As last year the Danish TV channel, Danmarks Radio, is showing a programme on craft. It is set up as a competition, a bit like the craft progamme headed by Monty Don, but in this Danish series a group of crafts people, who each have a specific specialist discipline, take it in turns to host the group at their workshop or studio, and the group then has to work on a material and use tools they will not have tried before.
The first episode showed the group in a workshop manufacturing horn products. The crafts or materials represented in the group are wood, concrete, clay, silk, brass and prescious metals. The horn-maker, as host in the first episode, ran through the basic skills and techniques to manipulate and work the material, after which the group then had to first make a set project (a spoon) and then after this were to design an object each for assessment by an expert judge. The exercises are timed.
I really enjoy this programme series. We get a good idea of the design thinking behind each object, and there is a clear challenge for each maker in working a material they do not necessarily know; and in the case of the horn, certain characteristics presented their own problems which might not have been foreseen by the makers.
In short snippets there are quick chats with each maker. They talk about the design, their aim in their choice of expression in the material or the way they may have had prejudices about the material before they started working on it. There is a clear leaning towards function. All the makers are clearly masters of their own craft; they look as if they have been working on their respective fields for many years. Some of them try to apply what they have learnt from their own discipline to the new material, which may sometimes work, others try to work with the material without a similar background, and so I guess look at the wider design-craft universe for inspiration in their made object for the programme.
Although the programme does not show any one craft in depth, it still manages to convey the way a designer-maker thinks, their meetings with the material and the energy they apply to their work. The programme is edited in a way that suggests that they are mostly open and positive to the material, even if in one case the ceramicist had reservations about horn being somehow oldfashioned and gave him a sense of 'the 70s'.
The makers just have a go at the new craft presented in the weekly challenge, and they all seem to make beautiful objects. I am guessing that with a title such as 'Made in Denmark', there may be a brief on the design philosophy underpinning the programme. But it has the feel of giving the makers freedom to design in whatever language they prefer, and in the first programme they certainly looked as if they grasped the qualities of the material very quickly. I am looking forward to next week's instalment, it is definitely a one-to-watch, if you know the Danish language and have an interest in the culture of making by hand.