Yes No

The Blueprint of Craft

A canon for craft is what Glithero aim to present in the exhibition Made to Measure created for the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen. 

By Cassandra Pizzey / 12-09-2013

A rather sober exhibition at a glance but one that challenges you to take a closer look, learn from what you see and maybe even change your point of view, that is Made to Measure, a collaboration between Dutch/English designers of Glithero and the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen. 

Already part of another exhibition about entitled NIJVERheden at the museum, Glithero is continuing the craft trend seen around the Dutch museums, but with a twist. Yes this exhibition shows work by craftsmen, yes there is marriage between craft and design, but as Sarah van Gameren (one half of Glithero together with Tim Simpson) says: “It’s not about the finished product, this exhibition is about immaterial heritage.”

Known for its work that focusses on process and in particular that ‘moment just before the finished product’, Glithero chose two crafts to study and find out whether they have more in common than their general classification. The duo decided to find out whether the music from a traditional Dutch barrel organ could be translated to a pattern card for a jacquard loom and thus made into a pattern. They met up with Amsterdam organ man, one of the few organ grinders who plays music, builds and repairs organs and ‘writes’ his own music, and a Tilburg-based weaver who creates patterns for his looms, weaves and repairs his machines. 

Van Gameren explains: “These two seemingly different crafts are like mirror images,” Both use a cardboard book which they punch holes into to create a pattern. One transfers a song to that pattern, for the other it’s an image, what comes out is a tune or a textile. “We wanted to unite these two crafts and show that there is in fact a blueprint of craft itself.” 

The pattern book was created in the 19th century to make textile production more efficient and decrease the use of child labour, the organ grinders ‘borrowed’ this technique for their song books and also created a boost for the industry. 

In the showcases we see two similar-looking objects, one is a handmade score for the organ (the boogie woogie), the other a pattern book for the jacquard loom. “We visited the Textile Museum in Tilburg to study an old jacquard pattern book – which was entirely undecipherable – and transferred our boogie woogie into a loom pattern. Having the fabric woven was the most exciting part of this project, even if it didn’t turn out as we had expected.”

In fact, there was no pattern at all, just chaos in the form of a series of loose hanging threads. “We didn’t realize the loom pattern consists of two parts, the pattern and the binding. After adding the binding on each card we tried again and their was our music, compressed into a tiny square of fabric.” After the first experiments on a traditional loom the pattern was digitalized. “These computers are so advanced that you can print or weave any image onto fabric, but instead of weaving the image of the music, we gave the machine the data of the music,” continues Van Gameren. 

Using digital techniques allowed the pattern to be executed in a wide range of colours and shapes. A number of linen tablecloths show the result of this research alongside a series of silk scarves with the same exact pattern and measurements as the original organ song book; when put together, the five scarves make up the boogie woogie. “It’s a digital print of a handmade code, it’s completely the wrong way round.”

Also part of the exhibition is a Diptych of films which show the organ grinder and weaver in their workshops. It’s not a sentimental portrayal of their daily lives, it’s a true depiction of their daily routine, their solitude and complete commitment to their craft. Both men have been passed down their craft through generations, both are meticulous. “Did you get it?” asks Van Gameren about the film. “It’s about that blueprint of craft, the routine, the way these men’s work has become their lives. And isn’t it remarkable that they are both in the family business?”

We ask Van Gameren whether she thinks this exhibition might pull in a different audience than the Zuiderzee Museum is used to, whether they feel this could or should inspire designers and creatives. “It’s a good way to put it yes. This isn’t a nostalgic exhibition or one that will attract a load of media attention. It’s layered and it’s technical but hopefully it’s therefore durable. 

Indeed this is a small, no-frills exhibition but as Van Gameren says, the objects tell the story. When it comes to preservation of crafts, techniques and other immaterial heritage, it’s great to see that designers want to find new ways of interacting with these historical values. Combining historical techniques with contemporary tools seems like a good move for future preservation. 

Made to Measure runs 14 September 2013 until 30 April 2014 at the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen.

Main image: Linen tablecloths by Glithero

Other images: 1. Organ card, Jacquard loom card, first textile test 2. Music weft 3. Silk scarf all Petr Krejci 4.-7. stills from film 8. Sarah van Gameren, Tim Simpson photo:Petr Krejci