[Even] as we lust after craftsmanship we can't afford and disdain the industrial products we can, we'll be seeing more crafted industrial objects coming our way.
- writer/critic/London-based curator Justin McGuirk
While the maker-movement seems like a new-millennium development, the seeds were sown during the post-war period. Of particular note is Enzo Mari, an Italian designer who became so disgusted with the shabby quality of affordable furniture, that in the 70s, he created designs for tables, chairs, beds and storage which anyone could build using only standard pine planks, nails and a hammer. More than 5,000 people sent him a stamped envelope in order to receive their free Autoprogettazione designs.
Here, designer Taiana Giefer starts with merino wool - which is like regular wool in that its fibers are covered in "fish-scale" layering, but less pronounced, resulting in its superior softness. After layering and weaving the merino pieces into place, boiling water and olive oil soap are poured onto the fibers, which are then agitated under pressure to bind them. Hours of applying boiling water, soap and agitation continue - anywhere from 4 to 24 hours - until the fibers fuse fully, resulting in silky felt. "These ancient Wet Felting Techniques are said to date back to ancient Sumeria," explains Giefer. "Sumerian legend claims the secret of felt-making was discovered by the Urnammam."
Urnammam was a Sumerian warrior hero who originally hailed from Lagash, traveled widely, and was famed for his courage, compassion and inventiveness. Which is characteristic of the Sumerians, who emerged more than 5,000 years ago in what is now Iraq and Kuwait. Their writing system - comprised of wedge-shaped strokes - influenced all scripts in the same geographical area for the next three millennia as cuneiform.
While the respectful nod afforded the past is admirable, it underscores the naive and Utopian characteristic of the maker movement:
Where western consumers aspire in all our Portlandia-level earnestness to small-batch this and handmade that, much of the rest of the world lives in countries where local craftsmen aspire to industrialized products.
Why? The realities of life.
The fact is, mass-manufacturing represents the economic way out of poverty for a least a billion people, and not only because it promises to provide the basic goods that have been taken for granted in the west for a long time now. Sure, "the hand is the window on to the mind" (Immanuel Kant) but a rising standard of living is what affords people around the world both the time and the money to engage in self expression.
- Lesley Scott
NOTE: Honoring the past to help us pave the way forward fashionwise is a signature of the Folkspun fashion tribe. For more of my posts about this tribe, CLICK HERE. To learn more about each of fashion's four mega-tribes that I track, START HERE.