From November 7 – 12, an international creative workshop in design, as well as lectures by experienced figures in Dutch and Latvian design, were held at the art museum, “Riga Bourse”; the events were part of the Dutch design project, Make Design! Dutch Design Made in Latvia. Standing out as the project's main guideline was the creation of new and innovative design products using traditional Latvian craftsmanship techniques. One of the lecturers at the creative workshop was Rianne Makkink (1964) – architect, instructor at Design Academy Eindhoven's MA programme in Social Design, and co-founder of the internationally acclaimed design studio, Studio Makkink & Bey.
A day before the closing, pop-up exhibition of the workshop, Rianne Makkink agreed to an interview with Arterritory.com and revealed her design vision for today and tomorrow. We sat down in a room at the Latvian Art Academy (LAA) after a short, introductory tour of the departmental workshops at LAA. In our conversation, Rianne Makkink spoke of her outlook on the future: the forging of a community of design; close communication between designers; and the establishment of modern craftsmanship using the language of skills.
For Rianne Makkink, design is both work and holiday, her voice and her language; when she speaks, the word “design” sounds like “life”. Design is a boat in which Makkink sails the world's seas; grasping the oars in two hands accustomed to activity, she dips them deep into the depths of past national traditions, but keeps her eyes on the horizon of tomorrow.
Along with consulting students during the creative workshop, you gave a lecture series titled “Industrious / Artefacts”. What were the issues your lectures touched on?
In large part, my lecture was derived from the exhibition, “Industrious / Artefacts: the evolution of crafts”, which my husband [Jurgen Bey, Studio Makkink & Bey] and I curated; it was a representation of the achievements of today's designers in using the skills of traditional craftsmanship.
A large part of Western European society is misinformed about the processes of craftsmanship in the past. Many people believe that craftsmanship was a one-person affair when in reality, historical craftsmanship could be likened to a small factory in which hundreds of people work – each one with his/her skill and the best instruments of the time period.
For example, let's take a look at what went on in a coastal Dutch community that dealt in shipbuilding: we see a serious division of labor here – one man forges iron, a second whittles wood, another weaves cloth, and together they build a ship. This type of shipbuilding died out, but there were people who continued with their craft. Today, we call them craftsmen – representatives of an, in its way, extinct profession. In our days, only a few individuals still work these crafts – each one in his own, almost cut-off, environment.
The craftsmanship of those times possessed an attribute that is very highly regarded these days – work done by hand. My goal is to show that modern design can also use the main instrument used in craftsmanship – the hands. Designers can even make their own tools and operate them by hand. You can order and use a commercially made tool or machine – a modern craftsmanship tool, with which to continue the work by hand – either at home or in a workshop setting. I want to motivate designers to work with modern craftsmanship. >>
The exhibition, Industrious / Artefacts: the Evolution of Crafts, is on view at the Zuiderzeemuseum, in the Dutch city of Enkhuizen, through February 12, 2012.