The industrial revolution with all its glory was thought to have laid to rest the days of the “master craftsman”. The skilled man tinkering away in his workshop for hours on end seemed pointless when shiny products could now be created with the magic of the production line. Industrial design made sense. It was widely accepted that the designer needn’t labor unnecessarily, they simply needed to conceive of an idea and the rest was taken care of by a large manufacturer. All these seemingly simple assumptions have recently been turned on their heads with the emergence of the new Maker movement.
The Maker Movement
The Maker movement is a term coined by Dale Dougherty of O’Reily Media. Dougherty is also responsible for the creation of the Make magazine and Maker Faires. The Maker movement is a new trend that places value on an individual’s ability to be a creator of things as well as a consumer of things. Encompassed within this movement is the design maker. The design maker works with raw materials and craft objects from there conception to there realization.
Craft As A Viable Commercial Activity
The emergence of digital tools means that crafting away in the garage has been elevated from a hobby to a commercially viable endeavour. Digital equipment has now become accessible and affordable for the average designer. The designer can now craft his product from beginning to end and sell this product on the commercial market. However, not all design maker create with commercial end in mind. There is an intense interest in craft in the work of many young designers that are exhibiting their work.
The Designer Maker As Artist
Rather than seeking commercial profits designer maker Libby O’Bryan seeks to challenge and engage her viewer, as she writes: “the aestheticized temporality of my work gently implicates the viewer to provoke investigation and self-reflection”. “Go weaving” is the name of a performance installation she created. It involves the repetitive synchronized moment of 16 cheerleaders, who lye on their backs and weave a band using a hybrid back-strap warp-weighted table loom.
The designer Jean-Baptiste Fastrez created a series of hairdryers with a variety of unusual wooden handles. Fastrez strives to convey the message to his viewer that the one-size-fits-all outcome of traditional manufacturing should at the least be challenged and more than likely be rejected.
The Deeper Side Of Skilled Manual Labor
It looks like the desire to make things with our hands is a deeply rooted need that is not easily silenced. In his 2008 book “The Craftsman” the sociologist Richard Sennett argues for the idea of homo faber (“man as maker”). Sennett argues that the skilled manual labor is one path to a fulfilling life.
It seems that the industrial designer has not managed to supersede the “master craftsman”. The “master craftsman” has reappeared in the form of the designer maker and it appears that he/she is here to stay. So as much as we love the glitter and glamor of the mass produced product the deeper yearning in all of us may be to create and consume the quality hand crafted object.
Cover Photo: Designer Enzo Mari took flatpack self-empowerment to its logical limit with his 1974 Proposta per un Autoprogettazione