So when I was thinking of what to share I decided to use this opportunity to be a little self-indulgent and to talk about quite personal views and ideas, interests and inputs – so please forgive me. However, I hope it is not too boring and perhaps the themes could be continued in the future.
After Friday’s meeting I’ve decided to continue the theme of makers by posting a little bit about three makers who inspire me.
Leach (1887 – 1979) was a British studio potter who settled in St Ives (down the coast where I grew up) in England after potting under the direction of Shigekichi Urano in Japan for ten years. I seem to return to his pots as a reference for control and mastery of materiality, as well as colour and form.
Leach promoted pottery as a combination of Western and Eastern arts and philosophies. In his work he focused on traditional Korean, Japanese and Chinese pottery, in combination with traditional techniques from England and Germany, such as slipware and salt glaze ware. He saw pottery as a combination of art, philosophy, design and craft – even as a greater lifestyle.
Leach advocated simple and utilitarian forms. His ethical pots stand in opposition to what he called fine art pots, which promoted aesthetic concerns rather than function. I love the idea of an object representing these thoughts, a vessel which holds multiple rich ideas (pun intended). Below is a short extract of Leach throwing a pot – he uses a speed-eye technique, his eyes are scanning the fast movements of the clay to see if there is one line out of place.
Great soundtrack and narrative over the top, also notice how clean his hands are!
Michael Marriott is a designer who’s brilliantly functional work leans toward the enormous potential of a ready made – their uses, misuses, function and disfunction as originals and within his own designs. Covering furniture, product and curatorial design, his practice is also about the conversations that surround his discipline, and so he has written, exhibited and of course, taught the idea of making as a mode for thought. When I came across his work it coincided with being interested in the idea of re-appropriation. I think Michael Marriott does this in a very thoughtful and subtle way which was a lesson for me in how I select references and reinterpret them as influences. He also makes great benches with steel fixings. I think this short film sums his approach and influences up quite well:
One of the most thoughtful and intellectually provocative Italian designers of the late 20th century, I came across Mari when I wanted to make some simple furniture for a new room I had just moved into. His concept of autoprogettazione – whereby everyone can build their own furniture using his manual and your local timber merchant, was a great inspiration and a lot of fun. It predated Ikea and is part of his concept of design used to please the factory workers who make his products. One of his pet theories (a typically idiosyncratic conflation of the Communist Manifesto and Arts and Crafts Movement idealism) is that designers have a responsibility to liberate workers from the drudgery of what Mari calls their “alienated labour” by creating inspiring products for them to make in “transformative work.”
The AA also did a retrospective of autoprogettazione a couple of years ago, and designers like Mario Camper and Rainer Spehl continue to borrow heavily form it.
To Mari, design is all about creating forms, or shapes. “Form is everything” comes a close second to “design is dead” in his top two sayings, and he is exceptionally good at it. His designs, a chair, table, glass, vase, teapot or paper knife is stripped down to the simplest possible shape, yet perfectly proportioned and detailed. It’s a cheesy cliché to describe design as sculptural, but Mari’s is. It also seems so tactile, that you want to pick up each object and use it, rather than simply looking at it. Also check out his toys for children.