A Return To Tradition

The art of craft: the rise of the designer-maker

“What we have here is a post-industrial nostalgia for the pre-industrial. In a culture with a surfeit of branding and cheap mass-produced goods, we romanticise the handmade because we yearn for quality, not quantity. The irony is that while western consumers aspire to craftsmanship, the majority of the world’s population lives in countries that have local craftsmen but aspire to industrialised products. Mass manufacturing will be essential to lifting a billion people out of poverty, and providing basic goods that we took for granted long ago. Meanwhile, we’ll be seeing more crafted industrial objects coming our way, as we lust after craftsmanship we can’t afford and disdain the industrial products we can.”

McGuirk, J. 2011, The art of craft: the rise of the designer-maker. The Guardian [Online]. 1st August [Accessed 5th October 2015]. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/aug/01/rise-designer-maker-craftsman-handmade 

In an age of technology do designers simply find themselves romanticising the use of craft? Or do they worry we will lose traditional manufacturing techniques along with the development of new processes?

Doshi Levien


Photo Source | http://www.doshilevien.com/projects/rabari/
Photo Source | http://www.doshilevien.com/projects/rabari/

Doshi Lebien’s Rabari rugs are inspired by Indian tribal folk embroidery and the way in which they are created cooperatively. The irregular patterns represent the spontaneity of the hand embellished silks they craft. Making use of  traditional hand knotted techniques, these contemporary rugs are made with modern patterns making them a more marketable item.

“When we started the collection I really wanted it to have the joy and celebration of the Rabari’s, they are the nomadic tribes in Gujurat,” – Nipa Doshi

Howarth, D. 2014. Doshi Levien’s rugs for Nanimarquina capture the “joy and celebration of the Rabari. Dezeen. [Online]. 17 May. [Accessed 11 October 2015]. Available from http://www.dezeen.com/2014/05/17/movie-doshi-levien-rugs-nanimarquina/

Steven Young Lee

Photo Source | http://stevenyounglee.com/work/deconstructed/vases/vase-with-peonies-and-butterflies/
Photo Source | http://stevenyounglee.com/work/deconstructed/vases/vase-with-peonies-and-butterflies/

Steven Young Lin is a ceramicist/mixed media artist. His pieces incorporate elements adopted from various cultures and time periods, reflecting his love of historical ceramics.

“They are a reflection of my love for historical ceramic objects and their ability to provide a unique view of the past. I am fascinated by the effect of environment and resources in the evolution of these objects and the imprint of the cultures in which they were created.”

Young Lee, S. 2015. Artists Statement [Online]. [Accessed 5 October 2012]. Available from http://stevenyounglee.com/about/artist-statement/

Again time-honoured processes have been used, but by manipulating the form and pattern a current product is created.

Jin Kuramoto

Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2014/02/03/nadia-furniture-by-jin-kuramoto-made-using-japanese-shipbuilding-techniques/
Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2014/02/03/nadia-furniture-by-jin-kuramoto-made-using-japanese-shipbuilding-techniques/

Jin Kuramoto’s Nadia furniture range utilises traditional Japanese ship building techniques. These skills have become the heritage of many Japanese carpenters. Not only are these stunning pieces of contemporary furniture, but they are also made with a high level of ‘kumiki’ structure, meaning they are extremely durable. They playfully nod at their maritime heritage, but are practical pieces to be used within a modern home.

“Inherent in its position as an island nation, it is unsurprising that the maritime industry has been a driving force behind the innovation of wood construction for centuries…the result is a series of contemporary furniture that harmonizes the design aspects with the high level ‘kumiki’ structure, as well as giving an affectionate nod towards the wooden vessels of times gone by.” – Jin Kuramoto

Caula, R. 2014. Nadia furniture collection by jin kuramoto for matsuso-T. Design Boom [Online]. 3 February. [Accessed on 12 October 2015]. Available from http://www.designboom.com/design/nadia-furniture-collection-by-jin-kuramoto-studio-for-matsuso-t-02-03-2014/

By using traditional techniques in the manufacturing process, designers are able to guarantee the longevity of an item. Unlike mass-produced cheaper products, which often aren’t as hard wearing, traditionally crafted pieces are designed to last, something many modern day customers crave.

Another Country

Photo Source | http://www.anothercountry.com/products/blanket-chest-two
Photo Source | http://www.anothercountry.com/products/blanket-chest-two

Another Country are a contemporary furniture company who take inspiration from traditional styles. Their pieces are built to last in both construction and style. All items are made with simple techniques, hand assembled and hand finished. The simplicity of producing a well made, lasting item is very appealing to me.

“We endeavor to re-interpret the spirit and functionality of these honest forms of furniture for a modern customer.

Another Country aims to deliver quality and longevity at fair prices – our products are built to last, both in terms of construction and style.”

Another Country. About Another Country. [Online]. [Accessed 12 October 2015]. Available from: http://www.anothercountry.com/pages/about

Richard Hutton

Playing with Tradition

Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2010/02/16/playing-with-tradition-by-richard-hutten/
Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2010/02/16/playing-with-tradition-by-richard-hutten/

Richard Hutton explores the use of traditional craft with his ‘Playing with Tradition’ rugs. Each rug is hand knotted, however at a specially chosen point the old-style pattern is stretched out, almost suggesting a digital malfunction. These pieces are a juxtaposition between old and new, I feel they make us question the quality of digital manufacture as everything in hand-made production is intentional without the risk of mechanical glitches.

“The idea behind the carpet was to build a bridge between the old and the new, east meets west. From this starting point I looked at various ways to give a reinterpretation.” – Richard Hutton

Turner, B. 2010. Playing with Tradition by Richard Hutten. Dezeen [Online]. 16 February. [Accessed 06 Ocober 2015]. Available from http://www.dezeen.com/2010/02/16/playing-with-tradition-by-richard-hutten/

Faig Ahmed

Photo Source | http://www.faigahmed.com/works/carpets/#1228
Photo Source | http://www.faigahmed.com/works/carpets/#1228

In a similar way to Richard Hutton, Faig Agmend experiments with traditional rug patterns and shapes. He purchases traditional Azerbaijani rugs which he disassembles and reassembles in modern sculptural forms. These pieces make us consider the value of the traditional rug. Is this a celebration of tradition, adding value and making a piece of artwork? Or does this disrespect a traditionally crafted piece.

“He takes traditional Azerbaijani rugs – enormous, beautiful intricate creations – un-weaves them, and reconstructs them to create new patterns and shapes, subverting traditional usage of rugs as domestic objects to be walked all over, and rejuvenating them with optical illusions and techniques reminiscent of contemporary internet art. 

His work is a kind of cultural reclamation – taking an old object of everyday use which is rich in history and transforming it into a new one to be hung in galleries and viewed as an artwork.” 

Skidmore, M. 2015. Artist Faig Ahmed on his “cold heart,” carpets and subverting tradition. It’s nice that [Online]. 21 January [Accessed 12 October 2015]. Accessed from http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/faig-ahmed

In order to create a new product without relaying on technology do designers simply have to reinterpret longstanding crafts?

Hella Jongerius


Photo Source | http://www.jongeriuslab.com/work/nymphenburg-sketches-animal-bowls
Photo Source | http://www.jongeriuslab.com/work/nymphenburg-sketches-animal-bowls

Designer Hella Jongerus and theorist Louise Schouwenbergare created the ‘Beyond The New’ manifesto. In this they state any product which is worthwhile has historical awareness in it’s DNA. Successful design is about creating a relationship between the object and the user, what is important is the integrity of an object, not it’s rarity .

“Count the blessings of industry. Industrial processes have greater potential than low-volume productions of exclusive designs, which reach such a limited market that talk of ‘users’ can hardly be taken seriously. Industries can make high-quality products available to many people. We should breathe new life into that ideal.”#beyondthenew

Jongerius, H. Jongerius Lab. [Online]. [Accessed 12 October 2015] Available from http://www.jongeriuslab.com/work/http-beyondthenew.jongeriuslab.com

The animal bowls (featured above) were commissioned by Nymphenburg, a Bavarian porcelain manufacture. These pieces celebrate the animal collection which were found in their archives. Hand crafted and painted, these delicate pieces rejuvenate a classic design. Items become more precious as they have a historical narrative.

All Lovely Stuff

Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2010/12/10/all-lovely-stuff-by-carl-clerkin-and-ed-ward/
Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2010/12/10/all-lovely-stuff-by-carl-clerkin-and-ed-ward/

Design brand All Lovely Stuff  focus their efforts on developing charming designs which have longevity. Their collection of beautifully crafted items are all designed for the home. They are all useful, made with a high quality of craftsmanship and are ethically responsible.

“We like good practical design for everyday use. We care about the details, and aim to put a smile on your face. We design products to be charming and to inspire affection, helping to increase longevity.”

Etherington, R. 2010, All Lovely Stuff by Carl Clerkin and Ed Ward. Dezeen [Online]. 10 December. [Accessed on 12 October 2015]. Availbale from: http://www.dezeen.com/2010/12/10/all-lovely-stuff-by-carl-clerkin-and-ed-ward/

Brian Eno’s BBC Music John Peel Lecture 2015

“What we’re moving into is an era of abundance and cooperation. We’re super productive. We’re going to become even more productive as we automate. And we’re going to become even less connected to the production, because automation means robotisation, and it means humans are less necessary to that process. So what are we all going to be doing? We’re going to be in a world of ultra fast change (it’s really accelerating at the moment, and will continue to) and we’re going to have to somehow stay coherent. What are we going to be doing? I think we’re going to be even more full time artist than we are now.”

BBC Radio 6 Music. 2015. Brian Eno’s BBC Music John Peel Lecture 2015. The John Peel Lecture [Posdcast]. [Acessed 6th October 2015]. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p033smwp

In his lecture Brian Eno spoke of the link between art and technology. As technology moves incredibly fast in this day and age are designers able to keep up? As we move forward, cutting edge designs have the potential the become dated very quickly. Perhaps designers turn to traditional processes and designs in response to this, in order to create timeless pieces which can’t be outdated which the progression of technology.

Sebastian Cox

Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2014/10/30/sebastian-cox-interview-british-craft-industry-coppicing-wood/
Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2014/10/30/sebastian-cox-interview-british-craft-industry-coppicing-wood/

Sebastian Cox a designer who uses traditional swilling techniques to create products from softened green timber. There are only a handful of people left in the UK who work with this technique. He finds such technique inspiring, learning from the past to create a more sustainable future. He aims to make high quality pieces from sustainable materials which people can connect with, cherish and won’t dispose of easily.

“If we can develop a product that possesses subtle evidence of craft, then I believe it resonates with a customer’s primitive maker urges. As a result the customer will enjoy that thing all the more, and everyone has enjoyed keeping it out of landfill for longer.” – Sebastian Cox

Winston, A. 2014. Using traditional crafts in design is not “sentimental” says Sebastian Cox. Dezeen [Online]. 30 October. [Acessed 7th Ocober 2015] Available from http://www.dezeen.com/2014/10/30/sebastian-cox-interview-british-craft-industry-coppicing-wood/

When a customer knows a craftsman has invested time and effort into a product it seems they treasure it more as they can see it’s unique qualities and appreciate the specialised skill base utilised.


Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2014/09/30/big-game-hammer-lamp-vienna-design-week-2014/
Photo Source | http://www.dezeen.com/2014/09/30/big-game-hammer-lamp-vienna-design-week-2014/

The Big-Game lamp combines both traditional and modern technique, with a hammerd metal shade, but contemporary aluminium stand. Each piece is unique and celebrates the beauty of craft.

“We wanted to create a functional object that would celebrate the beauty of the craft but at the same time have a very contemporary expression,” – Big-Game

Maris, J. 2014. Big-Game’s Hammer Lamp combines traditional and contemporary metalwork. Dezeen [Online]. 30 September. [Accessed 12 October 2015]. Available from http://www.dezeen.com/2014/09/30/big-game-hammer-lamp-vienna-design-week-2014/

In a similar way I feel it is important to embrace traditional craft. By considering historical design, craftsmanship and understanding trusted processes we can combine them with technology to create beautiful contemporary product. I agree with the concept of creating a well made item which promotes longevity as it connects with the user on a more emotional level.

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