Digital Craft (1)

When it came to choosing agendas which we would like to follow and trace it to a deeper investigation, I have decided to follow Digital Craft. It was easier to make the decision after visiting Dutch Design Week. The showcased designs made the connection of merging Digital and Craft together, pushing the boundaries in terms of the latest digital technologies. This trip has proven to inspire me to take on this subject further.

digit.craft DDWFor a better understanding of Digital Craft and what drives its practitioners to create objects, I have split those two words out to find the answers to the following questions:

Digital Craft definition:
Digital Craft Definitionquestions[Historical & philosophical relationships between craft and technology]
(1996) McCullough explains in his article, that the way the hand and brain are used in computer related activities are specifically analogous with craft practice. In His theory, he states that computer programs should be created from the user perspective, allowing more flexibility through the use of more personal, refined tools, and with time through haptic devices, and virtual reality.

There are many definitions and perceptions of craft. For instance, some scholars perceive the quality of a product as its significant aspect, while others put the emphasis on the fabrication process.  As Richard Sennett stated, craft is ‘any process in which the practitioner is deeply invested in the outcome and takes care to do excellent work’.
Its a risk taking process according to David Pye author of ‘The Nature and Art of Workmanship’, he later explains, that the quality of the result is not predetermined, but it heavily depends on the professional judgment, skills and care. Which means that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making ‘ the workmanship of risk’. Finally crafting is narrative, include storytelling through objects and their process of creation.

A process whereby an object design is produced on a computer, and then taken in the production by a machine. Digital fabricators machines can be sorted into two categories: subtractive & additive subtractive approaches use drill bits, blades or lasers -> to remove material from an original material source, thus shaping 3D objects
additive processes deposit progressive layers of a material -> until a desired shape is achieved. Additive manufacturing, media they are more often considered as a ‘next industrial revolution’. A range of technologies that add a material layer by layer are guided by software program which renders from 3D image (3D printers). They use materials such as wire, powder, UV-cured liquid, and laminated layers.


FDM- fused deposition modelling
EBM- electron beam melting
DMLS- direct metal laser sintering
SLS- selective laser sintering
SLA- stereolithography

[Digital Vs Craft]
Does digital craft equal the traditional way of making?

1) A craftsperson makes a series of personal and objective/subjective decisions that define the object. The same process I can observe in digitally produced artefacts, which are the results of the subjective decisions of their creators.

2) The traditional ‘designer-maker’, working with analog materials, has no digital history of these decisions that she or he can refer back to or retrace being exposed to the risk.

At the end of the process, the object itself is the only documentation of the effort, where in digital world designers have a rich history of their attempts in the form of digital files.
Digital fabrication also depends on the skills, perspectives and values of their makers. As a consequence, digital work is still on the risk. However, in terms of automatic production where the result is predetermined by the file seems to be no risk. Thus, designers can come back to them and edit histories, creating at the same time infinitely reproducible temple.

In this way of thinking authors of an article ‘Hybrid Reassemblage: An exploration of Craft, Digital Fabrication and Artifact Uniqueness’ believe that the fusion of craft & digital fabrication is possible by the destruction which is ‘the ultimate risk a creator takes’. By accepting destruction, the craftsperson comes to terms with one of the essence of the workmanship- risk. Overall the process looks like that: CRAFT-> DESTRUCTION -> RESTORATION (in an intentionally imperfect way). As the it’s designers Amit Zoran & Leah Buechley said, ’It’s the act of braking a handcrafted objects gives us opportunity to restore it with 3D printing’. This procedure allows to create unrepeatable digital crafted pieces.

A series of examples describe digital craft in a similar way, keeping the latest digital technologies with craft on the right balance, where the final outcome is predetermined by the makers. To use the new solution you don’t have to be a craftsperson, anyone can be involved within the process. Naturally, I started asking myself, what has happened to the skills? Where they co-exist in this whole process? Simply, the necessary skill is being reshaped in response to the changing technologies, and it has been for some time now.

Digital Hammerdigital hamerring
Kathryn Hinton uses a digital hammer as a hand tool to form the shapes of her products in a 3D file. Later on she use process such as rapid prototyping, computer numerically controlled (CNC) milling, casting and press forming to fully realise the digital objects. By creating this accessible tool within a computer aided design programme she allowed to design and manipulate metals into previous unachievable forms.

‘Working with computer aided design (CAD) and computer numerically controlled (CNC) milling opens up the possibility to experiment with different materials and create work that I could not do through traditional hand processes’.

Collective Work
In this project his author Mischer Traxler designed a machine that weaves wooden baskets, but only gets onto making process if someone is nearby. What’s more, the amount of people engaged in its production will define a final object, its pattern and colour. A blue marker pen is added to the veneer, every single time when extra person approaches, a hue gets darker as more people approach the basket?  Engaging user in production, makes it process interactive and create unique ‘customised’ object.
'Collective work'The project is ambiguous in many ways. The audience are turned into workers, even though their effort is just the time they spend with the machine. But time is what most of us lack. If nobody is interested in the project, it stops producing and the final product just doesn’t get produced. It is production on interest.’            Katharine Mischler and Thomas Traxler

Virtual potter’s wheel
One more project which, contains dialect between passivity, interaction and skill in digital fabrication is l’Artisan Électronique, a “virtual potter’s wheel” from Unfold design studio. A sensor on the digital potters’ wheel responds to the movements of the visitors’ hands, while a 3D ceramic printer produces the pots from rolls of clay at the other end. The object intrinsically raises questions about one of the hallmarks of craft making; the hands-on engagement with the material.
L’Artisan Électronique
These projects reflect upcoming evolution and are an example of creating ‘the maker community’ 
‘It may be because of the accessible nature of many of the additive manufacturing processes (there are many desktop 3D printers but nothing so portable for injection moulding or blow moulding) that a lot of the advancements are coming from individual inventors and from the ‘maker’ community, aided by the open-source way in which they are sharing ideas and solutions.This has led to a much faster evolution and maturity in the discipline than in many others, and heralds a new way forward for product development.’

The Endless flow rocking chair is an excellent, well known example  – Dirk Vander Kooij explored a new possibilities for design, craft, and production this time with the benefit of predecessors. He created homemade large-scale 3D printer using a robotic arm. Look at this video to see the beauty of its process of making:

dirk vandirk vanderHe is a new kind of craftsman, not interested in mass production. Compared to Ray and Charles Eames, who among other twentieth-century pioneers introduced innovative ideas for furniture making by using techniques and production processes from other fields.
As Charles Leadbeater (innovation consultant) said ‘ Innovation is not just for professionals anymore. Passionate amateurs, using new tools, are creating products and paradigms that companies can not.

As some people might say, the word digital and craft just don’t go together. The digital world is often to be assumed as rigid, with less creativity involved. In contrast to the definition of crafts, where great patience, skill and time is dominating, contributing to the object value and aesthetics.
But we live in the 21 century now, and contemporary craft has taken its own meaning, and it simply cannot be defined by a single use. It can include a variety of different media’s, but the making process still stands as the leading aspect. Digital fabrication has really taken off in the recent times, as more and more designers have used this process in making. Digital technologies offer a great deal of potential for designer makers to develop their practices. The emerging exploration of their use enables us to re-address the contemporary value of craft.

Digital Adventures in Contemporary Craft, Lab Craft, gallery guide/
Hybrid Reassemblage: An Exploration of Craft, Digital Fabrication and Artifact Uniqueness, Amit Zoran & Leah Buechley, Leonardo 46.1 (2013): 4–10.
Material Innovation Product Design, Andrew H. Dent & Leslie Sherr, 2014
Craft and digital technology, Katie Bunnell, Falmouth College of Arts
Digital Crafts: Industrial Technologies for Applied Artists and Designer Makers, Ann Marie Shillito, 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.