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Designers discuss the role of traditional “craft” skills
Apr 11, 2014

WantedDesign and the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) hosted an evening conversation last month with leading US manufacturers and designers who explored case studies in the adaptation of traditional skills to the contemporary environment. Design writer and photographer Paul Clemence moderated a conversation with panelists Coleman Gutshall of Bernhardt Design, Joe Kent of Fruitsuper Design, designer Steven Haulenbeek, interior designer Laura Kirar, and Alan Indursky of Ilex.

From left to right: Paul Clemence, Laura Kirar, Alan Indursky, Steven Haulenbeek, Joe Kent and Coleman Gutshall
Kirar initiated the conversation by sharing her work with Arteriors Home, specifically a leather strand chair reminiscent of African masks. Inspired from art around the world, Kirar spoke about traveling to different countries and meeting with local artisans. Her admiration for traditional craft—from hand-cut silk to hand-blown glass—is reflected in her work, which can be seen in her new collection with Ilex Architectural Lighting.
Indurksy, owner of Ilex and Norwell Lighting and Accessories, shared the history of his two companies, both of which specialize in metal and glass. One of his works include ILEX custom imprinted pendants for DSW national retail show stores. Indursky and Kirar will be introducing the Portfolio collection at WantedDesign this spring.

From left to right: Paul Clemence, Laura Kirar, Alan Indursky
Also a traditional craft enthusiast, Haulenbeek presented his most recent collection consisting of ice cast bronze pieces. His unique method requires pouring hot casting wax into a cavity in a block of ice. The rapid cooling creates a chaotic texture that is cast in bronze using the lost wax process. The finished pieces are given a black patina and rubbed back to expose the raw bronze.

Designer Steven Haulenbeek
Bringing west coast designs to the conversation, Kent introduced seven Seattle-based design companies. Fruitsuper Design, a small and independent industrial design and product development consultancy that makes a double-sided, water-repellent, wind-resistant picnic blanket, and a handcrafted Scandinavian outdoor lawn game. Chadhaus and 16th workshop are both husband-and-wife teams that specialize in furniture handcrafted from locally sourced materials.

Coleman Gutshall of Bernhardt Design
The last speaker, Coleman Gutshall, shared the importance of handcrafted skills at Bernhardt, a 125 year-old company. Although Bernhardt has had a more contemporary aesthetic in recent years, it still produces small batches of traditional, hand-carved elements.
Clemence concluded the conversation by asking the designers what they considered “traditional skills.” Answers varied from Kirar’s appreciation for the craftsman’s skillful hand to Haulenbeek’s belief in tried-and-true, time-tested practices. Overall, the case studies explored during the conversation demonstrated the importance of traditional skills in the contemporary design environment.
Photo Credit: WantedDesign

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