Tachy Mora is a Spanish design journalist and curator of the recent “Cutting-Edge Spanish Crafts” exhibition now showing at the Former Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C. The exhibition, based on her 2011 book of the same name, explores the current state of craft-making from “designer-makers” – artisans who designed and produced functional works of arts.
Tachy explains the role of “designer-makers” in Spain, the effect of the economic crisis on the design industry, and how designer-makers are paving their own lanes in the current climate.
Q: What is the purpose of the “Cutting-Edge Spanish Crafts” exhibition?
TACHY: This exhibition shows the most contemporary side of Spanish crafts, through about 90 pieces. What you can see here are pieces made of leather, porcelain, textiles, wood – so many, many materials and many design approaches.
Q: Who brought up the idea? Is it something that consumers wanted?
TACHY: It’s a boom in Spain but also in [the rest of] Europe. It started 15 years ago, more or less. Before the [economic] crisis, many companies that mass-produced stopped doing it in large batches, because they couldn’t compete in price with Asian products. So what many of them started to do was use mass-produced techniques with craft techniques. They are making now products that are industrial and artisanal. These products are more emotional, let’s say, because these are products and pieces of crafts that are an artist piece. In a way, these products are in the middle between an artistic piece and a product. These companies started to see these as a way of still producing and still being in the market. At the same time, designers couldn’t find companies that produced their designs, because of the same thing and because of the crisis, so they decided to self-produced.
Q: So they became entrepreneurs?
TACHY: Mhm, in a way. They self-produced not only using third artisans, but also work as artisans. This is what we call “designer-makers” because they are designers and makers at the same time.
Q: Did the economic crisis change the attitudes the approach of the designers? Was there a sense of urgency? Were there any other attitudes?
TACHY: Many of them can’t work for companies, because these companies aren’t producing as they used to do. They aren’t launching thirty products as they used to; they are launching maybe four or five products a year. So the designers can’t get into their professional field because of that. So that’s why they started to self-produce. This is not only happening in industrial designer. This is happening not only in industrial design, in furniture and lighting, and also fashion.
Q: Do you see this as a model for other industries outside of design and fashion?
TACHY: I wouldn’t say this is the model. This is the model working for them at the moment. This is the only model, actually. Most of them work like this in Spain really. So now we have the Makers’ Markets in Madrid. These designers-makers go and sell their pieces, and they are self-produced, all of them.
Q: Where do you see craft-making going in the future?
TACHY: When I try to think of the future, I think we will have more products that will be more pieces of art than furniture. They are working in a way that mixes crafts, which is something very “arty.” Now you can buy, for example, a table from a designer-maker, it’s a table he designed or she designed, but they also made this piece. Most of the time, they avoid the classical industrial shape, and go more for a very special piece, that is more arty, more personal.