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  • Jochen Holz

Craft at a Tipping Point

Making finds itself in the spotlight. An article by Teleri Lloyd-Jones

Materiality is central to current conversations on contemporary art and design. Indeed, the 2015 Turner Prize – the UK’s most renowned fine art award – was given not to an artist but Assemble, an architecture collective, for a project that was not only rebuilding residences but placing an open-access workshop at the centre of a Liverpool community.

Design’s love affair with making has perhaps been more faithful over the past decade or two, with the work of Hella Jongerius, Martino Gamper and Studio Formafantasma placing craft at their heart. Even designers at the more industrial end, such as Barber Osgerby or Thomas Heatherwick, talk lovingly about material and manufacturing. Engaging with craft offers designers not only quality and ingenuity in making but also an implied critique of speedy and indiscriminate consumerism.

The Crafts Council’s COLLECT has provided a powerful platform for UK and international galleries of contemporary craft, a place where Adrian Sassoon of London sits alongside Tokyo’s Yufuku Gallery or Amsterdam’s Galerie Ra with each presenting extraordinary objects from artists pushing their practice to the limits. Newcomers in recent years, such as London Craft Week or the British Ceramics Biennial, bring making – from the industrial to the luxury and bespoke – to new audiences.

Away from the gallery spectacle, craft has undoubtedly become more visible. From your jeans to your coffee, the idiosyncrasies and humanity of the handmade are harnessed to exploit our desire for relief from the homogeneity of modern life.

Though all these examples would suggest a flourishing, the nature of craft skills makes them precious and simultaneously precarious. British creativity and innovation is celebrated globally and yet we risk seeing making removed from our schools' classrooms.

Jonathan Ive, head of design at Apple and son of a silversmith and furniture maker, has expressed concern that today’s designers are less and less interested in the detail of how something is made. And here we find craft’s secret. It does not live in an enclave of luxury and connoisseurship but instead permeates all of life. From Apple to Assemble, making, and making well, is a most human endeavour.

This piece was written for the Nature Lab brochure. Nature Lab is the debut showcase of A Future Made and will be at Design Miami/ Basel from 14 - 19 June 2016. A Future Made is a partnership programme from the Crafts Council, The New Craftsmen, Craft Scotland and Ruthin Craft Centre. It is funded by Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales and it is supported by the GREAT Britain campaign.