maandag 21 januari 2013

Bowerbird Collections | Sibella Court

Here's the review I wrote for Athenaeum about the book 'Life of a Bowerbird' by Sibella Court.
The Bowerbird is a very stylish bird with a great sense for colours, texture and shapes...
But the book is about the phenomenon of collections, how to start, how to display and how simple a collection can be with great visual impact. My review starts with one of the most beautiful museum rooms I know: the Enlightenment Room in the British Museum in London. Stunning and moving..

woensdag 16 januari 2013

Material Change III

I have almost finished this really good book by Eve Blossom. In the continuation of her interesting story of building Lulan Artisans she comes with some very important steps which I endorse:
Seems logic, but should not be forgotten; what do people want, need, which skills do they have? That takes time; in Malawi most of my work is to listen to the women and village leaders and discuss with them
Structure business around culture
If for instance agriculture is the main source of income, the crafts have to fit in. It cannot be the other way round; not realistic...
Build the company around people
It's important to get to know the people; some women might be shy but very skilled, others may be quite good leaders for the project.
Make meaningful products
That's a big issue; many so-called fair trade design is built around products that are not meaningful. Unsustainable decoration, things we don't need, or just for the Western market without any roots in the local culture rather than the skills.
Bring value
The project can add value to the community; it's important to stress that. Often women have a low position in the community, and are not used to be in the front. So step by step everybody in the community has to get used to the idea that the crafts are part of the way out of poverty.
Embrace community as your partner
The Malawian society is very traditional and has many rules. You have to respect those rules and work on getting everybody 'on board'. The Chief has to approve, for instance.
Incubate your future partners
Not specifically suitable for the craft projects I'm doing in Malawi, for they have their own local market, but it's all about endorsing any initiative.....

donderdag 10 januari 2013

Seikatsu Kogei - Living Crafts

Recently I bought the book "New Standard Crafts" by Kazumi Tsuji. This book has been put together because of an exhibition about Seikatsu Kogei, living crafts. Japanese are very good with crafts, and crafts are highly valued in Japanese society. So even before opening the book I knew it would interest me. I would say it's a silent book. Silent in its book design and silent in it s content.
'Things' we need for our daily lives, like buttons, haircombs, cups, spoons, chairs etc need to be made to last long and must be made to be utilised properly. Those things make our lives good, clear our minds and make us ready for our daily tasks. When you look at things in this way, you can see their beauty. You can also see immediately when they crappy, unpractical, unnecessary, of no value at all.
The images in the book are of such simple beauty, it struck me straight away.
They made me think of those items in my house that I value highly. My ceramic bowls, my bamboo comb, my wooden chairs, my hand knitted scarves, the handmade wooden table; really well designed and crafted.
The idea of Sekatsu Kogei suits my idea of design very much. For a sustainable angle at design you need to have things that have longevity and beauty. Besides that, the designers, makers and crafters are part of the product as well. In mass production their role is totally evaporated. Price, materials and the process of making have lost their value in mass production. That must change. Seikatsu Kogei is a way of revaluing things and makers. It's an ongoing process!

dinsdag 1 januari 2013


The first post in 2013 is a review I've written about Kinfolk. A beautiful magazine from Portland USA. Food, friends and living, in a wonderful mix.  On sale at Athenaeum, of course!