Joseph Walsh takes the international crafts conversation to Kinsale

Some of the design world’s most celebrated makers arrive to share ideas with each other and the public

 

Skill, craftsmanship, artistry: these are words we tend to associate with visions of the past. We see craftspeople as inheritors of a tradition, working with methods which have been passed on to them by previous generations and using components, such as wood and clay, which have been taken directly from the earth.

But in a world where three-D printing is already a reality and new materials are becoming cooler and smarter by the day, the people who make things in our society – whether they be architects, ceramicists or cabinet-makers – can’t afford to turn their backs on visions of the future.

Hence the seminar called Decoding Craftsmanship, which the furniture designer Joseph Walsh is hosting at his workshop and studios near Kinsale, Co Cork, today.

Over the past decade Walsh’s career has brought him right to the centre of the world’s most prestigious design communities. In the process he has met some of the design world’s most celebrated makers – and now he has persuaded them to come to Ireland to share ideas and experiences with each other, and with the public.

One of the biggest names on today’s guest list is the Brazilian designer Humberto Campana, who will talk about the importance of craft as a form of expression. In 1983, he and his brother Fernando got together with the intention of making furniture out of ordinary materials – cardboard, rope, plastic tubes and aluminium wire.

The pieces they produced were anything but ordinary. Their Favela armchair features scraps of wood nailed and glued together, evoking the DIY architecture of the Brazilian slums. Another chair, the Banquete, is composed of a joyous jumble of stuffed animals attached to a metal frame. In their “sushi” collection, pieces of fabric, foam, even carpet trimmings are gathered and rolled so that their edges create circular patterns in vibrant colours.

The Campanas’ playful, dynamic approach was forged from a childhood surrounded by nature – and as they’ve risen to the top of the international design ladder, the brothers have retained a strong sense of social justice and environmental awareness. When they teamed up with Lacoste to make a collection of T-shirts, the Campanas employed the Coopa-Roca women’s co-operative in Rio de Janeiro to hand-embroider the iconic alligator, helping to create a positive working environment for women from slum areas of the city.

They’re now developing a furniture collection made from the skin of an Amazonian fish, raised by local fishermen in sustainable farms in a project aimed at creating employment in a region dogged by rural exodus.

If the work of these iconoclastic, streetwise Brazilians is at one end of the creative spectrum, that of the UK furniture designer John Makepeace might be said to be at the other. Hugely admired for his highly refined, intricately decorated woodwork, Makepeace founded Parnham College to provide integrated courses in design, making and management for furniture-makers of the future. At today’s seminar he will discuss the creation of works in a technology-free era.

Another English furniture maker, Gareth Neal – perhaps best known in the world at large for “Urban Picnic”, a series of pop-up installations placed around neglected areas in the East End of London – will explore the theme of digital manufacturing in the future.

The materials scientist Chris Lefteri will introduce his method of breaking down and re-combining materials, which he likes to compare with the art of cooking, while the German architect Jorg Berchtold will talk about how manufacturing processes influence design decisions. The London-based architect Gunther Schnell will give an overview of material studies, 3-D forms, and their impact on the realisation of products.

Ireland is represented at the seminar by the basket-maker Joe Hogan, who will discuss the exploration and development of new designs based on old traditions. The architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, who have been involved with urban design and housing projects in the UK, the Netherlands and Hungary, will examine craft, materiality, and connection to place through case studies.

josephwalshstudio.com

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