The craftsman is not an old profession, but the profession of the future
Often the word “craftsmanship” has to do with something dusty, a word that smacks of old, that does not project us into the future. Today it can be shown like this ingredient, combined with design and design culture, has a commitment on the front of digital innovation and technology and can really be a point of strength in the growth of cities and nations.
“Our future is in the making” reads the Manifesto of the Craft Council, the British institution that supports, studies and promotes the work of the new artisans in the United Kingdom through exhibitions, reviews, training courses and research projects. Annie Warburton, artistic director of the Craft Council, London manager and startupper, dedicated her own career to the development of innovative craftsmanship. She believes that “artisan know-how” and creativity are drivers of innovation.
This is true today, not only for Great Britain, but also for Italy. The productive potential of the Italian artisan business system is enormous: embroidery with sensors that perceive the movement of the muscles, platforms for 3D printing sweaters or making custom furniture. Design, fashion and crafts are evolving by embracing digital technologies, in addition to transforming the professions connected to them.
To understand what exactly contemporary craftsmanship means, however, we must take a step backwards: today an unparalleled transformation is taking place, as in all fields. It may have been thought that the figure of the craftsman, an icon of creativity and manual skills, as well as the guardian of a centuries-old tradition that has been taught all over the world, would have been slowly replaced by technology, but this is not entirely the case.
The old-style craftsman has in fact created a new edition of himself, a 4.0 version: a contemporary craftsman who uses the new tools offered by advanced technologies and has carved out a space online on talent sharing platforms and workings or marketplaces, as stated in the Manifesto of the new 21st century artisans, still very modern.
There are many examples to mention, among these being Dinara Kasko who creates sweets with the help of a 3D printer; the Venetian shoemaker Simone Segalin who with a laser scanner successfully obtains the exact measurements of the foot and the “digital paper master” Sandro Tiberi who, using nanotechnology, created a water-resistant paper and oil. The craftsman is not destined to die; on the contrary, the craftsman proves to remain the prince of innovators, healing the profession and preparing it for the future.
There is therefore a new way to craft that assembles the culture of those who today are called makers, where their bottom-up and open-ended doing assembles to traditional “know-how” and where digital manufacturing is mixed with craft skills sedimented in tradition.
The new tools of contemporary craftsmanship take part in the process of innovation called through craft, a process in which the scientific, technological and artistic dimensions come together in an experimental and multidisciplinary approach. Also in this case we can talk about the contamination between the expertise of craftsmen and the needs of the market, of design, of fashion and luxury.
But what digital skills should artisans 4.0 have? If Italian craft enterprises have been historically linked to areas of specialization and sectoral skills, and have made this their strong point, the contemporary artisan will become all the more essential.
Annie Warburton believes it is essential, for example, that digital artisans know how to code, because coding is a kind of artisanal construction that will be among the most requested skills, together with managerial skills, where the production processes are as important as the knowledge of communication channels. The Cologni Foundation is the basis for this New Renaissance of the Crafts of Art and the Michelangelo Foundation, with Homo Faber, which are both private non-profit institutions founded with the aim of preserving and enhancing the master artisans and their excellent craft activities.
Most likely the solution will be a fusion of skills, a mix between the old and the new that will make the craftsman of the future: in a world that drives the accelerator on digital we must not lose sight of the importance of creativity and manual know-how, which must be promoted in the same way as digital skills and entrepreneurial culture. The craftsman 4.0 is increasingly becoming the manager of the future, using the mind and hands as much as 3D printers and social media.