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Vienna Design Week Exhibition Showcases Talent from Across the RCA

Designing Craft, Crafting Design is an exhibition at Vienna Design Week that explores the collaborative relationship between craftspeople and designers. Open until 8 October, the exhibition showcases ten objects designed and created by Design Products MA students in collaboration with members of the Werkraum Bregenzerwald, an Austrian craft and trade association.

The project was conceived and organised by Design Products MA student Felix Pöttinger, Visual Communication MA student Daniel Kozma and photographer Lucas Breuer, who collaborate as design collective diaméter. The group pitched the project to Werkraum Bregenzerwald, who supported their proposal to re-connect progressive design with traditional craftsmanship by facilitating the collaboration between a range of craftspeople and RCA students, who were selected for participation in the project with the help of Head of Design Products Dr Rob Phillips.

The project began with a four-day workshop held at Werkraum Bregenzerwald, in which the students were urged to reflect on their position as designers in an urban context, in relation to, and often in contrast with, the practices of their collaborators at Werkraum Bregenzerwald. The resulting objects range from functional pieces of furniture, such as a rocking chair and domestic items like lamps, to a more sculptural object based on the gestures made by a conductor’s baton.

In the exhibition the exchange between the designers and master craftspeople is narrated through a journey-led display arranged in three thematic stages and curated by three MA History of Design students – Janice Li, Rhiannon Lewis and Alistair Small. The exhibition was designed by Interior Design MA student Daniel Nikolovski and Daniel Kozma created the graphic identity for the project. 

Senior Tutor for Design Products at the RCA James Tooze took part in a panel discussion at the exhibition venue as part of Vienna Design Week called Global Tools - Design Education Today, which was hosted by Thomas Heisler, Managing Director of Werkaum Breganzerwald.

‘The Designing Craft Crafting Design exhibition provided a perfect backdrop and example in the discussion to demonstrate how in Design Products, and at the RCA more generally, we encourage our students to take the initiative, to find opportunities and then staff play a supporting role’ James explained. ‘Self direction, motivation and belief are some of the key attributes we want to foster at the RCA.’

‘The project was a great opportunity and a great success. The work really celebrated the collaboration between designers and craft practitioners, with each encouraging the other to develop their practice and to create beautiful and intriguing objects.’

As part of the project Felix Pöttinger created a daybed with Mohr Polster, a company that specialises in upholstered furniture. The design simultaneously references Bregenzerwald’s natural landscape and showcases Mohr’s innovative adaptation of technology in craft, which is only made possible by experience and expertise. ‘Apart from the knowledge of the working process of upholstery, I have rediscovered my passion for design at Mohr’ explained Felix. ‘This collaboration has shown me what happens when you master your craft and improve your skills over a long time. It is absolutely beautiful what you are able to do when you spend a lifetime on one thing. It has given me the confidence to continue what I’m doing.’

Sara Pagani Peiti collaborated with Tischlerei Bereuter to create a series of rocking chairs that explore the visibility and invisibility of craftsmanship. For Sara, communal usage is an important component of the design. The set includes three different sizes, which can be shared amongst family and friends but also combine into one object. ‘If I look at the near future, I can see craft as the ultimate goal for a furniture designer’ Sara explained. ‘Perfection, egalitarian details, beauty and exploration, all in one piece. And the last but not the least, love — the care of the maker and the precision of the thinker.’

Phillip Schenk-Mischke and Milo Mcloughlin-Greening collaborated with master windowmaker Claus Schwarzmann on a table and seating arrangement that seeks to reintroduce experimentation and play into craft and work. Discussing what he gained from the collaboration Philipp explained: ‘What we try to show in our work and what I think comprises my personal conclusion is that it is important to maintain an atmosphere of joy on all sides. If everyone is happy with the project, everybody profits and the magic happens.’

At the end of Vienna Design Week, the exhibition will travel to Bregenzerwald, and a book about the project, written by the curators and designed by Daniel is being released. The team are also hoping to find more funding to bring the exhibition to the RCA.