Industrial Craft in Australia

Advanced manufacturing technologies and design-led innovation have been heralded as a life-raft for Australian manufacturing. While this offers opportunities in professional fields such as industrial design and engineering, the same cannot be said for manufacturing trades – the formerly secure cornerstone of working class employment. Rather than simply framing manufacturing tradespeople as having redundant skill-sets and in need of retraining, here we ask: what are our existing strengths?

To answer this, an understanding of recent history is vital. This project endeavours to provide an historically informed understanding of Australia’s creative and productive capacity, which avoids nostalgic representations of craft skills as relics of a ‘time gone by’. It explores the creative and knowledge-based legacies of manufacturing expertise, exploring how such knowledge and practice may be retained and reimagined in future contexts. For further information see About the Project.

* Featured image above is of engineering patternmaker Serge Haidutschyk’s handmade tools


Oral Histories

12 oral histories with tradespeople, business owners and retired manufacturing workers are now in the National Library of Australia’s oral history collection, as part of the Reshaping Australian Manufacturing Oral History Project. You can listen to some of the interviews via the NLA catalogue here, or read some quotations on my research blog here.



Invisible Hands, Episode 2, Season 2 of the History Lab podcast, 2SER
Produced by Olivia Rosenman, Host: Tamson Pietsch
Executive Producer: Tom Allinson, Contributing Historian: Jesse Adams Stein
History Lab won the Silver Trophy (History category) at the New York Festivals Radio Awards 2019.



Stein, JA 2021, Industrial Craft in Australia: Oral Histories of Creativity & Survival (Palgrave Macmillan, in press).

Stein, JA 2020, ‘When Manufacturing Workers Make Sculpture: Creative Pathways in the Context of Australian Deindustrialisation’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 189-212.

Stein JA 2020, ‘The Trade Educators’ Syndicate: Making 10 Retirement Lathes in the Twilight of Australian Manufacturing’, Digital Culture & Society, vol. 6, no. 1 (special issue: Alternative Histories in DIY Cultures and Maker Utopias).

Stein JA 2020, ‘In the post-Holden era, we can be a nation of clever designers‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February.

Stein, JA 2020, The Production of Toolboxes and Hand Tools in Industrial Craft Apprenticeship’, Journal of Modern Craft, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 233-54. DOI: 10.1080/17496772.2019.1678876.

Stein, JA 2019, ‘Hidden between craft and industry: Engineering patternmakers’ design knowledge’, Journal of Design History, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 280-303. DOI: 10.1093/jdh/epz012.

Stein, JA 2018, ‘Don’t be too quick to dismiss “dying trades”, those skills are still in demand’The Conversation, 6 December.

Stein, JA 2018, ‘Conversations in the Shadow of Australian Manufacturing’History Lab, 4 December.

Stein, JA 2017, ‘Is 2017 the year to ditch the term “innovation”?’, The Conversation, 19 January. Republished as ‘Stop using innovation as a meaningless buzzword’, The Age, 20 January 2017.

Stein, JA 2017, ‘Political imaginaries of 3D printing: Prompting mainstream awareness of design and making’Design and Culture, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1–26. DOI: 1080/17547075.2017.1279941.


Conference papers / public talks

Stein, JA, 2018, ‘The Historian as Document Producer: A Critical Reflection on the Production of Oral History Timed Summaries’, What is a Document? A Workshop on Documentation, Records and Evidence, UTS Law School, 8-9 November.

Stein, JA, 2018, ‘The last generation of Australian hot metal compositors: Are there lessons for engineering patternmakers (and beyond)?’ The Production of Information: Technologies, Media Markets and Labour in the Twentieth Century, Hamburg, 12-14 April. Funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation & German Research Foundation (DFG).

2018, ‘The Past and Present of Technological Change’, panellist w/ Dr Frances Flanagan, Work: Past and Present, UTS, 3 May.

Stein, JA, Simpson, AV, Berti, M, and Hermens, A, 2017, ‘Keeping the axe workshop going’: Australian manufacturing and the hidden maintenance of historical practices’The Maintainers II, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, 6–9 April.

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