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A mini interview with The New Craftsman, London


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01 / Us:

The New Craftsmen was founded by Mark Henderson, Natalie Melton & Catherine Lock.

Mark has worked in the luxury sector for the past 30 years – over the past 15 on Savile Row as CEO and then Chairman of Gieves & Hawkes. He founded a collective there: Savile Row Bespoke to protect and promote the art of handcraft tailoring.  Natalie worked with Arts & Business and met Mark while they worked together on the Walpole Crafted programme; Catherine was introduced to them both in 2010 having completed a road trip, where she toured the British Isles to meet regional craftsmen & traditional manufacturers, building her knowledge of materials, processes & provenance.

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02 / What do you want to communicate with your shop?

The ideas behind the shop were born out of a desire to shine a light on some of the finest craftsmen in Britain – people who are making exquisite work but who don’t always get the recognition or reward for their work that they deserve.  We felt that if we could create an umbrella to represent these people, that we could help them market and sell their work in a way that conventional retailers can’t.  So our ethos is based on the principal of a considered selection of fine craftsmanship, and a particular emphasis on showcasing traditional materials and skills in a contemporary way.  We want to see these skills survive for future generations, and so we aim to bring a fresh and innovative eye to age old skills.

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03 / What are you working on at the moment?

Currently the shop has been transformed into Atelier which runs until the 14th March. The project has handed over our shop floor to 4 makers who have recreated their own work environments within the shop, filling it with the tools & objects that enable them to design & make. Each of the 4 selected makers are using their time in store to complete a newly conceived range of products including a contemporary take on Delftware by Laura Carlin, a foray into ceramic lighting by Stuart Carey, fine & experimental weaving by Catarina Riccabona & a modular Maker’s Table by Lola Lely. The project has provided a great opportunity for customers to come in & observe first hand the skills & technical abilities of our makers, & for the makers to engage with new audiences.

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04 / Future plans:

Since gaining a permanent space at our shop in Mayfair, we are working on developing more new product collaborations with makers and introducing customers and clients to our commissioning service.  We have a dedicated space in the shop where clients can sit down with us and develop ideas for truly unique pieces and gifts developed with our makers. With the growing interest in the unique and the one-off we are ideally placed to offer a wide range of skills, processes and materials that customers can explore and commission.

On a practical level, people visiting London can come and see our new events happening in-store. Coming up we’ll be launching Mindful Living on 24th March in collaboration with furniture designer-maker Gareth Neal.  The project takes a close look at how the objects we surround ourselves with can affect our mood and well-being, & to showcase this we have asked Gareth Neal to strip back his life to a pure set of objects that can fulfill his needs both mentally & physically.  Gareth’s curation will be housed in an architectural structure designed in collaboration with ‘The Bothy Project’ & the showcase will be on until 18th April.

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05 / What is a perfect product for you?

Our creative director Catherine Lock is very much the driving force behind what products get selected and certainly has ideas about what that sort of “perfect product” might be. These pieces should have an authenticity; a provenance and a meaningful connection to the landscape, process, people & tools that created them. Our Brodgar chair is a prime example of this sort of vernacular design – a contemporary Orkney Chair, it features a straw back which references the lack of trees on Orkney, and the traditional tool drawer under the seat for storage http://www.thenewcraftsmen.com/product/brodgar-chair/.

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06/  Why do you think the «craftsmen» is a new trend right now.

There has definitely been a real surge of interest in craft in recent years. People are coming to appreciate the skill behind objects more & more; a trend evident in campaigns by luxury brands such as Hermes, which are increasingly pushing the makers & artisans to the forefront of the product.

There is also a feeling of needing to protect traditional skills which have been passed down from master to apprentice over the ages and which in recent years have been at risk of dying out.  Just as with food we’ve moved back to the small local producers, artisanship & traditional skills which need supporting & celebrating if we are to protect and develop our craft legacy.

At The New Craftsmen we endeavour to protect this legacy by pairing up designers & makers to produce work rooted in provenance that engages a contemporary audience – we very much promote a forward thinking approach where traditional skills are given new appeal through innovative collaborations.

From www.thenewcraftsmen.com with thanks

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