Man vs Machine: The Convergence of Craft & Computer
To mark the start of Clerkenwell Design Week, we gathered together some friends to discuss subjects close to our hearts over boiled eggs and soldiers sat around our new ANGUS table.
Sean ever curious, wanted to explore the nature of craftsmanship and the cross over with digital manufacturing, whether this is CNC machining or additive manufacturing (3D printing). Are these digital processes craftsmanship or can they be used in the process of craftsmanship? How they can both live side by side and benefit us?
Our guests included Daniel Charny, curator of the blockbuster The Power of Making exhibition at the V&A, and founder of Fixperts, a social project and sharing platform; Barn the Spoon, who expertly whittles spoons and is fascinated by this traditional wooden utensil; Alyn Griffiths, a freelance journalist and design editor for PORT magazine.
Over mugs of coffee and tea, we got to grips with the basics of how this relatively new technology is creeping into our lives and what possibilities lie ahead. We were lucky enough to have two 3d printing machines in action – Will Fisher with the MakerBot, and Riccardo Bovo with RepRap, the first ever 3d printer invented by Adrian Bower.
Take outs included: “Digital away from laptops is the way forward”, said Daniel Charny. Currently, 3d printing is in its infancy, noted Harry Richardson of Committee and RCA tutor, but in the future the printable materials will become more sophisticated. Stuart Wood, Head of Innovation for Heatherwick studio commented “3d printing makes the physical world renewable.”
Moving onto licensing issues, Alyn Griffiths, author of a paper for the British Council on 3d printing, observed that “the spread of pirated files would not offer protection for designers. The widespread adoption of 3D printing is likely to further blur the lines between original, open source and counterfeit design.” Featured in Alyn’s paper was Assa Assauch who has been at the forefront of 3d printing for a decade. What interests him is that “3d design starts with zero, and part of the magic is the concept of materializing your thoughts. The virtual tools are almost as the saw for the carpenter, or the hammer of the chisel. The user can co-design and interact with the object and set their personal values on their future object.” Is it consumers, or users? He prefers to call them partners.
Sean posed the question of what distinguishes digital craft from a more traditional craft? Sebastian Cox responded with “It’s the feedback from the material and how the hand responds.” Whatever craft, there is a need to understand materials, something that Corinne Julius felt was important not to lose teaching in schools, and that knowledge was needed in order to move into the digital craft.