On Craftsmanship


A really interesting book landed on my desk called On Craftsmanship – Towards a New Bauhaus by Christopher Frayling, former Rector of the Royal College of Art  and Chairman of the Arts Council England and the Design Council.

My son has just completed his dissertation as part of his degree course at Manchester School of Art – you may have seen me post pictures of his furniture. Part of his worked focussed on the democratisation of design and craftsmanship.  He looked at organisations such as Open Desk, a very interesting collective of designers selling open source furniture.  The basic idea is you choose the furniture design you like and then find a craftsman near you who can make it for you.  This decreases the cost to the environment as well as making good design more affordable – the very epitome of the democratisation he wrote about. If you are able to make it yourself you can simply buy the CAD/CAM files as Joe did.  You can see his Roxanne chair at the top of this post.

So the arrival of this book was apposite. It isn’t a long book but I haven’t had time to read it all yet. In the introduction, Frayling talks about the move from ‘the creative industries to the productive industries’ which seems a very satisfying move to me. His definition of craft as ‘an activity which involves skill in making things by hand’ resonated with me.  The word skill had fallen out of favour in the nineties and noughties imho but I celebrate its return.  It hints at years of deliberate practise, seeking to improve and build skills, and inherently celebrates age and wisdom.

I recently interviewed Mr Noro who is in his 80s. Many of you will know his amazing yarns that meander through beautiful colour combinations. He has spent his entire working life developing his skill and he is sought out for his abilities.  With his kind of skill also comes the generosity and humility to pass the knowledge on to the next generation, which he does to his staff – the ancient relationship between master and apprentice, if you like.

The only things that worries me is that the word ‘craft’ will be overused – it’s already started.  Craft should embody the time it takes to acquire skill and not just the latest buzz word used by advertising agencies and marketing consultancies.  It needs to have substance.


Material World by Perri Lewis

I have been meaning to post this review for a long time but Orkney kind of got in the way.
After ten years in the spotlight craft is still huge and one of its steadfast champions has written a book.  Perri Lewis has a unique take on the world through her articles for The Guardian and her blog (Make and Do with Perri) she helps to make the world of craft accessible, shows us how to join in, and introduces us to the unexpected.  All of this is brilliantly embodied in her excellent first book –Material World.

Perri expertly blends the big names in fashion and craft with

very interesting articles and insights; she takes the mystery out of 15 different techniques and puts them in context against interviews with big name experts; she leads us through projects that make the everyday unusual. All in all Perri has successfully brought us art against a backdrop of traditional techniques.
Here are just a few of my highlights
Philip Treacy on hats – Could anything be more exciting?
Decoupage shoes – such fun!
Macramé – I am dying for it to make a comeback
Stitchlinks – Perri’s interview with Betsan Corkhill gives great insight into the therapeutic effects of knitting.
By the time you come to the end of this book you start to get a real sense of how many people are embracing craft and the full range of our community. So often as knitters we get stuck in our own little silo but this book helps you to try something new.