crafts, Gallery F15, Moss, Norway (2016).
Watch a video of the lecture on Vimeo

Research talk: Making in Free Time HDK – the School of Design and Crafts at the University of Gothenburg (2016)

Assemble: the handmade and the improvised talk with Turner-Prize 2015 nominees Assemble and Jonathan Mosley, UWE. Arnolfini, Bristol, part of Bristol Festival of Ideas (2015)

Termini, twee and time About Time seminar Röhsska Museum, HDK – the School of Design and Crafts at the University of Gothenburg and KHVC The Crafts Center, Gothenburg (2015)

The spectre of the amateur Material Culture in Action Conference. Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow (2015)

'Craft on TV: 10,000 hours in 15 minutes of fame' Post-craft: Towards New Economies of Making. ICA, London (2015)

Makespace Symposium Panel member. Machines Room, London (2015)

Discussant on Critical Craft Forum Podcast: Tim Ingold's Making: Anthropology, Archeology, Art and Architecture (2014)
Listen to the podcast online

Materiality Matters Seminar Panel member. Manchester Metropolitan University (2014)

A Show of Hands (with Kimberley Chandler). Ceramics in the Expanded Field Conference, University of Westminster, London (2014)

Why Ceramics? Economies and competition in the expanded field Seminar 5 of the University of Westminster's AHRC funded Ceramics in the Expanded Field project, V&A Museum, London (2014)

Amateurism Bijou(x). Les pratiques contemporaines. La garantie: association pour le bijou, Paris College of Art, Paris (2014).
Learning another language: creating foolproof instruction Languages of Making conference, Kingston University (2014)

Proto-tools Artists Talk Flat Time House, London (2013)

Women in arts and technical education in Surrey, 1890-1920 Surrey History Centre, Woking and Epsom Library, Surrey (2013)

Which vernacular? Professional and amateur appropriation of British vernacular crafts, 1918-1939 Enid Marx and her contemporaries, Manchester School of Art and Compton Verney, Warwickshire (2013)

Craft, material engagement and participatory art Participation and Engagement in the Arts Knowledge Exchange Network, Spalding (2013)

Craft as an alternative modernism in early twentieth century England Alternative modernisms conference, Cardiff University (2013)

Troublesome teddies: the production of handcrafted soft toys by women, 1918-1939 Making, creating, producing: historical perspectives on women, gender and production conference, University of Highlands and the Islands, Kirkwall, Orkney (2013)

Future thinking – DIY revolution School of Life, London (2013)

Working class, middle class, upper class, evening class Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey (2013)

What can be learnt from amateur craft practice? A talk delivered to Making Art Work, an artists' co-operative in Maidstone, Kent (2012)

Choose your own art history lecture Performing Art History Research II: Conveying Research, Communicating Collaboration, Courtauld Institute of Art, London (2012)

Emerging voices in modern craft Collect, Saatchi Gallery, panel member, London (2012)

Andy Warhol's DIY series: a narrative of participatory consumerism Warhol uncovered, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2011)

Sur le figure de l'amateur Petite hantologie du graphisme, Chaumont, France (2011)

Domestic craft's productivity: suburban chicken keeping 1860-1920 Material culture, craft and community: negotiating objects across time and place, University of Alberta, Edmonton (2011)

Leave the laptop at home: the collaborative project Department 21 and the Royal College of Art Pairings Conference, Manchester Metropolitan University (2011)

The obsolete becomes eternal: the paint-by-number fad and its reception Experimental workshop and conference on production, consumption and creative re-use in American culture, MAASA Conference, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011)

Playing the fool: re-thinking amateurism (with Glenn Adamson), Hand-made tales: Women and domestic crafts study day, Woman's Library, London (2010)

Amateur 'worked' space: a theory of how amateurs organise their practice' Space: the real and the abstract, Wolverhampton University (2010)

Amateur art in modernity: locating everyday creativity University College London history postgraduate summer workshop (2010)

Being an amateur Creating frictions: an interdisciplinary creative-practice postgraduate conference, Newcastle University (2010)

A theory of the paint-by-number surface Surface Tensions symposium, Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2010)


More academic choice Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey (2016)

Royal College of Art Show Display of my PhD with three paint-by-number canvases of Gauguin's 1891 work Street in Tahiti (2012)

Royal College of Art Research exhibition Display of 16 paint-by-number paintings, individually completed. Part of Department 21 (2010)

'Switch it NON' GSM&J Work-in-progress show Royal College of Art, London. A pile of manuals about setting up lighting in the exhibition space (2010)

Overcoat Galerie Marzee, Nijmegen, Netherlands (2009-10)

Grants, funding and awards

  • 2014Special award from the Crafts Study Centre to support costs for book Amateur Craft: History and Theory (Bloomsbury, 2015)
  • 2012Founder Post-doctoral Fellow in Modern Crafts, Crafts Study Centre, Farnham. Fellowship supported by trustees of the Crafts Study Centre
  • 2008AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, 'Modern Craft: History, Theory and Practice'

Research groups & programmes

Amateur craft: history and theory (London: Bloomsbury, 2015)