‘Craft is back’ – the trend is generally recognised and is one in which the cultural avant-garde dares to identify with traditional crafts. Louise Schouwenberg, artist and publicist with a clear position in this debate, summarises a number of the reasons for this, ‘including globalisation and a logical reaction to it which calls for the preservation of local customs. In addition, developments within art and design have also led to a re-use of old techniques. The “new” media in the art world are no longer quite so very new. The hype is over and, through familiarisation, the matter-less media are finally achieving the position they deserve: alongside all other media they are no more or less than vehicles for content. Cautiously, a better balance is emerging between relatively old and new media. Within design, people are dealing with excessive industrialisation of the production process. The profusion of similar, cheap mass-produced products calls out, as it were, for products to which more attention is devoted. Paradoxically, the range of production possibilities has increased enormously, precisely thanks to the industrial process, not only in the form of new technical discoveries, but also through re-discovered techniques. The return of craft-based techniques does not however mean that they have become more important in principle. Artists and designers sometimes use them as a way of making a specific comment, sometimes as an expression of “camp”, but they are also gradually being seen simply as suitable means if required by certain ideas.’ (6)

These are reasons she also recorded in her contribution to the collection of essays entitled, The Future is Handmade. The Survival and Innovation of Crafts (2003), published in association with the eponymously named touring exhibition organised in 2004 by the Prince Claus Fund and Premsela. (7) Thus, crafts are not simply back again, they are also content-related and interpreted by some designers and companies technically, in a new way. ‘Craft is not a dirty word but one that designers are actively redefining for the twenty-first century.’ (8) An appreciation of the handmade even enables a traditional material sensitivity and specialist skill to be recognised in some functional objects that are entirely industrially produced. The German designer Konstantin Grcic, who was first trained as a cabinetmaker, is for example pleasantly surprised when told that his work exudes a feeling of something handmade. He is convinced that good industrial design can only be based on an understanding of how things are physically made. (9) The craft aspect is thus present in his work in a subdued way and to a certain extent intentionally.

The cross-over redefines the relationships between the various disciplines. The triangular relationship between art, craft and design is becoming one in which the positions are no longer hierarchically and clearly demarcated:

‘In the past, art, craft, and design existed in a rigid triangular relationship; art reigned supreme and untouchable at the apex, while craft and design occupied opposing corners at the base. In the past decade, this triangle has been replaced by a new paradigm in which art, craft, and design exist in a circular arrangement, with each field supporting, nourishing, informing, and challenging the others. Craft has not disappeared from our vision. It has simply become embedded in the arts and design of our time.’ (10)

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