What does a craftsman look like in 2018? Do tradition and old methods merge with innovation? Various designers devote their studios to research and deepen the available knowledge about craft. This is how the crafts and processes remain intact. There is also a continuous search for how methods can be rejuvenated. What can we do in light of current material developments? And what if we were now to combine craft with digitalisation? Local materials, the connection between analogue and digital methods as well as international exchange of knowledge now dictate. Modernisation can be found in the adaptation of the process, the material and the design. Which is why preserving craft goes hand-in-hand with innovation.
Analogue versus digital
In the exhibition How&Wow by Crafts Council Nederland we saw a clear merging of traditional methods and modern applications. In a workshop, visitors could experience how designers and refugees had got to work with waste, new plastics and of course yarns. New and old combined, resulting in colourful and impressive patterns that many visitors admired. In this workshop setting it was possible to experience a first introduction to the makers and gain an insight of the modern craftsperson. An exhibition that demonstrates that craft and innovation really do belong together.
The design duo Mireille Burger & Rudi Boiten, who together form Studio Plott, have yet another angle on craft. They combine analogue and digital methods to create a wide range of carpets. Their collection Crossing Lines comprises a play of geometric shapes and innovative materials. The modern-looking collection aesthetically refers to more traditional methods like knitting, sewing and weaving, but is acquired through 3D printing instead. The extensive coloured patterns all have an open structure. This creates a playful dialogue with the carpet and the substrate. The experiment with new methods in which they develop new textile connections forms the basis of the work from Studio Plott.
International exchange of knowledge
For the third time at Dutch Design Week, the famous porcelain factory Arita showed the results of six international collaborations in the exhibition Behind the Shiny Glazing. The designers from Belgium, China, the Netherlands and Greece each spent three months in residence in the district of the same name, Arita, in Japan. During these residencies they immersed themselves in every facet of making porcelain. The process can be divided into four roles: the clay maker, the mould maker, the maker of the unfired porcelain and finally the person who fires, glazes and paints the decoration on the porcelain. The designers got to know every aspect. On the other hand the craftspeople were surprised by the new perspectives that the questions from the designers aroused. This enriched both sides. The focus this year was on the presentation of the process behind the ceramics.
Sander Wassink ventured across the border too. In the presentation Tè sī wéi kè he investigated the implications of globalisation for the designer and craftsperson. All the products originate or are made in China. What does this mean for local crafts? How great is this effect that we import and export around the globe? He created an aesthetic installation in the colour red. Creating an almost religious, mythical effect.
The Finnish designer Antrei Hartikainen has a refined way of working wood. He is a good example of a designer who honours age-old methods and maintains them. Instead of looking for new combinations he seeks innovation in the design itself. A contemporary signature in which inspiration comes directly from nature, the seasons and the play of dark and light. In the exhibition OBSERVE in the VEEM he created an atmosphere in which the visitor, on the one hand, could be an observer of various wood-working methods and the process and, on the other, a consumer of contemporary furniture.
Another designer who worked with a local product is the Portuguese designer Brimet Silva. Silva put the local product cork in a different light. In the project Co-RK system he processed the natural material in an innovative way employing computational-generated design. The result is an algorithm produced interior design that varies from a room divider to lamps and from wall applications to installations. The basic raw material for his projects, cork, is harvested sustainably: every nine years. A nice incidental effect is that the cork tree lives longer because of this process. A cork tree lives on average an extra 120 years if the bark is removed. Silva came up with a way to transform this material, that is usually applied in larger surfaces, into a yarn.
Among the participants that are to be found in this domain of craft we see both the preservation of old methods and the development of new variations. However, in each case there is innovation either in contemporary design or in material and method innovation.