This exhibition was shown first in Milan in April 2016 as one of the events of the annual design week in the city. As with the comparable exhibition last year - Mindcraft15 - it was curated and the display was designed by GamFratesi - the Danish Italian design partnership of Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi. It was organised by the Danish Arts Foundation and the Agency for Culture and Palaces.

There are works here from 17 designers or design studios and the pieces demonstrate not only a very high level of craftsmanship but the works in different ways explore boundaries we seem to impose between craftsmanship and product design and art. Materials include ceramic and wood and textiles but there is also a light installation and music.

The main theme is the imagination and the intellectual process of design - that balance between understanding the materials and the techniques to be used but then wanting to push boundaries - to question, to inform, extend and develop ideas and challenge our preconceptions about how something should look and question what we want and why and how we value art and craft works and how we use objects. It’s about alternatives and discovering new possibilities.  

Gam and Fratesi suggest that the display of the pieces on revolving stands represents exploring the idea itself … from that moment of conception and how a design evolves first in the imagination and then through a number of stages. In part, the stands represent the different areas of the brain thought to be responsible for that process but also by turning they set up different views of each piece and different relationships between one piece and the next to stimulate an interaction.

There is a short introduction in the catalogue by Tor Nørretranders who has written on human consciousness and about how we make sense of the world around us. He makes an important point about the relative roles of the subconscious and the conscious part of the mind in the process of making anything so how both instinct and reasoning are used in that sequence of designing and then making. 

He also makes a link that I had not thought about before … in talking to the visitor, he suggests that when looking at and appreciating a piece it is important to "Thrust your immediate intuition, your like or dislike, your non-conscious, hands-on direct experience."

Surely that is also what the maker does, literally with hands on, during the process of throwing a pot or blowing molten glass or cutting into wood with a chisel or when selecting the right glaze or exactly the right colour for a particular thread … and that is they are making an assessment or a value judgement, part instinct, part training and part experience, part broader knowledge of materials or historic context, to decide what looks right and what feels right for what they 'had in mind' … or what they designed or planned or had drawn before they started to make.

Maybe that is why a work by a craftsman, the maker, is generally more highly valued than anything made by a machine - not so much that it is unique but that each piece is the product of continual checks and balances and decisions through the process of production. 


Mindcraft16 continues at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen until 8th January 2017


deal with it by Rosa Tolnov Clausen

work in silver by Yuki Ferdinandsen