While talking to a local artisan about the current craft resurgence of traditional handmade foods and goods, he mentioned that this “new” trend actually kicked off in the 1960s.
Here’s the story: In the late 1950s, to help rebuild economies still hobbled by World War Two, many European governments set up artist colonies and workshops to train and encourage the next generation of designers and to help them build relationships with the manufacturing industry.
In 1958 in Norway, an artist’s colony was established in a town just outside of Oslo called Fredrikstad. Called Plus, the centre had studios for weaving, textile printing, glass, silver, ceramics, wood work and furniture design and production. The glass workshop — aka Plus Glasshytte — was one of the most influential of Plus’ initiatives. Originally headed up by Arne Lindaas, who left after one year, the group cleaved off and became a production company of its own.
Throughout the 1960s, the most influential of Plus’ artists was the designer Richard Duborgh. The actual physical process of glass blowing and throwing pottery greatly influenced the shape and texture of his vases and vessels. He was also interested in making sure that all of his objects were useful.
IN 1970, Durborgh left Plus and returned to full-time pottery making. At the same time former artist Benny Motzfeldt moved to Plus. Motzfeld’s work is highly treasured by collectors of art glass because she added swirling, painterly inlays of metal and glass strands to thick walled vessels. She was also more concerned with the glass as a form of artistic expression as well as a practical medium.
At it’s peak, Plus won numerous international design awards and many of their glass pieces found homes in chic homes all over the world. However internal and external politics eventually caused the various Plus workshops to break away and eventually collapse entirely in 1978. But former designers and artisans for such collectives continued to spread their love of the handcrafted throughout the world, either as teachers at art schools or mentors in the industry.
The current generation of craftspeople are often students of the artisans who studied with these 1960s and ’70s groundbreakers. Which means that we are the beneficiaries of their design philosophies and artistic ideals.