During my early years in Prague, I had the honor of connecting with the cultural heritage community. As the Czech Republic took its first steps to entering the European Union, I was hired to connect with the cultural arm in Brussels in order to showcase the local craftspeople here — in particular, the diverse community of artisans in the field of historical restoration.I worked with master stonemasons, metalsmiths, woodworkers and artists who had honed their skills working on some of the most cherished historical properties in Europe.
Armed with a technical English/Czech dictionary and a pile of grant applications, I was eager to learn everything I could about this new and exciting world. Doors were opened and I suddenly found myself in places I never even dreamed of — climbing the scaffolding next to the Saint Barbora’s Cathedral in Kutna Hora to learn about stone carving and gargoyles, or walking behind the red velvet ropes of St. Vitus Cathedral to receive an up-close tutorial on stained-glass windows.
It was during this time, that I learned to appreciate each and every detail, from the marks of the chisel to the brushstrokes on the ceiling murals. And it was here that I realized how every craft is so inextricably linked to history and tradition.
Through our Edits, we have tried to highlight all types of makers — from glass-blowers to woodworkers — in order to help you discover the diversity of talent spread across Europe. In today’s Edit, we decided to seek out some of the many artisans who are pushing the boundaries of their craft even further, taking the traditional and finding new ways to see and rethink the ancient craft they have chosen as their own.
Like the restorers I worked with so long ago, all of the artists highlighted below have studied their trade and practiced their skill, building an emotional connection with the objects they create. Through their stories, you will find one common thread — they are passionate about what they do. And we can’t wait to share their stories with you.
Portugal native Vanessa Barragao’s intricate wall hangings and rugs are sea gardens inspired by the colors, shapes and textures of the coral reefs near where she grew up. Combining artisanal craft and recycled materials into unique, sculptural tapestries, Vanessa aims to fight against the negative mindset that defines the textile industry. “My ultimate goal with my artworks is to raise awareness of the dark consequences that our footprint is causing on Earth, particularly in the water habitats, and hopefully, this way, I can contribute on giving a more clear and bright perception towards a cleaner ecological path” says the artist. Her intricately woven tapestries are by commission, with a few smaller pieces appearing in flash popups on Etsy. Best to set a notification if you want one of her works of art adorning your own wall.
Willow with Roots
Willow with Roots is a mother-daughter partnership sharing a passion for combining traditional basket making with a modern and unique design. They like to say that they unabashedly push the boundaries of what willow can do, resulting in woven works-of-art coveted by their design-savvy clients. Jenny Crisp (the mom) has been growing willow and making baskets for the past 30 years, mastering traditional weaving skills and techniques. Her daughter, Issy Wilkes, is trained in designing for theatre, festivals and events, bringing an imaginative approach to each project. Together, they created a company steeped in heritage and devoted to high quality “crafts(wo)manship.” Check out their stunning, one-of-a-kind lampshades and amazingly crafted pods.
Micheluzzi Glass is a collection of handmade vases and glassware designed by Elena and Margherita Micheluzzi, daughters of Venetian glass artist Massimo Micheluzzi. The two sisters grew up breathing the atmosphere of the furnace in Murano, and in 2019 decided to continue the family tradition, developing their own collection of glass. The production reflects a contemporary style and a new vision of Murano glass. All the pieces are mouth-blown and finished with distinctive surface techniques that make them extremely recognizable. The sisters’ first collection, their iconic Mosso glassware, for example, “is shaped whilst molten to achieve a gentle effect of motion – Mosso in Italian. Each glass differs slightly from another and their curved edges are highlighted by a fine white or coloured spiral.” Bellissima! Despite their modern twist, Elena and Margherita do not intend to stand apart from tradition. All the glass of their collection is produced thanks to the ancient techniques preserved by the Maestri Vetrai (the Italian name for glass masters).
The husband and wife team behind Takahashi McGil create functional homeware and furniture made from a mix of local or sustainable hardwoods. South African born Mark McGilvray and Kaori Takahashi from Japan both graduated from the Wimbledon School of art, and started making simple pieces for themselves. Their craft has now happily become their livelihood. In their Devon studio, they combine time-honored Japanese traditions with western techniques. Together, they plane, chisel, turn, wax and lacquer with great precision and attention to detail. Each considered piece celebrates the natural beauty of the material. Kaori and Mark spent the summer of 2018 in Japan, learning the art of urushi lacquering. Urushi is lacquer made from the sap of a tree, and makes the wood waterproof as well as adding strength. Though they work together on each piece, Mark is more likely to have done the turning and Kaori will have used the chisels. Takahashi McGil’s smaller pieces are available for purchase on their website, though they tend to disappear quickly. Your patience will be rewarded!
Twite Quilts by Elizabeth Wade
To some, a modern quilt may seem like an oxymoron, but Elizabeth Wade’s heirloom-quality quilts are elevating the time-old tradition. Hand-stitched in Hebden Bridge, a West Yorkshire market town, Wade’s quilts “combine elements of heritage quilt design with subtle colours and textures inspired by my home in the countryside.” Quilt tops are made using 208 hand-cut linen squares, organic cotton wadding and a cotton backing. All three layers are hand-tacked and hand-stitched using Sashiki thread. Though vintage-inspired, and as comfy as your favorite childhood quilt, the luxe linen and soft, pastel colors make for a new-modern design expression. They’re not your grandmother’s quilts, but every stitch is “a labour of love.”
“Wearing a hat can awaken one and make one dream; can be an invitation to discovering the extraordinary; can lighten one’s steps and enrich one’s views; can, simply, enliven the days,” says bespoke milliner Ana Lamata. She was already an avid hat collector and wearer when she decided to move to London to pursue a Ph.D in Contemporary Art History, and to learn hat making. She began her hat making apprenticeship under the guidance of Mrs. Rose Cory, milliner to Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. “With her I learnt everything from hat block making to finishing details, from structures to linings, from blocking to draping, always observing and respecting the intrinsic characteristics and behaviour of the different materials,” she says. To this day, she passionately upholds those classic hat making techniques and aims for the highest quality standards, “vindicating while revisiting this tradition in each and every hat I make. Every hat is an eloquent object that speaks of cultural heritage and provenance.”
Pilos Clay Art by Elena Vasilantonaki
Growing up in Greece, Elena Vasilantonaki was surrounded by pottery forms that have changed little since the ancient times. Functional storage jars, large pithoi decorating the yards and amphorae, aged underwater, and rediscovered by the local fishermen. “Moved and inspired by the works of the early people, I create pieces that question the idea of function and utility, but above all, the notion of time and progress,” says Vasilantonaki. Creating contemporary work with an ancient feel, she uses hand-building and coiling techniques that have been used to shape clay into vessels for many thousands of years. The process is slow but satisfying and the final results are awe-inspiring pieces worth collecting. “The quiet hours of building, silent days in the studio are what I enjoy the most.” Most of her pottery is made in her home studio in Athens, Greece but she also travels to the beautiful island of Crete, to smoke fire some of her work. “There, in the small Horio (village) up in the hills, I practice the primitive technique of smoke firing,” she says. Smoke firing is an ancient, organic technique that utilizes the elements of fire, water, air, and earth to produce various markings on the ceramic pieces.
Maison Maisonnette by Marion Grebert
Since childhood, Marion Grébert has surrounded herself with magical objects — poems, literature, pictures and music — and from these artistic influences grew a passion for jewellery making. Already holding a doctorate in art history from the Sorbonne, she yearned to know more about the history of this ancient craft and so turned to a craftsman working with bronze in the Southwest of France for guidance. It is here that she learned the technique of lost wax casting. He taught her every stage of the creation of jewels and small objects, from the model’s conception to metal casting. Knowledge at hand, she created her brand, Maison Maisonnette, to offer unique or limited edition pieces cast in bronze. Made to be worn as ornaments, or placed on a bedside table or simply held in the palm of the hand, each piece is both delicate and strong in its intricacy and form. The tiny totems first caught our attention, but we now long for one of her rings as well.
Thalia Maria Silver
Thalia-Maria Georgouli was an avid pebble collector for as long as she can remember. Georgouli, who studied jewellery at the Istituto Europeo di Design, in Italy, before gaining a Master of Arts in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork & Jewellery at the Royal College of Art, London, decided in 2013 to combine her hobby with her passion. It was then that she made her first silver pebbled spoon. We were struck by the simplicity of each piece, in which the user can enjoy the beauty of nature, tradition and ritual. Today, her work “expresses a personal fascination with silver and the challenging yet meditative process of hand-forging.”
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