Ms Shai Akram

Research project: Manufacturing Narratives : A conversation between globalised industry and vernacular craft.


In The Nature of Art and Workmanship, (2007) David Pye asserts that the difference between craft and design is that craft seeks to flawlessly repeat whereas design seeks to find unknown possibilities. This research project shares that spirit and aims to challenge globalised material culture, interrogate current models of industrial production and influence perception of cultural craft. 

As production of goods is increasingly being turned over to mass manufacture, many craft techniques and skills are vanishing from our material lexicon. This study seeks to preserve them by examining the material culture that surround these techniques, developing a means to translate them for use within the design process and testing viable routes re-engaging of the role of hand processes in an industrialised context.

The intent is to work towards viable, tangible outcomes, and break new ground for craft techniques to be integrated into the existing industrial processes as a mean to disrupt and diversify from the outset by:

  • developing international platform/s for integrating craft processes within industrial production.
  • creating a network of makers, materials and manufacturers. (events, archives, libraries, etc)
  • documentation and archiving system of possibilities that allows industry to easily engaging with craft.
  • contribute to the discourse and knowledge around craft practice in relation to contemporary consumer culture.

The aim of this proposal is to radically rearrange the relationship between globalised industry and vernacular craft towards a hybrid creative economy. I view the relationship as a powerful liberator of material language - placing craft techniques within the industrial model, working together to uncover new market possibilities and disrupt the monotony of global uniformity.

  • Research degree: Practice-based PhD
  • Title of project: Manufacturing Narratives : A conversation between globalised industry and vernacular craft.
  • Research supervisor: Dr Jana Scholze
  • Other research supervisor: Mr Sebastian Bergne


Shai Akram's fascination with making processes began in her childhood spent in the machine room of her grandmother's dressmaker shop's.

She studied Architecture (BA) and followed by Ceramics (BA) at Manchester Metropolitan University. Later, she joined the Design Products (MA) program at the Royal College of Art, focusing her final thesis on revealing narratives and authorship embedded within production processes.

In 2012, Shai co-founded Studio Alt Shift with Andrew Haythornthwaite. Together they create bespoke furniture, lighting and interior spaces through direct collaboration with manufacturers. They seek to explore the boundaries and intersections of making, aiming to shift perceptions of everyday processes and materials, uncovering new typologies and narratives.

Currently, Shai Akram is a PHD candidate. Her research focuses on the integration of indigenous making techniques with industrialised production, aiming for a hybrid manufacturing future. As part of her studies, she is conducting a field study in Costa Rica. Through hands-on practice, she explores how the theoretical frameworks of her research can be practically implemented.

Areas of research interest

  • Craft
  • Industry
  • Material Language
  • Creative economy
  • Value (cultural, production, commercial)
  • Experimental design methodologies
  • Manufacture
  • Explorations through vernacular making
  • Local and Global
  • New modes of production


  • MA : Design Products, Royal College of Art, London
  • BA : Three Dimensional Design, Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester
  • BA : Architecture, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester University, Manchester

Funding or awards received

  • LDoc, PhD Scholarship, London Doctoral Centre
  • Incubator Scholarship, Leverhulme Trust.
  • Woven Foundation, Curatorial Award in collaboration with the Crafts Council
  • Turing Award for overseas placement (Costa Rica)