Step into Industrious|Artefacts: The evolution of crafts, and you’d be forgiven for wondering aloud what in hell a smattering of clogs is doing alongside a big robot that knits scarves… using wind energy.
[Merel Karhof’s Wind Knitting Factory, a windmill-turned-knitting machine, is featured in Industrious|Artefacts as a contemporary example of small-scale industrial production.]
The answer: Both represent landmarks in the evolution of craft-based industrial production, the subject of this quirky new exhibit at the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen, Holland.
It’s an ambitious topic, one that the curators, celebrated Dutch designers Jurgen Bey and Rianne Makkink, render small by looking at a milestone in Dutch history, the damming of the Zuiderzee bay in 1932 — and how crafts have developed since, both in the Netherlands and abroad.
Why that event? The dam radically altered the local economy, culture, and means of production around the Zuiderzee. Per the exhibition notes:
Salt water became fresh water, fishermen went to work in factories and production became mechanical and large-scale. Fingers operated buttons instead of weaving rope or nets. The machines in the factories were so large that they disappeared from the cities.
One of the points in the show is how small-scale industry creates an intimate connection between work and life. We see echoes of this in the DIY movement today, now that designers — enabled by technologies like desktop 3-D printing and, yes, knitting robots — can produce limited-run goods from the comfort of their living rooms.
The exhibit features loads of design objects, both old and new, from milking pails and a distilling apparatus to 3-D printed ceramics and typography grown from bacteria and fungi. The selection is meant to illustrate the huge variety of crafts that’ve developed throughout history and how they have (and in a larger sense, design itself has) shaped everyday life. Check out our slideshow above.