Sunday, July 15, 2012

Some Rambling Thoughts on Peter Cardew and the Meaning of Craft

I received a copy of Canadian Architect magazine in the mail the other day. It came with a special edition on Peter Cardew, recipient of the RAIC Gold Medal 2012. Peter Cardew is a Vancouver Architect who started his practice in 1980. I am reminded of a forum organized by the Craft Council of British Columbia in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s at Emily Carr College of Art. The subject of the forum was collaborations between craftspeople and architects. Peter Cardew was the architect invited to speak on the topic. I will always remember his presentation as confusing and awkward. I could not understand why of all the architects, he had been invited to speak on this topic. Reading this Canadian Architect publication all these years later gives me some ideas. Peter Cardew’s presentation at the CCBC forum consisted of showing slides of his work and making the occasional comment on the quality of work, or craft of some of the tradespersons involving in the production of his buildings. For example, he mentioned the quality of the concrete finishing on one project. Clearly there was a big difference between the craft work in his projects and the concept of collaboration between craftspeople and architects as understood by CCBC and its members. The collaborations that were the subject of the CCBC forum would involve the craftsperson being commissioned to design and produce work to compliment the architect’s design. Some examples might be a glass feature wall, ceramic lighting fixtures, wood furniture, a metal sculpture etc. For Peter Cardew, craft referred to the execution of his designs by tradespersons. The confusion involves the use of the word “craft” in the modern context. Today architecture is built by tradespersons, carpenters, joiners, masons, plumbers, electricians, etc. The word “craft” can be a verb or a noun. In each case it refers to the work of a craftsperson as in “to craft a piece of furniture” or “the potter’s craft”. The word “trade” can also be a verb or a noun but when used as a verb it does not refer to the work of a tradesperson. To trade a piece of furniture means to exchange it. Modern craftspeople have been struggling with their identity and place in our culture for decades. We no longer rely on craftspeople to make the things we need. In the modern world these things are produced by industry and distributed through stores. Craftspeople today see themselves as artists, as designers and makers of the unique things they produce. The role of the craftsperson has changed but language has not changed in step. The word “craft” is still used as it might have been centuries ago. In the production of architecture, craftspeople have been replaced with tradespersons. Rather than creating new words to describe the work of these tradespersons, the word “craft” has been retained. This I believe was the basis for the confusing presentation given by Peter Cardew at the CCBC forum. For the modern craftsperson, this confusion continues.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ontario furniture makers co-operate for mutual benefit

It's great to see Ontario furniture companies co-operating for mutual benefit. By contrast, BC furniture makers seem to operate in isolation, putting the industry in a very disadvantaged position. This seems to be the case at all levels, from one man shops up. Maybe we can learn from the Ontario experience and realize we have nothing to loose and everything to gain by working together.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Frank Smith is having an "End of the World" sale.
Prices are discounted by up to 50%.
Don't wait! Sale ends December 21 2012!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Happiness is making things.
Greater happiness is making other people happy by making things.
Even greater happiness is working with other people making things to make other people happy.

Monday, October 3, 2011


It seems that like us, many of the exhibitors at IDSWEST 2010 decided to take a break this year.
It was a very different experience to be at the show as an attendee rather than an exhibitor.
Overall the show seemed to be considerably smaller, and in general the exhibits were also smaller.
Some of my personal favourites were:
Future Masters, Young Designers West I especially liked the ceramic work of Sarah Péloquin-Ladany and the wood chair by Tom Chung.
Edgewater Studio This is a custom tile company. Both Edgewater and Sarah Péloquin-Ladany use Moorish designs in their work. I too have been influenced by this.
Izm Studio This is a group from Edmonton. They showed some great wood furniture pieces.
I was pleased to see at least three examples of great chair designs by local artists. As a designer and maker of many chairs I have always considered them the ultimate furniture design challenge and the design possibilities are infinite.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Presentation at Pecha Kucha

I was recently invited to make a presentation on my work and creativity at Pecha Kucha. Here is the presentation.

Monday, March 14, 2011


The encounter depicted in the second movie is all to real. the conversation between the client and cabinetmaker were to continue, the next question would be "can we pay you cash in order to avoid the HST?"
This attitude on the part of the client is by no means limited to cabinetmakers. I am sure that graphic designers, web site designers and countless others in creative occupations have similar nightmare stories.