One aspect of London Design Week that caught my eye this year, was the celebration of craftsmanship.
Spring is a season of such optimism and promise, with its longer days, bright green shoots of early growth and the prospect of shedding layers in warmer temperatures – I love it! In the interiors industry, the season is marked with the launch of new products and fresh colourways and designs. What struck me this time was that not only was the finished product on show, but the talented people who bring the designs to life – who stitch, paint, chisel and weld them – were being brought out of the workshops and given the recognition they deserve.
Watching them work, painstakingly by hand, you appreciate that what they’re producing isn’t churned out by computer controlled machines on some long production line, but are truly handmade, individual pieces with their own character and subtle variations.
Magazines love to show us images of two very similar products, whether in fashion or interiors, with tags such as “skinted vs minted”. At first glance the two items bear remarkable similarity; a contentious issue in itself, with the rights of the original designer (quite rightly) staunchly defended by organisations such as ACID – Anti Copying In Design. But whilst they may look similar in a flat product shot, the difference in terms of the quality of materials, the construction and finish is all too apparent when you handle them. Naturally, this is reflected in the price, but justifiably so.
Of course, most of us can only rarely afford to invest in a beautiful handmade product, but I would always much rather have one really special piece, than ten mass produced things. And when you’ve saved the pennies and can afford to treat yourself, buy a piece that will bring you real pleasure each and every time you look at it or use it. Invest in a beautiful console table in your hall and it will bring you joy every time you walk through the front door. Splash out on a statement light in a plain stairwell and it’ll bring the whole space to life.
I couldn’t be happier that we’re coming full circle and beginning to appreciate craftsmanship once more and the story behind the products we use – a reaction against the environmentally unfriendly, throwaway consumer society that has prevailed for too long. So thank you Porta Romana and Paco Camus for showcasing your skilled staff; William Morris would be proud of you I’m sure.