Exploring fading professions


As I mentioned in the previous post (learning agreement), the ambition for my Final Project and future practise has been identified through the research into Emotional Design. By investigating the feelings; why do we love or hate some of the objects and how the history is allowing us to build this relationship with them using true narratives.
The research led me to the conclusion, that the history overlapped with culture is an important factor which should be considered within the design process.

The way how I would like to incorporate this element, is through the craftsmen work, where the story can be told by the used techniques, materials, processes and tools carrying the marks of its makers and speaking out about their time-honoured professions.
The project intention is to celebrate a unique heritage by stepping back from high manufacturing processes and bringing back to life the community of makers. The ambition is to preserve their skills and knowledge in objects, combining this with contemporary appearance through reinventing materials and processes.

One of my inspirations for this project was The Story Vases, developed by Front which explores a new way of working with traditional bead craft.
Created vases are the documentation of personal, daily life stories told by African women through threading glass beads onto the metal wires, which are at the later stage used as a vase-shaped moulds for glass blowing; incorporating two different techniques of making.

The Polish culture is rich, vibrant and characteristic in specific regions. It carries different skills sets and values, significant to be shared with others. Particularly, the southern Poland, Malopolska can pride itself on well preserved tradition with around 29 different fading trades, presenting national folklore, that is ‘much romanticised  in the Polish patriotic imagination’.
This region plays an important role in the outgoing research.

My first stage of this project was preceded by exploring and examining vanishing professions in Poland. I have decided to look into uncommon techniques of making, which nowadays have lost their influences; replaced by machines or just being forgotten.
During the research, I came across the most common areas of craftsman work, rooted in polish tradition. These are crochet, lace making, basketry making, carving and cutouts.
Apparently some of these techniques are well-known internationally and were translated to contemporary objects by other designers.
One of the examples, seen in Milan is ‘The Tokyo tribal collection’ by Nendo with handwoven products by local artisans in the Philippines, also the project ‘The Traven’ by Christian Vivanco which is a collection of woven furniture for children, handmade by craftsmen using felting and basketry making techniques. Finally the well-known ‘Crochet Chair’ by Marcel Wanders that honours the crocheting, which I studied in previous unit.
 ‘The Tokyo tribal collection’ by Nendo ‘Crochet Chair’ by Marcel Wanders

There is many examples, but as the purpose for my Final project is to create a collection of objects which will evoke peoples’ emotions, get them excited through showing them something that they might have not seen before, my next step was to look deeper into Polish tradition, the processes and objects and how they can reflect more polish history.

At this stage I found two particular objects: a wooden spoon and leather slippers (often sold as a souvenir in polish mountains) which caught my attention in terms of used processes, that reflects the makers manual skills and their great understanding of natural materials.

The spoon making

In the past, (in the countryside) wooden utensils and spoons used to be in common use. Almost in every village there was at least one person dealing with this profession. Today it is almost extinct trade being displaced by milling machines.
The traditional process of making them requires hewing piece of wood, then eroding centre of the spoon by special chisel, one unskillful movement can damage almost finished product. Every single object has a different texture, which is shaped manually using primitive tools such as ax, chisels and spokeshaves resulting in unique outcomes.

Working with leather

Nowadays, there are significant changes in production of leather products. Many companies apply laser cutting machines as a more efficient way of cutting cattle hide and creating patterns. Before this, every single step in this process was performed manually, including cutting and stamping leather.
This almost forgotten technique has survived mainly in Podhale (literally “under the Mountain meadows”) which is Poland’s southernmost area, located in the foothills of the Tatra range of the Carpathian mountains. In this region, the demand for traditional belts with brass buckles, belts herdsmen, bags and moccasins (kierpce) is still visible as they are part of the traditional costumes worn on special occasions by the Highlanders.
The mentioned parts of outfit are highly decorated with distinctive ornaments, braid with leather straps and buckles.
More details and decorative patterns they have, the higher status of its owner they present.

This key information is the base of my research which will require further investigation  into the polish craftsmen’s who keep the tradition alive. I am planning to visit, and gain essential relationship with artisans before further project development.



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