High quality craft is in fashion this winter! So much so that luxury brands like Hermes are promoting themselves this season by borrowing heavily from the craft sector – using the hand-made and craftsman-made as concepts for adding value and distancing themselves from the idea of large-scale, standardised and anonymous industrial production. In Vogue (at least in the Spanish language version) Hermes portrays itself as an “artesano contemporáneo desde 1837”, or “contemporary craftsman since 1837”. Really??? The current Hermes catalogue includes a series of stylish photographic portraits of their employees – not obviously the office workers, administators or communications specialists sitting at computers (no doubt the higher percentage of workers) but the “artisan” employees. Of course, the top fashion and design companies do use skilled craftspeople for the top-of-the-range items. But the fact is that most items are not one-off or limited edition, and the way the business is run, directed and presented to the public could not be more different to the small craft businesses – whose very magic and individuality the large brands seek to capture in their own publicity.
At least the campaign reminds us of, and reinforces, the positive images associated today with traditional crafts. But this seems to be something that something that craftspeople themselves seem either to forget or fail to get accross to their clients: Authenticity, individuality, quality defined as the embodiment of carefully-honed craft skills (you really can´t fake craft skill), and the personal touch of making something with one´s hands.
For these reasons people looking for exclusive, well-made and unusual objects would do just as well to look to their local independent craftspeople rather than the big brands, this christmas. Not all craft is high quality – just as not all industrially-made work is high quality, but there are many fantastic craft makers and small craft businesses who take a real pride in making good work.
People hunting for well-made craft will also find that, compared to luxury brands, the actual objects are very reasonably priced. The other big plus that independent craft workshops offer their clients is the elusive quality of something that money just can´t buy. A Hermes bag or scarf is easy to buy, whereas a scarf made by an independent maker isn´t, for it may well be a true one-of-a-kind piece and once it´s sold there just won´t be any more! Craft-made items also have a hard-to-define exotic value; like rare birds or flowers, they´re not easy to find – they´re not on every high street and they´re not even on Bond Street. Once “discovered” craftspeople tend to be a bit like well-kept secrets, to be shared with friends.
The images on this textilesnaturales post are of hand-made textiles and baskets all being made by hand this November at Anna Champeney Estudio Textil, the independent hand-weaving studio in Galicia, and at Lluis Grau´s basketry workshop in north Spain. Prices range from 15,50€ to around 250€.
Textiles and baskets all available from 1 December onwards from the online shop at textilesnaturales. If you should find yourself in Galicia, north Spain, in December, you can also visit the workshops as they have special weekened opening hours throughout December (open christmas day, morning only).