What can a typewriter, a bagel, a painted sign, paper sculptures, a record player and a leather bag all have in common? When the best craftsmanship and materials meet carefully considered design edits and choices, each becomes not only a true wonder to behold and use, but somehow timeless and nearly divine.
That inspiring idea is at the core of Mohawk Maker Quarterly’s Issue #3, Pride is in the Details, which I had the distinct pleasure of previewing last week. You can get a free copy of your very own if you sign up here by this Friday, and I really recommend you do so, because no matter what you create, you’ll find plenty of insights to guide you through the sometimes maddening process.
The path of bringing a creation to life, whether you are part of a team or solo, can be difficult. Seeing the approaches creatives in other mediums take can help that process feel more negotiable.
There is a lot to sink your teeth into. In “Curating the Details,” Dora Drimalus interviewed Ellen Lupton, curator at The Cooper Hewitt. On the importance of details, Lupton noted: “We have learned to invest a lot of time in brainstorming and conceptualizing and solving problems and that’s really great … but is it really? If you spend a year on a project and at the last phase you stop paying attention to how it actually gets executed, it won’t succeed.”
Another response that resonated with me addressed how details make the difference between what’s remembered and what’s forgotten: “You might not remember all the details, but the details make you feel something and that is what we remember — the experience.”
A few objects from the piece really illustrated these (and many other) concepts. Here is the Valentine typewriter and case, designed by Perry A. King & Ettore Sottsass, Jr. It was manufactured by Olivette out of ABS plastic, metal and rubber in Italy, ca. 1969.
And here is Snow White’s Coffin, a turntable and receiver, Phonosuper SK55, designed by Dierter Rams & Hans Gugelot. It was manufactured by Braun AG of painted metal, plastic and ash in Frankfurt, Germany, 1956.
In The Movement: Champions of Craft section, a wide range of detail-driven work from around the globe and across many mediums is featured. I love Williams Handmade’s stylistically innovative, traditionally crafted leather goods in Worcester, England. Every piece is made by scratch by Sarah Williams. It’s made of traditional English Bridle leather, while the locks and fittings are solid brass made by the last remaining company in England.
Williams noted, “You cannot have true quality and craftsmanship without taking care of the details. If you were hand-stitching something and one stitch went out of place, a true craftsperson would start this again. All the details need to be correct for the end product to be perfect. It’s kind of like a scientific experiment: Unless you measure out all of the ingredients precisely, the end result is not going to be right.”
Ph0tograph courtesy of Jimmy Beltran.
The medium itself ultimately dictated that Jeff Canham, a traditional sign painter and designer in San Francisco, take a somewhat different approach to details.
He observed, “Painting letters by hand really helped me discover the beauty in imperfections. It took me a while to realize it, but the inconsistencies are now what make sign painting attractive to me. No matter how hard I try to make something perfect, there are inevitably flaws, and those nuances are the details I appreciate.”
Photograph courtesy of Jeff Canham.
Zim and Zou are an artist duo specializing in paper sculptures in Nancy, France.
They explained: “Keeping a kind of ‘playground’ while working is important to us as artists. The texture of the paper means a lot to us. I think that showing a real object made with real materials, with no major retouches, can give impact to a picture. This is why we like to let the strings be visible, or sometimes preserve a few imperfections that we do not wish to retouch.”
Image courtesy of Zim and Zou.
Lastly we have Beauty’s Bagel Shop, makers of Montreal-style wood fired bagels in Oakland California.
The shop’s proprietors, Amy and Blake, elaborated (in part), “We think that the small things contribute so greatly to the experience of the customer, probably without them realizing it. For instance, matching up the curve of the omelet with the curve of the plate, baking bagels throughout the day so someone gets to carry a warm paper bag of bagels home … or getting rid of coffee two hours after it’s brewed because it’s just not as amazing after that. Those considerations rule what we do everyday.”
Image courtesy of C+N Creative.
I have just scratched the surface of the quarterly, and there’s one thing I can’t convey in a blog post: how Mohawk Live, the company’s augmented reality app, adds a high-tech element to many of quarterly’s images (printed on Mohawk’s high-touch, ultra-luxe Strathmore paper). If you download it and hover your mobile device over images imprinted with the Mohawk Live icon, your device reveals a wonderful little surprise, maybe a 3-D image, a video, an infographic or animation. Each is so fun to discover for yourself, I won’t provide a hint here — but I will again urge you to request your free (!) issue. When mine arrived, I had stories to write and a dizzying slew of emails awaiting responses … yet I found the experience of stepping away from it all and taking in all its visual treasures and insights to be a really effective way to tackle it all later with a fresh, curious mind.
I love the centerfold, created by Jessica Hische splendidly bringing a Wes Anderson quote to life. I’m already looking for a frame to encase it in to hang nearby my desk. It will be nice to look at as I ponder the myriad creative dilemmas that cross my plate!