Outside the Campana Brothers‘ studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil, photo courtesy of Andrew Wagner
“The public demands the newest, the latest, the slickest and the shiniest—and the media delivers. Or could it be the other way around? The media chooses to write about the newest, the latest, the slickest and the shiniest in order to cater to parties other than their readers (e.g. their advertisers) and therefore that is what you’re fed as a reader whether you like it or not. Regardless, If you’re looking for a well thought-out, thoroughly researched article about design/art’s role in curing society’s ills you’re going to have to look long and hard. But lack of media attention doesn’t mean that solid, lasting, deeply transformative design/art/craft/architecture is not happening.”
-a mea culpa of sorts from the editor of the venerable crafts magazine on behalf of his profession. There are so many intersecting worlds of enterprise and endeavor that come under “arts”, “design” and “craft”, and following some of the links mentioned in Andrew’s post and comments proves this. One of the links was to a discussion from last March at I.D. online – a 4 way discussion about American furniture design which includes RISD’s Roseanne Somerson, along with another prominent designer, a representative of a large American manufacturer, and the owner of a design store in Brooklyn. The discussion is mainly about government and cultural support for innovative designers, and the lack thereof, and may seem far from our old friend “craft”, but Roseanne argues for craft and the importance of the knowledge of making. The point is made that it may be marginally easier for designers in Europe because there is a larger appreciation for contemporary design among the broad public. As for integrated cultural support, the Dutch seem to do it best right now, starting with free education and an excellent design school at Eindoven, but also including advocacy groups along the way and a more nimble industry. At the end of the discussion, Roseanne has some clear suggestions for improving the American climate for designers. These include well funded national design competitions, organizations to promote furniture design to the media, and a lobbying effort to improve the protection of intellectual property rights. Done properly, these kinds of efforts could improve the climate for all furniture makers and designers, not just those in academia or those who wish to design for the mass market. The gulf between industrial design and craft is not really so great. Garth Clark called craft and design natural allies in his recent talk “How Envy Killed the Crafts”. I encourage the Furniture Society as an organization to think about these things. The next Furniture Society conference in Boone, NC, will be an excellent place to explore these issues – “Industrious – the Design, Craft, and Culture of Furniture making”, June 10t to 13th.