Locally Sourced Materials And Resources

in conversation with Lukas Wegwerth

Lukas Wegwerth is a Berlin-based designer whose work focuses on the potentials of connection-making in a variety of expressions. Inspired by his background in joinery and the Shaker Movement he seeks to connect a hands-on approach and concept creation.
The tension between the coincidental and the controllable as well as the repurposing of natural materials are a core part of his experimentations that expand into a number of contexts — object-related, social and environmental. In this framework he developed Three+One — a modular connector system that he uses as a platform for exchange and collaboration. Like his other projects, Three+One is built around the idea of creating sustainable material cycles from the very local to the global.

Craft has been experiencing a revival within a design field in recent decades. What are traditional cultures of making bringing to the field of design?

What strikes me most is the relation to locally-sourced materials and resources. In traditional forms of making we see that people build from what their surroundings provides them with. They create sustainable and elaborate cycles around particular materials. This principle is more import than ever. We need to study the intrinsic methods employed in crafts carefully to improve our ways of making.

In traditional forms of making we see that people build from what their surroundings provides them with. They create sustainable and elaborate cycles around particular materials. This principle is more import than ever. We need to study the intrinsic methods employed in crafts carefully to improve our ways of making.

Through your projects you often explore the qualities of craft processes and their role in addressing social, political and environmental issues. In the MADE IN project you cast critical light on the complex world of raw materials, the use of natural resources, social networks and energy consumption. How is this focus related to traditional craft?

Crafts are always a logical consequence of their particular environment — the availability of resources and the social framework. Like other expressions of culture they shape and express local identity. Since resources can be scarce and hard to reclaim, craftspeople seek to make the most of raw materials. The crafted object is not to be wasted or treated carelessly — it will be valued as a precious reification of social affiliation.

You once defined design as finding a solution to a problem, exchanging ideas, learning from failures, making. Could you also relate or apply this definition to the MADE IN workshop?

The craft we focused on in the MADE IN workshop is a very well established one, therefore there is no problem to solve per se. I wanted to set a frame for experimenting with raw material without the expectation of a finished product or object. Through making we gather experience and failure as an essential part in the process of learning. The advantage gained in experimenting in a group is the opportunity to discuss and reflect on successes or failures together, and being able to benefit from each other’s knowledge.

Through making we gather experience and failure as an essential part in the process of learning.

How did you organize the creative process that led you to the initial framework for the MADE IN project?

There are values beyond the craft itself that make it more relevant than ever. Crafted objects are made to stay. They are precious expressions of culture and local identity. I am mainly interested in understanding the circumstances and methods of these particular objects and therefore made the backstage the main topic of the workshop.

The workshop at Urban Magušar’s workshop in Radovljica was conceived as an open-ended experiment. Such a process differs quite a lot from the conventional idea of design as functional, useful object. How do you interpret the notion of usefulness?

Understanding the characteristics of the material you work with is essential. Learning about the chemical makeup, the energy footprint, the history and origin of a material can be a fundamental step in creating. Knowledge is always useful, and it builds through reflection and experimentation.

In what way did your research and the MADE IN workshop demonstrate any new possibilities afforded by the craft processes?

Firstly, it shifts the view from the learned strategy of sourcing traded materials to looking at our surroundings in a new way: resources in our environment become visible as raw materials. Secondly, it is the strategy of making that constitutes new possibilities: can the knowledge of the values of craft influence our use of modern technology?

Crafts are always a logical consequence of their particular environment — the availa-bility of resources and the social framework. Like other expressions of culture they shape and express local identity.

Your practice is based on making and skill sharing. Could you describe the process of knowledge sharing during the workshop, the relationship between the position of the amateur and the professional?

In the framework of an experiment the amateur and the professional can work on the same level, sometimes they even change roles. When working, the cross-disciplinary experience is very diverse, and we all benefit from each other’s knowledge. I am very happy that we were able to learn from Urban Magušar’s rich knowledge of the material and making, and the application of the large-scale practice of BC architects to every participant’s individual approach.

in conversation with Jenny Nordberg
in conversation with Tamara Panić (Faculty of Applied Arts, Belgrade)
in conversation with Rianne Makkink (Studio Makkink & Bey)
in conversation with Ania Rosinke and Maciej Chmara (chmara.rosinke studio)