Nothing demonstrates the freneticism and lightning pace of fashion more than the seasonal runway shows, which in a flurry of live streams, Instagram stories and snapshots wrapped up for another menswear season in Paris earlier this week. A joyful antidote to fashion’s rapid pace is the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize, an award established by the Madrid luxury brand’s creative director Jonathan Anderson and the Loewe Foundation in 2016, to nurture and support global craftsman and their pace, time-honed and heritage-steeped specialisms, from silversmiths to glass blowers, jewellers to ceramicists.
2,500 finalists applied for its third iteration – an increase in its sophomore entrance figures of 44%. Inside Isamu Noguchi’s ‘Heaven’ stone garden in Tokyo – and amongst 29 finalists, from Seoul to Tel Aviv, Kyoto-based lacquer artisan Genta Ishizuka, was crowned the winner of the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize 2019, scooping €50,000.
Ishizuka was awarded the prize by a panel of judges including Naoto Fukasawa, designer and director of the Japan Folk Crafts Musuem, Deyan Sudjic, essayist and director of the Design Museum London and 2018’s Loewe Foundation Craft Prize winner, South London-based ceramicist Jennifer Lee. Ishizuka’s winning submission, ‘Surface Tactility #11' (2018), a glossy and alluringly bulbous sculpture was inspired by the formation of oranges inside a mesh bag at the supermarket. It employs the historical ‘kanshitsu’ technique, first developed in the 7th century in Japan, where consecutive coats of lacquer, produced from naturally sourced urushi sap, are layered over polystyrene foam balls and linen cloth to create glossy shapes. ‘I don’t divide between what is termed art and craft,’ Ishizuka explains of his practice. ‘It’s about materials. Gloss is the most beautiful thing.’ With his winnings, Ishizuka plans to expand the size of his studio, so he can develop larger scale works.
‘As a maker myself, I’m fascinated by the way other things are made,’ says Lee of Ishizuka’s process. Ishizuka, who studied at the Royal College of Art in London and is represented by the city’s Erskine, Hall & Coe Gallery in Mayfair, has found particular popularity in the United Kingdom. The same appeal rings true for fellow Japanese metalsmith Koichi Io, whose hammered metal vessels, formed using a single sheet of metal, and richly coloured using a complex patination process, are more popular in the United Kingdom and Germany than his home country. There’s a contemporaneity behind Io’s pieces, which use traditional techniques once seen in samurai sword armour marking and culminate in animalistic forms, which he describes as a ‘conversation between metal.’
2019’s gongs also included two honorary mentions and €5,000, awarded to Edinburgh-based sculptor Harry Morgan, whose piece ‘Untitled’ from Dichotomy Series (2018), marries concrete and glass, and nods to stark forms in Brutalist architecture and Venetian ‘murine' glassmaking. Wang Shu, architect and Pritzker Prize jury member commended Morgan for his ‘confrontation of materials’.
Liverpool-based, Japan-born Kazuhito Takadoi, who studied horticulture, art and garden design, was also awarded for ‘KADO (Angle)’ (2018), a light filled hanging sculpture painstakingly formed from lengths of hawthorn twigs, interweaved using tiny lengths of waxed linen twine. ‘The time of creation begins when I find the material,’ Takadoi says of his process of harvesting twigs from his neighbouring farmer. He hones his designs using tweezers, and his pieces can take months to complete. Takadoi's approach was termed by designer Patricia Urquiola as a ‘craft without a name’. The same can't be said for the names of the Loewe Foundation's Craft Prize winners, whose global recognition is sure to sky rocket.
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