Artisan vs Industry, a longtime story to be told. This issue digs deeper into how artisans stay afloat, how they integrate technology into craftsmanship and how they’ve reinterpreted luxury.
In a time when industrialization goes beyond mass consumerism and into its next phase of rendering customization of objects on a global scale for the individual, we bring you a close up on the latest customizables and exemplary software.
A Tale of Two Cities: Paris & London. This issue offers retailers and interior designers a vast selection of designs from both fairs. This year’s Inspiration exhibition at Maison&Objet Paris, entitled House of Games, defines today’s make-and-break design gen, all fun and games.
The first wave of customization in design began in the late ’80s and early ’90s with start-ups like Creo Interactive, offering services to customize digital solutions for brands, and the second round from 1998 to 2002 with the Internet economy focused on the client experience. Companies like Nike iD, which originally...
Whether it’s a yearning for quality, the acknowledgement that less is better or a desire to conserve scarce resources, craft methods are increasingly regarded as innovative in the context of 21st century globalization and mass consumerism.
How the Craftsman Turns a Profit
In taking a stand against reprobate behaviors such as overconsumption, waste and the exploitation of labor, many people are turning their attention towards avant-garde start-ups and small enterprises, enticed by their affability, authenticity and individuality. Of course valuing craftsmanship for these positive virtues is all well and good, but still manufacturers and makers must ultimately turn a profit in order to survive.
In one example, Swedish venture Iris Hantverkworks with visually impaired craftspeople to make brushes by hand, in the same manner since the late 19th century. At its core, Iris Hantverk focuses on brush binding, manufacturing its brushes in Enskede, Stockholm. The historic Swedish enterprise is capitalizing on the expanding universal appeal of products built to last. Sara Edhäll, a co-owner of Iris Hantverk, observes, “We remain a relatively small company. It wasn’t our intention to expand globally, but with the growing worldwide interest in sustainable consumption and production, the interest in our products has also grown. We have customers in countries across the world, including Japan, the USA, Europe and Australia.”
With scale, Jan Kath can ensure livelihoods are preserved.
At Jan Kath, a much sought-after contemporary carpet designer, sumptuous rugs are hand woven in Kathmandu, Nepal and Azilal by more than 2,500 skilled carpet weavers. Designs are drawn up on a computer, but it is the creative skill of each craftsman that breathes life into every carpet. With scale, Jan Kath can ensure that fair wages are paid and livelihoods are preserved.
Jan Kath’s showroom in Cologne. Courtesy of the designer.
The Industrialization of Craft through Technology
More and more, mass industrialization and the standardization of processes act to encourage a lot of smaller enterprises to think about how their unique handmade products can still reach a global audience. New technologies, including LEDs, 3-D printing and CAD, together with an understanding of the capacity of good craftsmanship, ensure companies remain authentic and true to their craft while simultaneously producing on a larger scale.
From its factory HQ in Valencia, Spain, LZF Lamps crafts a prepossessing collection of wood veneer lights by hand. Established in 1994 by Mariví Calvo and Sandro Tothill, LZF has built a reputation for excellence. Working with wood from the beginning, LZF developed Timberlite, an in-house patent that transformed the way in which the company uses veneer. “One of the interesting facts about production at LZF is that it revolves around the same methods we used when I was involved in production,” says co-founder Sandro Tothill. He adds: “Over time, we’ve employed more people who work on individual elements. Our Timberlite wooden veneers are punched, riveted, spliced, cut into strips and cut on a digital plotter, all by hand. Similarly, the shades are constructed by hand.” LZF is a small company that remains true to its artisanal roots, while also reaching a global audience.
In Detroit, the industrialization of craft through technology has been spearheaded by Shinola, a successful brand whose craft repertoire includes watches, leather items, bicycles and stationery. Shinola’s HQ and ultra-modern watchmaking factory are housed in the former Detroit-based research laboratory of General Motors. Watchmaking had all but disappeared from the U.S.: Shinola made an investment in “skill at scale,” so reinvigorating this exceptional craft.
In a further example, London-born e15 (now headquartered in Frankfurt) explores the relationship between technology and craft in furniture and industrial design. The company is represented in more than 40 countries worldwide and stands for “consistent, progressive design coupled with high-grade materials and innovative, handcrafted production methods.”
Kerman sofa, Iza carpet and Backenzahn stool by e15. Courtesy of the brand.
Reinterpreting the Meaning of Luxury
Increasingly, conscientious consumers across a global audience are taking steps to reinterpret the meaning of luxury. For these individuals, luxury is much less about notions of ostentation and overpriced goods. Ilse Crawford, a renowned designer, academic and creative director, believes: “Modern luxury is on a smaller scale but it’s more thoughtful, tailored to one’s specific needs, with more emphasis on better living. It’s more human.” (Monocle, 2016).
Modern luxury is on a smaller scale.
As a good case in point, Danish company ARCHITECTMADE is obsessed with craft and perfection, ensuring its handmade wares are of the highest quality and able to stand the test of time. Architectmade’s products are small luxuries and classic designs by celebrated Danish architects, including Finn Juhl, Hans Bølling and Kristian Vedel.
Morten Jensen, Architectmade’s CEO, explains: “I have always felt the need to work with something timeless, something made by hand in such a quality that enables it to last a lifetime… [and] you appreciate it more and more, as time goes by.”
Discussing the consumer, Jensen adds, “I encourage people to purchase less in terms of quantity but with better quality. I would like to be able to give people something that lasts and makes them happy.” It is this philosophy and approach that has enabled Architectmade to grow and capture the imagination of customers globally, while remaining true to its craft.
Courtesy of Architectmade
The Essence of Principles
The number of companies valuing provenance, craftsmanship and heritage remains comparatively low. While bigger brands often pretend to attach importance to such principles, it is those small and medium-sized enterprises whose craftsmanship prevails and whose products are reaching an eager global market.
The companies featured here provide examples of authentic craftsmanship and the genuine desire to connect with people in real terms, offering handcrafted products that will last for many generations. Their global reach is doubtless helped by our prevalent digital age, where social media, blogs and websites increase brand recognition and value. Above all, they demonstrate that authenticity and larger-scale production can work in unison.
“Oh, that’s funny,” says a 3-year-old boy on his dad’s shoulders, looking at Morrel’s Strangeye Flower and Bugs, “but scary.”
Hands in his dad’s hair, he was taken around the rest of the museum space of the House of Games exhibition at Maison&Objet’s September show in Paris.
Three wildly fun rooms made up the House of...
On the eve before the London Design Festival kicked off, guests entered the Molteni&C Dada flagship store on Shaftesbury Avenue for a discussion on “How design is communicated,” led by Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum, and the journalist Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in-chief of Dezeen.
A former reporter himself, Sudjic likened design to journalism as both professions are “all about asking questions” and telling stories. He mused that museums could even begin replacing magazines, newspapers and television as the media industry faces serious financial challenges and many cultural institutions become prolific content producers in their own right.
Sudjic noted that many more journalists have been “sucked into the world of museums” as they seek to escape the “lightning speed response, which is all very well for reporting the next big thing, but not always the best way to reflect on what some of these things might do.”
Fairs wondered if the way museums assemble collections and exhibitions is perhaps a little too slow to keep up with the manic cycle of news, asking, “Do museums need to become faster or more responsive?”
“I think they need to go at several speeds at once, with the layer of slowness of securing a major exhibition,” Sudjic replied. “Creating physical experiences that reflect on key stories cannot be done with magazines–but you need to have another quicker level, like the ‘Designs of the Year’ awards, which provide an important record.”
“A museum is a hybrid of many forms of communication,” Sudjic said.
The Design Museum is now closed and will reopen on High Street Kensington on 24 November 2016.
Special Guest Vincent Van Duysen
The discussion celebrated the launching of Molteni&C’s new collection, focused on architect and designer Vincent Van Duysen’s centerpiece, plush Paul sofa and its accompanying coffee tables. The Paul modular system lets users shape their sofa to fit a variety of spaces. Van Duysen became creative director of Molteni&C in April, tasked with defining a “more sophisticated look” to distinguish the company from other Italian brands.
The Belgian designer said his pieces in the 2016 collection were inspired by the “understated, quiet” aesthetic of his Antwerp home and the 1930s splendor of Villa Necchi in Milan, the city where Molteni&C was born.
Van Duysen also worked on the new VVD range for Dada, Molteni’s luxury kitchen brand. A color scheme anchored in subtle shades of gray conveys his concept of finding a natural focus: Cupboards and drawers are made from light shades of wood as a contrast to marble surfaces and fittings sculpted from sleek metals which do not look shiny or processed. Just like his furniture designs, Van Duysen’s penchant for clean lines is clearly accentuated.
Along the Chao Phraya River, the Sala Rattanakosin hotel offers a mesmerizing view of Bangkok. The reception area leads to a window gaze of the Temple of Dawn, reminding visitors of the cultural beauty that no modernity wishes to exclude.
Thai architecture and interior design firm Onion accomplished the transformation of seven shop houses into the Sala Rattanakosin hotel in 2013, with the intention of guiding the visitor’s eye outward, beyond the space. Moving from the inside out, the surrounding context becomes the focal point.
A First Encounter
When Onion first encountered the space, they were impressed by the dynamic atmosphere of the area. The bustling sounds of Ta Tien community and the captivating views surrounding the structure, such as the Chao Phraya River, the Pho Temple (or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and the market life along Maharat Road became an essence of the undertaking.
Sala Rattanakosin by Onion
They transformed the 1,500 square meters into 17 rooms, restaurants, an outdoor deck, an indoor and rooftop bar, with several outlook spots. Each room has an uncluttered window view, while the open-air rooftop bar reveals the glittered city.
Mimicking the exterior sights in the interior, Onion created a graphic using the temple’s silhouette. This is repeated on a dual-reflective and transparent, laminated space-divider in the upper restaurant. The partition is black and gold with a mirror-like effect that recalls looking through a window. While the picturesque moments remain sophisticated and elegant, Onion was careful not to exaggerate Thailand’s sacred and traditional designs.
“To name the traditional Thai aspects is perhaps to identify what the Thai people would not do. They would not point their feet to Buddhist Temples. In the bedrooms, we placed the beds parallel to the Chao Phraya River, not perpendicular,” Arisara Chaktranon from Onion, told ArchiExpo.
Playing with Geometry & Materials
Preserving the continuity between the space and its surroundings, the history of the structure was exposed or imitated. The elements within the space mix modern attitude with the structure’s commercial past. In the entrance, for example, one enters through an aged door, reminiscent of another time, to a space that is full of modern shapes created with antique materials or antique-looking elements created recently.
“Certain existing elements of the shophouses such as ceramic tiles and wooden doors were fascinating so we used them to develop our own design— an interplay between the aged and the newly customized materials,” Arisara Chaktranon from Onion, told ArchiExpo.
Peeling back layers, the designers were inspired to create their own pieces to add to the new identity of the space. For example, the geometric black and white tiles found adorning the hallways are not salvaged from the space. Those were designed by Onion, and crafted locally. Although traditional Thai motifs or fixtures were avoided, attention to local production was favored.
“Our materials and objects were mostly produced and custom-made in Thailand. We worked with local craftsmen such as those who made the washing basins, the lighting fixtures and the ceramic tiles.”
MoMa Design Store rep Emmanuel Plat visits Maison&Objet, a hot spot for retailers, every year to identify the objects he’ll consider selling in the store. During the Museum Shops conference on Friday, September 2, 2016, he explained that he hunts down the best to present to the art director at the museum, who makes the ultimate decision of what to sell in the store.
Whether visitors were looking to fill their museum shop or interior design boutique, this September’s fair brought its own collection of goodies. ArchiExpo e-magazine toured the various halls, spoke to a number of designers and did a little shopping of its own. Here’s an ensemble of products and fabulous stand designs we found particularly appealing.
Featured (left to right): Wallace Sewell, Studio Ditto and Ayma Buenos Aires