3daysofdesign - craft and craftsmanship

Rud Rasmussen, Bredgade, Copenhagen - showroom opened during the 3daysofdesign event

Generally, talking about craft and craftsmanship now, we tend to think of something that is made by hand rather than manufactured - and of pieces of work that are produced as unique items or at least in limited numbers - so something that is unique and highly specialised like a gold or silver cup for a special event - or, at the other extreme, something that is made by someone who might not be a professional or working full time as in pottery or weaving at a craft market.

In fact use of the word craft in English is quite complex and quite subtle implying, to quote the definition in the Oxford dictionary, “Intellectual power; skill; art; ability in planning or constructing, ingenuity, dexterity …. the learning of the schools; a branch of learning; a science … a calling requiring special skill and knowledge … “

In those senses it is possible, clearly, to talk about craft (as in skill and knowledge) in industrial manufacturing.

Rud Rasmussen - The Faaborg Chair designed by Kaare Klint in 1914

The new showroom for Rud. Rasmussen on Bredgade in Copenhagen is obviously about a company with a long tradition of craftsmanship with the employment of craftsmen to produce furniture using well-established skills. The showroom, actually launched during the 3daysofdesign event, has a reconstruction of a workbench that is used for making a Faaborg Chair, designed by Kaare Klint in 1914, and shows clearly the work, skill and time required to produce this furniture using the best materials.

This craftsmanship - in the sense of the understanding the materials used and understanding and making careful use of the skills required to produce a piece - can be most obvious to a customer in the recognition of quality and the appreciation of quality control for the final piece - so the customer becomes aware, when they look at or pick up a piece, that it is beautifully made, without obvious faults and irregularities and feels solid or robust … it is something that is well made and made to last.

Bestlite table lamp from Gubi

With a Bestlite from Gubi you can see immediately that quality is carefully maintained to ensure the continuing reputation of both the design and the brand. Skill and craftsmanship or, rather, the clear understanding of the relationship between the design, an understanding of the materials and the techniques and the mechanics of production for the execution of the design can be used to develop new designs for the range such as the Bestlite table lamp with an opaque glass shade, or new versions of the lights with turned brass shades or lights with stands and fittings in brass that are new but have an appropriate level of patina.

Gubi 52 Chair by Komplot Design 2003

The same level of “skill and knowledge” - the same sense of craftsmanship - from the design process through to manufacture - can be found in upholstery although it might not be so obvious. Selection of the right fabric to maintain the complicated shape of a chair or sofa; the use of piping to define the edge of piece in an elegant and understated way; the setting in of the upholstery from the edge of a shell chair to define crisply the edge (rather than using the cheaper, easier and clumsier method of just wrapping the fabric round and fixing it on the underside) or the even less obvious experiments and trials to produce better, long lasting foam for upholstery that maintains shape and does not go brittle and break down over time as early foams did - are all good examples of craftsmanship and skill and the application of knowledge and experience.