You can’t exactly window shop as the New Craftsmen pop-up store is in a garage in central London, but I have been trying to find a moment to peak behind the big black doors for a while.
I was immediately struck by the beautiful turquoise glazed, embossed tiles on the walls. What beauty, and expense, to adorn what would have been stables and a carriage house. The tiles reflect an attention to detail that is the essence of the New Craftsmen.
Before popping-up, the founders spent two years touring the country, meeting exceptional makers of traditional crafts, masters of skills that are often centuries old, and capturing their stories. New Craftsmen is the result. A selection of beautiful, and useful wares presented to customers in a place, and space that also shares the stories of the people and processes that make them.
Some pieces are produced just as they always have been, such as the Sussex trugs (gardening basket) handcrafted from locally coppiced sweet chestnut and willow by Thomas Smiths since 1829.
Other things are a contemporary take on a classic piece, such as the Coventry chair, pictured. Made by Sitting Firm in Coventry, the chair is one of a number of variations on the classic Windsor chair that are stocked by the New Craftsmen. Chris Eckersley designed the chair during a green-woodworking (also know as bodging) project at Clissett Wood, in Herefordshire. This intensive designer mash-up, now named ‘Bodging Milano’, inspired spin off events such as the ‘Elves and the Chairmakers’ in the Lloyd Loom factory in Spalding when seven chair concepts emerged over two days. I love the notion of designers’ creative energy sparking off one another to hot house new concepts and experiment freely with materials in their environment.
Back to the New Craftsmen, where my eye was caught by a Taylor’s Eye Witness lambsfoot pen knife. Sheffield, the City of Steel, has a tradition of knife making dating back to the 14th century, and Taylor’s Eye Witness have been fine exemplars of the local skills for over 150 years. The knife is made entirely by one craftsmen (and comes with a certificate bearing its maker’s signature) from stainless steel and an ironwood handle. To see how,there is a video on the Taylor’s Eye Witness website. The knife has a reassuring weight in your palm, and yet the wood grain on the handle has a delicate beauty. Pen knives remind me of my grandfather making all manner of things for us, from whittling sticks to rope ladders. It would make a special present for someone. A thing of beauty to enjoy forever.
- interview :: the new craftsmen (confessionsofadesigngeek.com)