Danish Design Goes Couture
This year, MINDCRAFT rolls up its sleeves: the Fuorisalone exhibition, curated by Ditte Hammerstrøm, asked 17 Danish designers to get to the core of their chosen materials
Since its debut in 2008, the Danish Arts Foundation’s MINDCRAFT has displayed the best of the country’s crafts and design scene at the Fuorisalone. In the past, many participants have had their pieces spotted and put into production by leading manufacturers. That might be a beautiful challenge this year, as curator Ditte Hammerstrøm asked the exhibition’s 17 designers to go for couture —that is, thorough hands-on work to bring out the best of each material.
We spoke with the furniture designer about her brief, our desire to solve life’s big and small questions through design and the cool renaissance of the word “craftsmanship.”
TLmag: The pieces you’re showing are so fiercely tactile. Was that part of your brief?
Ditte Hammerstrøm: That’s exactly the goal. This is an important exhibition for me: the word “design” is used by everyone about everything, so I want to show the essence of it —I want to show what designers can do that nobody else can. The core of what we do is our work with materials, and so I wanted to emphasise the aesthetic and visual qualities of these objects.
TLmag: As you were looking for new ways of working with those materials, which methods surprised you the most?
DH: I gave [the designers] a special task: as this is going to be an outdoors exhibition, in the beautiful Sam Simpliciano cloister, I asked them for large-scale work to fill the courtyard. I had been following their work, and I chose them according to which material they work with —that’s because I want the work itself, instead of the designers, to be the main feature in the exhibition. Louise Campbell, for example, is working with paper on a six-metre long piece. You have Petra Dalström working with very thin porcelain, Gitte Jungersen is working with glaze and another is working with very dusty, dry clay —so you have three different ways of working with the same material.
In the end, the results were even more beautiful than anything I could have expected. I wanted them to work with the equivalent of haute couture in design, pushing themselves to do, hands-on, the most extreme things they could do with each material. They all do industrial, mass-produced products as well, but I wanted this exhibition to feature haute couture –the best of the best.
TLmag: With the popularity of hygge, I keep thinking that we want design to solve almost every problem for us, from the emotional to the urban. Why do you think we’re placing so much of the onus on design?
DH: That’s true! (Laughs) I think a lot of the issues can be solved by using design, but I also think that we use the word a bit too much. It’s not always design: sometimes it’s beautiful engineering work. As a designer, it’s nice to get the opportunity to really emphasise what a designer can do.
It’s just popular, using “design” as a term. In Denmark, I often hear: “Oh, I designed this yesterday!” No! (Laughs) You didn’t design it yesterday, you made it yesterday. That’s something else.
TLmag: Do you foresee a shift there?
DH: Maybe we need to invent another word for it (laughs). But actually, we need to be more proud of the term “craftsmanship,” for instance. Some 10 years ago everyone wanted to be a designer, but now being a craftsman instead is getting slightly popular again.
MINDCRAFT18 will be on display from April 17-22 at the San Simpliciano cloister