Making In 2018 was not just a gathering of like-minded souls; it was also a stimulating and mind-expanding day, which will stay with us all for a long time indeed.
This year, our hope was to explore the intertwining of narratives about craft and place; it was for this reason that we invited Dr. Claudia Kinmonth to offer opening remarks, a sort of “welcome to country” for people from near and afar. She focused on a little known but (for many Irish) essential piece of domestic equipment, the noggin. Easily underestimated, this little object is, as Claudia has discovered through her research, both a marvel of ingenuity and the center of home life. Literally knitted together, it served as the perfect metaphor for our investigation into the quiet potency of objects.
The other speakers in the morning ranged widely in discipline, but all were eloquent in their descriptions of creative sites. Giles Smith, of the award-winning architectural collective Assemble Studio, treated us to images of the group’s recent and current work, including an exciting new development at Goldsmith’s in London, their curated presentation at the Venice Architecture Biennale, and a past project in Liverpool, which transformed a neglected neighborhood into a hive of aesthetic production. Anike Tyrrell shared a parallel story of reclamation, describing how her firm J. Hill Standard has breathed new life into the story of Waterford crystal. Particularly moving was her description of a community of skilled makers displaced, some of whom are now part of her firm’s own story; by connecting to contemporary designers, she and her team are finding new audiences.
Sara Flynn brought the house down with her impassioned talk, in which she described the development of her beautiful and sensuous ceramic vessels, and also the small but intense space where she makes them. She risked “setting the cat amongst the pigeons” by declaring that an overall sense of place – be it in Cork or Belfast – was not as important to her as a feeling of privacy. Her workshop, she said, was entirely enclosed but for a view of the sky – perhaps an apt metaphor for the transcendence she creates in her workshop. She was followed by artist Sudarshan Shetty, who joined us from Mumbai. His practice is as extroverted as Sara’s is intensive, drawing on the skills of woodworkers and others who are active in the city. His thoughtful talk revolved an idea from ancient India: “Unless you engage with an intense devotion to something, you will not find the detached within yourself.”
After lunch, we shifted gears into demonstration mode, with presentations by two of Japan’s most talented young artisans. Shuji Nakagawa makes wooden buckets, very much in the tradition of his family. He has taken the tools and forms of this simple but beautiful craft and extended them to other purposes, including the making of stools and vessels of unorthodox, asymmetrical shape.
Takahiro Yagi continued with a highly engaging talk about his own family lineage, and the making of tea caddies, which are perfectly tuned – as he spoke, he hammered at the bench, evoking the sounds that he himself would have experienced as a child. Today, his family’s tea caddies are sold worldwide and even used as containers for Bluetooth speakers – a great example of old meets new.
Our final pair of speakers returned us to the Irish sense of place. Ken Thompson delivered a stirring and powerful speech about his life as a stone carver, explaining the place of religion and tradition to the rhythms of his day. For many attendees his talk felt like the still center around which our conversations pivoted. And finally, we were lucky enough to have music and insights from Bill Haneman. He is one of few professional makers of the uilleann pipes, a complex musical instrument that requires the mastery of numerous materials (wood, metal, leather, even mammoth ivory) and techniques. In addition to sharing the details of the trade with us, Bill reflected on the role of history and the question of adaptation in his work – a balancing act that all of our makers shared to one extent or another.
The Making In symposium series aims to be a platform for the latest thinking around questions of craft, art, design and architecture; and also to create a sense of camaraderie among those who share this passion. Thanks to our participants and the many others who supported the event, we believe that these goals were met and exceeded. We hope that you feel similarly, and that you will join us again next year, as we continue to explore the depth and breadth of making in the 21st century. Glenn Adamson, 2018