In the 21st century the workshop is still important in New Zealand manufacturing. In 2008 small workshops with five or fewer employees made up just over 6% of employment in the manufacturing sector, and accounted for more than 6,000 enterprises.
A few traditional workshop industries such as blacksmithing, glass-blowing and jewellery-making have reappeared as artistic crafts. New workshop industries have also emerged. One example is the design workshop, which combines traditional craft skill with modern marketing and distribution.
A Workshop is a place where work, either physical or mental, is carried out, and something is being produced from it. It can be defined as a small factory with no more than 20 staff, yet some very large worksites, such as Dunedin’s Hillside railway workshops, used the term even when they employed over 800 staff. Recently workshop has also come to mean a short intensive course for a small group, with an emphasis on problem solving.
Workshop designs for the world
The New Zealand designer and furniture maker David Trubridge sustains a traditional workshop culture from his Hawke’s Bay design studio. Inspired by travel in the Pacific, Trubridge began producing innovatively designed furniture in 1985, working as a lone artisan. In 2001 he received international acclaim at the Milan Furniture Fair with his Body Raft – a wooden lounge seat. This success resulted in a change to workshop-scale production.
Even into the late 20th century New Zealand workshop industries primarily served the local market. Trubridge’s products, however, were distributed to a global niche market. A similar example is the Pāpāmoa-based engineering business of Blokart International. It was founded by Paul Beckett, who invented an innovative land-yacht in 1999. In the early 2000s the company exported most of its product to Australia, Europe, Asia, and the United States. This workshop had only seven employees.
The digital age, when information can be transmitted worldwide in virtually no time, with no cost, offers further opportunities for workshop-scale production at a great distance from markets.