Encounters on the Shop Floor

Encounters investigates 'ways of knowing' described as embodied, tacit, or implicit.

About the Project

Together curators, artists, surgeons and historians investigate and learn the fine hand skills connecting each of their very different occupations. Encounters aims to highlight the importance of this embodied knowledge and create a new model for the inclusion of these skills in higher education.


The lack of recognition of the cultural, social and economic potential of embodied ways of knowing is a major area of 'wastefulness' and a significant factor – nationally and globally – in rising levels of educational under-performance, social and economic inequality and an absence of innovative, socially progressive and environmentally sustainable industrial practice. The project places techne at the centre of research and education to explore, reformulate and showcase its fundamental role within learning.


The V&A's collections are a highly fertile place for a productive encounter between expert knowledge-makers and 'the made'. Rooted within the V&A and Imperial College London, these two institutions at the heart of 'Albertopolis', revisit Prince Albert's radical vision to make South Kensington an interdisciplinary hub for design, the arts, science and education. Participants in 'Encounters' are diverse and include artists, musicians, surgeons, anthropologists, historians, scientists and curators. Together they are engaged in a process of sustained collaborative research, exchange and practice.


Encounters aspires to create a model for challenging the intellectual hierarchies that historically have placed a low value on embodied ways of knowing and produced the marginalisation of that knowledge that we are witnessing today. The intention is to be able to articulate this approach, making a persuasive case for its value through research events, publications, film, labs, displays and performances, and to design and model pedagogical resources of value to teachers and learners at all stages from primary school to higher education and beyond.

Project Outputs

International Symposium - Encounters on the Shop Floor: Embodiment and the Knowledge of the Maker, Hochhauser Auditorium, Victoria and Albert Museum 26-28 June 2019

The ‘knowledge of the maker’, sometimes called embodied or tacit knowledge, is fundamental to life and how we understand the V&A collections. Hidden yet innate within the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences, medicine, engineering and technology – this knowledge is increasingly marginalised and at serious risk of being lost. We want making – and learning by doing – to take centre stage. We will develop new ways of recognising, articulating and showcasing the cultural, social and environmental potential of this knowledge. Artists, makers, educationalists, manufacturers, anthropologists, neuroscientists, historians, performers, philosophers, social entrepreneurs, surgeons and curators will come together to share new perspectives and practices. Join us as we create a new manifesto that places the knowledge of the maker at the heart of our future. The symposium programme will be made available on the project page shortly and bookings will open on the V&A's What's On website soon.

Project updates

7 January 2019

‘What does your making practice mean to you?’

Artist Anouska Samms discusses her approach to her work.
9 May 2018

Tricks with Strings, guest blog by Rachel Warr

The VARI Encounters on the Shop Floor project has a few small micro teams called Design Clusters, made up of creative individuals using different kinds of arts practices to investigate embodied knowledge.  That is, the knowledge and skills...
19 December 2016

Encounters of a Museum Kind

Fine hand skills, muscle memory, a kind of knowledge that we’re aware of, rely on and quite often, underestimate the importance of. Advocating for the significance of embodiment in all processes of cognition and learning,...

The Team

Dr Marta Ajmar

Deputy Director, VARI

Professor Roger Kneebone

Professor of Surgical Education and Engagement Science, Imperial College London

Encounters Design Cluster Fellows

Professor Pip Laurenson
- Head of Collection Care Research, Tate
Dr Haidy Geismar
- Anthropologist, UCL
Dr Toby Athersuch
- Lecturer in Environmental Toxicology & Biomarkers in the Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College
Julian Stair
- Potter
Petur Jónasson
- Classical Guitarist, Royal College of Music
Dr Will Houstoun
- Magician
Fleur Oakes
- Embroiderer and Lace Maker
Rachel Warr
- Puppetry Director, Dramaturg and Puppeteer for Dotted Line Theatre

Educational Resident

Rebecca Goozee


Encounters on the Shop Floor: Embodiment and the Knowledge of the Maker

This international symposium will develop strategies for championing the value and usability of embodied knowledge in learning, the workplace and society.