Designers new proposal.



Johann Zoffany, John Cuff and his Assistant, 1772

Last week our class discussion was based on the birth of design. In this section ee learnt the origins of the designer’s history. We were also introduced to a recent point of view about the designer’s role, by the writer, critic and curator Justin McGuirk, in “The art of craft: the rise of the designer-maker” which was published in The Guardian, for which McGuirk was a designer columnist.

Before the industrialisation, only the artisan was able to indulge people’s needing. His role was taken by the engineer, who worked in the factory, and had to plan the products’ set pattern to be followed by the workers. This new social class was born as the consequence of the industrial revolution, begun during the second half of the 18th century. Products started to be in quantity but no quality. Who was working, was not worried about the final product (of course). Making was not art and ability anymore. Loads and affordable products brought along retails and store departments (US) and fulfil customer’s taste brought the necessity of someone able to plan things, deal with changes and comprehend buyers’ demand: the designer.

McGuirk enlightens the “post-industrial nostalgia for the pre-industrial” felt by the western countries. In fact, contemporary designers show it on a regular basis. In my opinion, today’s designers are not denouncing the mass production, but trying to fulfil their purposes “soiling their hands” and making things different from the conventional manufacturing. They give to their creations a significant identity with the research they make to conceive the product. To me, design has become intellectual. A designer taken into consideration by Mcguirk is Jean-Baptiste Fastrez’s, who made very singular kettles. The kettle comes with a set of standardized plastic and electric parts while the bodies can be chosen from a series of hand-blown Pyrex or hand-shaped ceramic vessel. Fastrez doesn’t give people options, as the kettles by Peter Behrens (1900), created within an already asserted capitalistic society, but the chance to identify their taste into his exchangeable alternatives.

The designer’s research is approaching more and more to find a sense of primordial, due to draw men closer to his origins. Today’s technology seems to be a human’s necessity, revealed to predominate on the natural circle of life, as man needs to build airplanes and ships to travel through air and water, general quality of birds and marine animals. Technology is the third human’s arm, either wing, claw, or gill. Technology has broken man’s relationship with his primordial origins and that’s why (in my opinion) designers are reassembling this lack through natural materials and hand making.

Doing basic online research about of today’s design, rough materials combined artificial ones, is almost given. Designers, consciously or not, are giving a touch of craft on their ideas. Some of them are taking it to the extreme, with the use of raw, natural and untouched materials.

An example is the Wolf Den Coat Rack by Cantilever and Press: a coat rack made out of reclaimed wood. The company says their products are handmade “because the materials and the intent require it. They are each unique, requiring a keen eye and hand to ensure they are up to standard” (Hornland M.). Furthermore, Cantilever and Press intends to keep their product line small and sustainable. “This doesn’t mean that we don’t want to see them in awesome design stores and in the homes of many people, but it is important to us that each one remains unique” (Hornland M.), far away from mass production.

Coat racks are made every day in mass production, using steel, plastic and so on; they are fragile, multicolour and cheap. Wolf Den Coat Rack had a life because of its composition made from living beings, left on their natural appearance, with their own colour, but being functional, thanks to expert minds and hands which made it.

The designer Eleanor Lakelin peels back bark to reveal the organic chaos that can exist in the material itself or builds up layers of texture through carving and sandblasting, to make beautiful forms. Eleanor materialises the product of her artistic research from her dedication, time, ability and thinking. Her objects can’t be duplicated.

Another designer who validate my “theory” is Asher Dunn, The founder of Rhode Island design firm Studio Dunn, named Best New Designer at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in 2010. Each piece he makes borrows inspiration from a phenomenon that occurs in nature: the Stillwater Club Chair, for example, mimics the balletic curvature of tree branches; the Kujira Coffee Table parallels whale skeletons and river stones; the slender legs of the Newport Table resemble newly sprouted tulips. The Studio’s latest project, the American Heritage Throw Pillows, are inspired by color studies created during visits to the coastlines, harbors, woods, and mountains of New England.

Asher brings to his work the concept of travelling and adventure too, as a practical action associated with the natural human behavior.

To me, consciously or not, the continuous mixing of natural materials and artificial ones, plus the constantly updated techniques employed by the designer to create and give shapes to their ideas, are standing up a battle between the human’s essence and the progressive tendency of destruction which characterize the post-modern society. Creative individuals’ work purpose is to reaffirm of the natural cycle of things.

By Nicole Afonso Alves Calistri, 2015

Hornland M., Handmade and Hot: Wolf Den Coat Rack by Cantilever and Press, A blog about our business, Design, Eco-responsibility, Natural Beauty, Textiles, Handmade goods and Product Design, Gallant&Jones, online source from accessed on 13/10/2015

Artisanlondon, THE ONLINE MAGAZINE WHERE LONDON ARTISTS AND ARTISANS REVEAL THEMSELVES “Eleanor Lakelin: a protean maker in wood.” online source from accessed on 13/10/2015

WorkOf 2015, “Featured Maker: Asher Dunn.”, Maker Interview, Featured Makers. Online source from accessed on 13/10/2015


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