MADE IN is a research, design and heritage platform that proposes new collaborative practices and knowledge exchange between the traditional craftspeople and contemporary designers. It engages craftspeople, designers, researchers, curators and theoreticians on a quest to pose relevant questions about the topics of heritage and production in today’s society through research and archiving of local crafts, conducting workshops and residencies and promoting ideas through a travelling exhibition.
MADE IN was conceived in 2014 by Croatian Design Collective OAZA as a social design project Old School Ilica — a reaction to the process of the disappearance of small crafts and manufacturing workshops from the City Centre of Zagreb, and was firstly showcased within a larger topic of nanotourism during BIO 50 exhibition in Ljubljana, organized by the Museum of Architecture and Design. This and other intersections around the topics of mapping and archiving the local crafts and the position and relationship between design and crafts in contemporary society, led towards partnership between six organisations and institutions that belong to the similar geographical, historical, cultural and social context (Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia) and eventually towards the formation of a regional platform, whose first iteration and a two year long research and outputs are presented in this publication.
WHY MADE IN?
In spite of the various functions and purposes within the cultural fields, all of the actors are linked by projects that are from different positions approaching the matter of production within the field of design, which is further explained in the Introduction to this publication. The MADE IN syntagma in the title carries a reference to anonymous and to some extent non-human production of today, led by the countries of the far east. It emphasizes the position of design within the current market oriented neo-liberal capitalist paradigm, with a reference to its source — craftsmanship and making, from which the discipline was inseparable up until the advent of industrialization. Today, on the brink of a technological revolution there seems to be a need to pose the questions about our physical and virtual space again: WHERE is it made? WHO is it made by? WHAT is it made of? FOR whom is it made? WHERE does it come from? Etc.
In order to understand the values that crafts carry for the future, but also to problematize the fact that most of the traditional crafts knowledge and skills, especially those referring to the embodied knowledge transferred from the master to the apprentice, are disappearing, the Crafts Archive presented in the second part of this publication, brings a selection of 40 knowledge holders and their traditional crafts from Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Serbia, documented through texts based on unstructured interviews and photography, explaining their background, history, materials, tools, techniques, processes and key products. This starting selection of craftspeople – ten per each country – although small, serves as a showcase for status of local crafts in four countries. The participating craftspeople were selected by several criteria. They were chosen for their superior craft knowledge, the level of endangerment of their craft, their representativeness for the area, but also for their geographical position. Thus, the research area varied from state-wide or regional coverage in Slovenia and Austria to the city or city quarter samples in Serbia or Croatia. Texts by local experts precede each specific chapter, giving insights into the local specificities and context.
Crafts-Design Narratives refers to eight specific projects that emerged through a two-year process, carried by each country separately, addressing issues specific to the local production context. The narratives are results of the workshops and residencies conducted through collaborations of design professionals and craftspeople, mediated, co-mentored and curated by individuals from the involved partnering organisations, and are presented through different formats and media.
“CAN SOCIAL DESIGN DRIVE LOCAL CRAFTS PRODUCTION?”, conducted by Italian designer Andrea de Chirico (SUPERLOCAL) and Design Collective OAZA from Zagreb opens the topic of production in an attempt to mobilize remaining local crafts community in the City of Zagreb to engage with young designers and new technologies, and thus contribute to the debate on the need for establishing new models of collaboration that address the reactivation of production in the urban zones.
“HOW CAN DESIGN AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES CHANGE OUR RELATIONSHIP TOWARDS PRESERVATION OF CRAFTS?” is manifested through a short film by Studio Unfold and Alexandre Humbert A Combmaker’s Tale, in “which we follow the story of two passionate makers: Antun Penezić, 82, Croatian last living comb maker who will retire this year without a successor, and Franka, a brand new robot, dedicated to follow in his footsteps and learn as much as it can from Antun in order to preserve this age old craft from disappearing”.
“HOW CAN RESEARCH INTO LOCALLY SOURCED MATERIALS ADDRESS WIDER SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS?” focuses on the issue of raw materials, particularly earth, from sourcing, legislation, production to social and financial networks behind its cycles of research and use. The workshop Crafting Data led by designer Lukas Wegwerth resulted in two interconnected parts: the sourcing of raw material and experiments conducted by workshop participants and craftsman Urban Magušar and the research film by artist Giulia Bruno.
“CAN DESIGN RECONNECT WITH RAW MATERIALS THROUGH CRAFT?” questions the sourcing, processing and exploitation of metals from metal ores and their use in our everyday life. Designers mischer’traxler together with stonemason Beno Ogrin created a series of objects that work as communication tools revealing tangible data about stones and their hidden metallic mineral components.
“WHAT CAN DESIGNER LEARN FROM THE PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE OF CRAFTSPEOPLE AND THEIR LONG-LASTING RELATIONS TO OBJECTS?” explores repairing and maintaining of crafted objects, which adds layers of patina and creates long lasting relationships between objects and subjects. The workshop Crafting, Cleaning & Caring by Dutch designer Rianne Makkink explored the materiality and immateriality of such relationships and looked into methodologies of doing things informed by the practical knowledge and the daily work routine of craftspeople. In collaboration with local craftspeople, producers and makers, the participants worked with traditional techniques and experimentation.
“HOW CAN DESIGNERS REINTERPRET TRADITIONAL CRAFTS BY USING NATURAL AND CULTURAL RESOURCES OF THE REGION?” is based on extensive research by design studio chmara.rosinke that sought to include specific traits of the Bregenzerwald in their design process from the perspective of reinterpretation. Together with a group of craftspeople, they designed a formal kitchen setting that showcases the characteristics of the region’s landscape and its architectural language.
“WHAT MAKES AN EQUAL AND EXPLORING DESIGN-CRAFT RELATIONSHIP?” puts the topic of human touch and empathy at the center of collaborative interaction. In the workshop named Design<by>Doing, which was mentored by Serbian designer Tamara Panić, design students and Belgrade craftspeople left their individual presuppositions aside and opened the space for genuine understanding of “the other”.
“CAN OBJECTS CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF DESIGN-CRAFT COLLABORATIONS? focuses on the position of design in the context of increasingly problematic mass production in contemporary society and the need to remodel the designers’ aspirations towards meaningful and socially aware design processes through diverse collaborations with master craftspeople. The topic is illustrated by the Perfume Ghost, made through collaboration of Swedish designer Jenny Nordberg and Belgrade perfumery Sava.
The eight chapters form a basis for the travelling exhibition which is going to be presented in each of the 4 partnering countries, but also tends to grow in size.
Thus, the curatorial concept is built upon the idea of expending the MADE IN platform through future exhibitions. The potential hosts are encouraged to contribute to the Crafts Archive by mapping locally specific crafts and conducting new craft-design collaborations.