DESIGN BY DOING

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Design By Doing was a call to action, crossbreeding of creative forces. The workshop focused on the cross-pollination of the strengths of crafts people and young design professionals, with a particular intention of creating and opening new ideas through the actual process of making. In this creative effort, design as a mental process in itself served as the very act of creation (opposed to the approach of redesign), which brought the participants out of their comfort zones.
Two sides joined forces in the exchange of ideas and skills, overcoming the entrenched images of one another. The image of a craftsperson, as a romantic figure from times long past, one that requires help and who the designer will salvage from fading away, and that of the designer who generates ideas outside of the making process. Thus, empathy was one of the key tools and starting points.

The curiosity of the designers to understand the skills was crucial. Observing, listening, empathy and pattern recognition were all employed in order to spot the space for offering new responses and creation of a new approach to a traditional skill. Through a specific example of a good collaboration, we wanted to raise the awareness that the designer and the craftspeople can ennoble both the skill and the product, and defy the cacophony of mass-produced goods.
Two narratives emerged. The story of a new concept of a ritual and tradition, and the second one relating to the symbol of a buckle, at the same time serving as a symbol of the encounter of the creative worlds — between the artistic, a connection between the artistic and the functional. Four participants worked collaboratively on both projects, sharing the various stages of the process. What followed was a dance between 2D and 3D, of divergent and convergent thinking through numerous prototypes, both abstract and functional. The mimicry of the work process of the craftsperson — generating ideas through the material.

 

#1 THE SYMBOL How to sneak upon the craft person’s process of creating unique leather bags, or simple forms, high-quality stitching and materials? The ideal point for the intervention — the buckle — as the meeting point of the designer and the crafts person. Does it need to be simple and almost invisible in order not to ruin the beauty and textures of leather, or like jewellery — an accent that enhances the beauty of the existing design? Can the designers, with a minimal intervention, improve the standard solutions used by the craftsperson, or motivate them to implement entirely new ones?
Most of design disciplines are gravitating towards smart products and processes that are doing all the work for us, but we are still deeply connected to our evolutionary need to develop ourselves as beings, in a tactile way and channel our emotions through manual work. Empowerment of that tactility enforces the creative juices and strengthens the expressions of ourselves.

In this case, there was a practical, yet speculative aspect to the project. Naša posla workshop and brand has been successfully producing recognizable handmade leather bags for a number of years, to critical acclaim and a dedicated customer following. Most of their products feature an emblematic buckle, the kind that had been widely used in the production of military bags in socialist Yugoslavia. The producers and suppliers of this particular model of buckles will inevitably slowly fade out, as is the case with most small manufacturers from the end of the 20th century. The participants of the workshop wanted to play around with the idea of an entirely new buckle design that could take the place of the one that graces all of the fronts of Naša posla leather bags, and to dwell into that process together with the craftspeople who are handmaking and self-distributing the bags.

#2 THE RITUAL (Re)thinking the tradition and the notion of a ritual. How does it look like to pair up two crafts? Can the tradition of producing fruit preserve, which is at the same time a ritual of welcoming a guest into your home, be brought back to contemporary daily life through carefully designed ceramic pots, while accepting the rules of the ritual itself? Is it possible to nurture those values, but to enrich the ritual with a crash between completely different materials, textures and forms?
Working with craftsperson is a ritual in itself. The first step is to create the working environment, mutual respect and understanding. When the relationship is established, the creation process runs smoothly. Each step forward, but also any mistake, strengthen the connection and enrich the project. The welcoming ritual of serving fruit preserve to guests is also an appropriate reflection of the relationship between the designer and the craftsperson.

As serving fruit preserve is a very old tradition across Serbia, it is less and less present nowadays, or in the case of younger generations even completely forgotten. Putting this problem into the context of time, materials and crafts that are present today, a new set of utilities emerges, one that is easily readable for the new generations. One of the tasks was also to remove any practical misapprehensions that have been following this process, for example the differentiation between clean and used spoons.
The duality and yin-yang play between the designer and the craftsperson, ritual and function, is symbolically depicted in the relationship between the black and white colours, the cold metal plates and the warm textures of wood, between the ceramic trays and the homemade fruit preserve.