Craftspeople and digital makers were brought together with the aim to stimulate knowledge exchange, experimentation and research.
Through an open call, eight teams of two to three people were formed, each consisting of at least one craftsperson and one digital maker. Over the past months, they worked on their own projects at the intersection of crafts and digital techniques, either remotely or at a location of their own choice. In order to highlight a wide range of working methods, each team involved a different craft: weaving, goldsmithing, saddle-making, paper-making, embroidery, ceramics, basket weaving or knitting. Each craft engaged with digital techniques differently, and with diverse results.
Amandine David & Esmé Hofman
Practicing a craft is not just a manner of making things, it is also a way of communication – among people as well as between people and materials. This understanding is central to the collaborative project of basketry specialist Esmé Hofman and designer and researcher Amandine David.
David and Hofman have been working together for several years. Their practice revolves around the making of hybrid objects from a combination of basketry techniques and machine technology that facilitate a transfer of crafts knowledge from one person to the other. This transfer of knowledge is something both Hofman and David feel is urgent. It implies not only a passing on of historical techniques, but also a means of expression, a way of learning, reasoning and problem solving – one that is not based on spoken of written language, but on looking, feeling, sensing.
The wickerwork objects presented by Hofman and David during Dutch Design Week are constructed using laser-cut ‘tools’ in the shape of perforated rings. These replace the traditional woven base of a basket. Such a woven base is complicated to make and usually dictates the shape of the basket. The laser-cut rings make it easier for beginners to try out basket weaving. At the same time, they allow for a more autonomous and intuitive handling of the cane. They thus act as learning materials as well as starting points for shape experiments.
David developed a script in 3D design software to generate the structures. Hofman creates physical models based on these structures. To further develop the models, feedback is important: from David, from Hofman, but also from the material Hofman works with. This is centercane, a light, strong and flexible type of rattan. How the centercane will behave, computers cannot predict. Ultimately, the material directs what the objects will look like.
Flavia Bon & Anita Michaluszko
Fashion designer Flavia Bon and textile designer Anita Michaluszko entered the New Crafts project with an open question: what happens when physical and digital fashion and textile design collide?
Bon and Michaluszko were both educated in physical crafts: Bon was schooled as a tailor and subsequently as a fashion designer, Michaluszko studied textile and fashion design as well as fine arts. They went to the same university for some time, but would only meet years after their respective graduations. Even before that, they did have something in common: a fascination for machines and computer software, and a knack for manipulating these for the sake of creative experimentation.
Bon and Michaluszo finally connected over their interest in the possibilities of virtual fashion. Designing for the virtual world – the metaverse for example, or games – comes with many benefits. For instance, it offers considerable artistic freedom to makers, who are able to evade the limits and consequences of material production. Still, Michaluszko and Bon did not abandon their physical crafts in favour of it. On the contrary: their work in the virtual world challenges them to expand their knowledge of tangible textiles and clothes. To produce convincing designs for the virtual world requires a deep understanding of physical tailoring techniques and materials, they argue. At the same time, virtual fashion encourages them to look beyond the boundaries of their physical crafts practice.
As part of New Crafts, Bon and Michaluszko developed examples of workflows based on constant interaction between physical and digital. The resulting products, such as fabrics and virtual jewellery, are central to the project but were never its main aim. Rather, they are visualisations, try-outs and tests of a thought process that continues to unfold.
Bianca Koevoets, Aram Hartsuyker & Marius Stanasel
A horse saddle that adapts to the horse’s body and communicates with its rider through sensor technology and an app: it sounds futuristic, but according to Bianca Koevoets, Aram Hartsuyker and Marius Stanasel, it could soon be reality.
Ill-fitting saddles are a major problem in equestrian sports. Koevoets, who has been working as a saddlemaker for multiple years, knows it all too well. A saddle can be made to measure, but when a horse changes in weight or becomes older, it can begin to pinch, wrench or slide. That can hurt the horse, and even injure it in the long run. However, a horse cannot tell its rider whether a saddle has the right fit or not. Moreover, sometimes the rider itself is the problem: a wrong posture, for example, can cause unequal and uncomfortable distribution of pressure.
Together with industrial designer Hartsuyker and Stanasel, specialist in connective technology, Koevoets worked on a saddle with built-in sensors that collect data about horse and rider during training. These data are reported to the smartphone app Mind Your Ride, built by Stanasel. Based on these data, the rider receives feedback or suggestions to improve their posture or adjust the saddle.
The saddle itself was developed by Koevoets and Hartsuyker, who combined innovative technology with traditional materials such as steel and leather. The latter was hand-worked by Koevoets. Using digital design software, the saddle was constructed to be easily adaptable as well as modular, which extends its lifecycle.
Eva van Kempen & Ming Design Studio
In the Netherlands, Eva van Kempen is one of the few artisan makers of filigree, a metal decoration technique in which the metal is twisted and rolled into fine threads. These can then be used to decorate surfaces or to build intricate, lace-like open structures. In the Netherlands, the technique was used for the making of jewellery for centuries. As regional dress traditions are waning, the filigree craft is in danger of disappearing from the Netherlands. This would mean the loss of one of the oldest and most prominent techniques in smithing as well as tacit knowledge that is difficult to convey in words.
In China, which has an even longer and richer filigree tradition, much more is done to preserve and promote filigree craftsmanship. Through an international innovation programme dedicated to Chinese inlay filigree in Shantou, South China, Van Kempen met industrial designers Mingshuo Zhang and Yona Huang. Together they form the Chinese-Dutch design duo Ming Design Studio. Under this name, they design objects that unite values of handcraft and industrial production.
Zhang, Huang and Van Kempen combined their knowledge of filigree and digital design and production techniques to develop 3D-printed tools that can be used to easily create a filigree pattern. The tool works like a press: thin strips of metal can be placed between the two parts. Under pressure, these strips are bent into the oscillating shapes of filigree. The result can be used decoratively in a variety of ways.
The tools are suitable for precious metals as well as more accessible materials like aluminium. They can be used by experienced and less experienced makers. The tools could inspire them to (re)discover the original filigree technique, bringing it back into the spotlight. At the same time, this hybrid working method inserts a contemporary and abstract form language into the age-old filigree tradition.
Loret Karman & Joost Jansen
Knitting a multicoloured image is a complicated process. The technique that is usually applied is called intarsia, and requires the knitter to work with multiple colours of yarn at the same time. The large number of balls turns even the knitting of a simple figure into a laborious matter. Hence, few knitters are truly proficient in intarsia knitting.
In recent years, Loret Karman and Joost Jansen have been searching for a way to simplify the knitting of multicoloured images and to make it accessible to a wider audience. Karman is a specialised hand knitter and yarn dyer. Jansen is the founder of Survival of the Fashionest, a brand that produces hand-knitted clothing. Jansens designs contain complex motifs executed in intarsia. Currently, this is done in Bulgaria, by a team of women who are masters in the technique. Even so, the process is time-consuming: the knitting of a single jumper takes approximately three weeks on average.
Together with Karman, Jansen developed a method to dye the image onto a single length of yarn. This allows the knitter to knit a multicoloured image using only one thread. A first proof of concept is displayed in the exhibition.
During the making of this sample, however, the new method turned out to be almost as challenging as intarsia, be it in a different way. Pre-dyeing the yarn necessitates meticulous mathematics, and the dyeing itself is arduous. Subsequently, the knitter must knit neatly and consistently to avoid colours ending up in the wrong places.
Jansen and Karman are currently in touch with a Israeli spinning mill that could produce the pre-dyed yarns industrially, with machines responsible for both calculations and dyeing. That would permit further development and scaling of the single-yarn production process.
Marieke de Hoop & Rik van Veen
In the universe of things, paper usually takes on a supporting role. Paper often functions as a carrier, for example of text, image or objects. At the same time, paper is an interesting material for autonomous design. It exists in endless varieties, and can be produced sustainably from waste materials such as used textiles or vegetable leftovers. In short, paper is a material for the future.
From this perspective, papermaker Marieke de Hoop and product designer Rik van Veen researched the potential of paper for the creation of three-dimensional shapes, to experiment with various paper qualities and to discover new applications. De Hoop and Van Veen focused on paper handmade from asparagus peels.
The use of leftover materials characterises the work of both De Hoop and Van Veen, who produces design objects by cutting and heat-fusing found plastic elements. Besides, he makes bespoke CNC-milled moulds for the plastics industry. However, while plastics are usually flexible, paper is a stiff and brittle material that is not easily pressed into shape.
Together with De Hoop, Van Veen delved into the process of making asparagus paper, in order to find out at what stage of the process the paper would be easiest to set in shape. Initially, they tested spraying, pouring and smearing the wet paper fibres across different 3D shapes. In the end, the solution turned out to be wetting the paper and modelling it over a mould. The asparagus paper, remarkably, turned out to be more stretchable than many other types of paper.
The moulds for this lamp were digitally designed by Van Veen based on the stretchability of the paper and made with a computer controlled milling machine. Presented here as a light object, instead of being a carrier, the paper is being carried for a change.
Martine van ‘t Hul & Daniël Maarleveld
Does a computer have its own handwriting? What does that look like? Can it learn a new one? These were questions which embroidery expert Martine van ‘t Hul and graphic designer posed in regards to the computer-controlled embroidery machine. Similar to a sewing machine, the embroidery machine uses a needle and thread to stitch motifs and lettering onto textiles.
The concept of handwriting is central to the daily practice of both Van ‘t Hul and Maarleveld. For several years now, Van ‘t Hul has been working on the translation of her handcrafted embroidery to machine technology, which enables her to work quicker and realise larger projects. Conversely, Maarleveld explores the conversion from digital graphic design to analogue product, studying the ‘hand’ of the computer. Do computers always work correctly and consistently, as we are tend to think, or do they also make mistakes – and if so, what do these tell us?
In their collaborative project, Van ‘t Hul and Maarleveld departed from the so-called alphabet sampler: a sampler embroidered with alphabets, usually in cross-stitch. Maarleveld and Van ‘t Hul took these alphabets as a starting point to digitally design a new font, an alternative to the flawless lettering that is usually preprogrammed into the embroidery machine. However, the machine could not just execute any design. Cross-stitching, for example, turned out to be too intensive for the machine, which is used to embroidering in longer lines.
On that account, Maarleveld and Van ‘t Hul developed a font that suits the machine’s own logic. The final result, displayed here, contains an interesting tension. The letters look too orderly to have been embroidered by hand. At the same time, small imperfections betray the computer’s struggle, giving the letters a handcraft feel.
Nina van Bart, Roel Deden & Marieke van Heesbeen
The project of designer Nina van Bart, 3D designer Roel Deden and product designer and ceramicist Marieke van Heesbeen revolves around the so-called ‘Tactile Totem’. In this exhibition, the totem functions as a case study to demonstrate how physical and digital knowledge and techniques can tie up in a new working process.
The concept of the totem stems from Van Bart, who is a designer of objects, surfaces and settings for interiors and architecture. She makes one totem each year as a means of material research. Van Bart studies the possibilities of different materials structures and colours by applying them to four basic architectural shapes: the box, the cylinder, the cone and the dome. Gradually, Van Bart builds an archive of resolved experiments that can serve as an example to herself and makers in other disciplines, such as fashion or the design industry.
Making the totems is labour-intensive: it requires extensive research as well as the repeated production of physical mock-ups. For this specific totem, made from ceramics, Van Bart, Deden and Van Heesbeen reinvented the process in order for it to be more efficient. Instead of developing the totem through physical mock-ups, a virtual version of the totem was designed by Deden in 3D design software. Via interactive viewing technology, the makers could give feedback on the virtual design. If necessary, adjustments could be made directly in the design programme. Van Heesbeen advised on adaptations for execution in ceramics, as only she could predict how the design would eventually come out of the kiln.
This way of working proved to be not only efficient, but also valuable on an artistic level. Making virtual models instead of physical mock-ups saved hours, which could then be spent on the creative thought process.