Perhaps it seems odd to recommend here a programme on BBC Radio about design when it was not specifically about architecture and design in Denmark but The Sympathy of Things that was first broadcast at the beginning of November raises what seems to me to be incredibly important general points.
The two programmes were presented by Amica Dall and Giles Smith of the architecture collective Assemble and they explored ideas about the designed and manufactured world and considered a wide range of problems about our relationship to the things that surround us everyday from "pavements and handrails to hairdryers and cereal bowls" and, along the way, asked the head of design why IKEA don't make toilets.
In our concerns about sustainability and in our growing uneasiness about global production, we may have reached a point of self doubt that is comparable to the conflict of feelings and soul searching about early factory-produced goods that, in the late 19th century, lead to the formation of the Arts and Crafts movement not only in England but also in Denmark and in other European countries.
We still seem to have an odd or at least an unresolved attitude to the relevant roles played by artists, craftsmen and designers and can be ambivalent about the benefits or not of mass production so now is certainly the time to consider and discuss this as we tackle issues like our use of natural resources, pollution from production and the growing impact of transporting goods from countries that have had low labour costs as the dominant economic model in a profit motivated society.
An important point made in the programme was that "there wouldn't be anything mass produced without the knowledge about how to do it by hand" but the problem is that as more and more is mass produced in remote countries, our skill base and, personally, our direct understanding of materials and how we use them is being lost.
Giles Smith suggested that “Learning to make things and to engage in richer more active relationships with materials can help you locate yourself in the world and witness your reliance on other people's skill and labour.” Is that indulgent … an attitude that is only possible in a wealthy country … or should it be a wakeup call for a World that seems increasingly disconnected?