Art and craft give interiors their soul. They personalize, like all things bespoke, and make a house your own, with an intimacy that really is hard to match, especially when there’s a backstory.
These objects speak to you, especially when they have a memorable provenance that adds a touch of romance. A piece of tinwork you acquired while traveling. Or a one-of-a-kind decorative ceramic pot that you fell in love with in an artist’s studio. Perhaps folk art from a museum. You may have learned about the inspiration for a rug and how it was woven. Just seeing these pieces in your foyer or living room brings you back and adds to the enjoyment.
Particularly in the last few decades, the appreciation for handcrafted objects has swelled. Seeking the artisanal extends to everything from aromatic soaps to chocolates, like the hand-decorated signature ganaches from MarieBelle New York Chocolates, which look like a box of 16 miniature paintings, each with a different flavor.
The appeal, says Caroline Hipple, president of Norwalk Furniture, which has featured craft-inspired looks on its fabrics for upholstery and pillows, is authenticity. “It’s an antidote to mass consumerism, the opposite of technology. We want to feel the touch, know the source, relate to the maker. Celebration of indigenous materials, using them in new ways — that’s what I love.”
Bolstered by globalization and easier access online, sites such as the handcrafted product marketplace Etsy foster relationships, introducing and connecting makers with buyers. Artisans may be discovered, like Justin Bieber, on YouTube, Instagram or other social media. Or they meet up through local or international craft shows.
In Dublin, Ireland, there’s an annual creative expo entirely devoted to Irish artisans called Showcase, organized by Enterprise Ireland. Alanna Gallagher, who curated the Home and Gift editors choice selections at Showcase this year, says, “The story each piece tells is vitally important. Products I consider worth featuring must first and foremost be functional, but they must also be covetable and engaging.”
At shows like Maison et Objet in Paris and Salone del Mobile in Milan, booths are well scouted by retail buyers, designers and manufacturers looking for new creative craft.
Art museums collaborate with manufacturers on licensed furnishings collections, including Traditions Made Modern, which holds the Museum of New Mexico Foundation at its core. The rich resources include traditional and ethnographic materials from the Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the New Mexico History Museum. Themes from these institutions are adapted into modern pieces of furniture, lighting, textiles and accessories. Its latest licensees include Hickory Chair, Maitland Smith, Jaipur Living, with African Kuba cloth-inspired, hand-knotted carpets, and Wildwood lamps, whose inspirations include Turkish ceramics, Native American jewelry and indigo-dyed Japanese coats.
At a recent design summit in Santa Fe, Pamela Kelly, vice president of licensing for the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, spoke of the importance of expanding its brand.
“Using the resources of our four museums,” says Kelly, “we inspire with new ideas, exploring materials and methods. The alchemy is an intersection of technology and tradition — one fast; one slow. We believe they’re two sides of the same coin.”
By Elaine Maekoutsas
Andrews McMeel Syndication