Looking at this Design Special, I’m happy to see so much focus given to the preservation of the past. There has been a big effort in recent years to protect skills that might otherwise disappear. In the UK, The Heritage Crafts Association has been assessing the vitality of heritage crafts since 2015, and its Red List highlights skills that are now endangered or have become extinct. Similar bodies exist in other countries – in Japan, for example, the protection of disappearing crafts skills was enshrined in law in 1975. But preservation remains the work of individuals. In “The Craft Revivalists”, Victoria Woodcock and Nell Card meet some of the makers bringing skills back from the brink, among them industrial ceramicists – identified by the HCA as being in critical danger in 2019 – and rush weavers, of whom there is a shortage throughout Europe. While the fields in which they work seem niche, this crafty network threads together a wonderful community of talents: likewise, the work seems even more precious when you consider how easily it might have been eclipsed.
Protecting skills to ensure a product can be made in perpetuity is one thing. Perpetuating an item’s popularity is an altogether bigger challenge. Things come and go. Until recently, a taste for stuffed marlin, indoor plants and ceramic lamp bases defined the worst in 1970s sensibilities, but those very items have been invested with new desirability via photographer Vincent van de Wijngaard and his model wife Saskia de Brauw, who use them as essential props (“Interior Monologues”). There’s retro charm also in the resurgence of the tarot card (“Readers of the Pack”), which has cast its spell on a new generation of artists and designers.
Enchantment is a mood. For many, verdure tapestries were considered part of a tradition associated with powdered pompadours and Renaissance princes, but these garden-themed upholsteries have attained new covetability in recent years, thanks to their rock-bottom prices and a clutch of interior designers that has dragged them into the 21st century. Aimee Farrell examines why we’re all heading into the woods in “Sylvan Linings”. And a similar spirit infuses Clare Coulson’s piece about ruined gardens and our current obsession with abandoned spaces (“Beautiful Abandon”). That we should have a new appreciation for wild, uncultivated gardens (which are often extremely well tended, it should be added) cannot help but call to mind our favourite myths and fairy tales. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of this year in lockdown that we now dream of Sleeping Beauty landscapes left to rewild without human intervention, and secret gardens into which we might escape.
Sadly, there’s little escape for those of us yoked to the reality of WFH. Creative consultant, interiors writer and television presenter Michelle Ogundehin has spent the past year considering the key factors contributing to our home-working comfort and come up with a set of very manageable tips on how to get the most out of your space, from desk admin to lighting (“From Desk Till Dawn”). Most interesting was research suggesting it takes 23 minutes to refocus our attention when we are distracted – in my case usually by a doorbell – and that we should strive to minimise background sounds. Easier said than done when you are sharing space with flatmates or family members. Certainly, were I to chance upon my fairy godmother in forthcoming weeks, I would make one of the gorgeous soundproof garden offices also mentioned in the feature the very first thing on my wishlist.