Mindfulness: The generation returning to craft
Having whetted the appetite for discussion on day 1 of Clerkenwell Design Week, we put the kettle on again for round two of our breakfast discussions.
Today’s focus was the cultural shift of those that have been drawn to craft, dedicating their time to being hands on, and applying themselves to a trade. We shared our beliefs in how craftsmanship improves the quality of life not only for the beholder of the object of the craft, but also for the craftsman. In our ever fast moving and material culture, we are infinitely connected but alongside this, find the need to create with physical tools and leave a personal mark.
Our guests included Sam Walton, founder of Hole and Corner, a magazine that celebrates craft, beauty, passion and skill; Alex Willcock, craftsman and founder of Visual DNA, an independent technology company combining psychological testing with big data analysis; and Sebastian Cox, a furniture designer and maker, renowned for using coppicing.
Sean kicked off the discussion by describing the thrill he gets from the resistance of craft. Recalling Sennett’s book The Craftsmen, Sebastian defined craft as “when using a tool it’s the moment you feel comfortable and it feels part of your body”. For another fellow craftsman, Alex creates balance in his life and sees craft as “finding yourself through losing yourself.”
Here at Benchmark, our motto is ‘For the love of making’, from Sean’s belief that we embody things we make with energy and love, which in turn heightens the pleasure gained by the user. Whether tangible or not, Alex commented that literally everyone that walks into his office (that is filled with new Benchmark work tables) says how it feels special with an indefinable quality.
We posed the question what differentiates a craftsman? Jane Withers felt it was the integrity of making, but not necessarily the design. Whereas others felt that some craftspeople are not seeking to make a living, but do it purely for the pleasure. In the last few years there’s been a surge of interest and demand for leisure education. As observed by Sebastian, many of his fellow craftsmen now make more from teaching and demonstrating rather than selling the finished pieces. Whatever drives you, craft can be a labour of love and a viable business.
Looking into the human condition as well as economics, Gian Luca Amadei in his work with the British Council, described how people could be brought together by craft through teaching and contribution to the community. In contrast, Teleri Lloyd-Jones of CRAFTS magazine reminded us that many geographic centres of craft do not really exist anymore.
As these skills are recognized for their rarity and the years of dedication required to finesse and develop, the true value of craft becomes apparent. This is turn increases incrementally as the value of physical work goes up. For Sean, it’s the connection to life and the majestic experience of life that makes craft one of the true luxuries in more ways than one.