Introducing the Handmade issue: are you inking what we’re inking?
I’ve never been a fan of the tattoo. I realise I’m probably in the minority these days, as everyone from sports stars to designers to accountants seem to be inked. Even Wallpaper’s publisher, a very well brought up young man from the more refined regions of Scotland, recently returned from a ’meeting’ in New York with a pair of pretty swallows indelibly impregnated into his ankle. Does my dislike of the ’sleeve’ derive from the simple fact that I’ve always been more minimalist than baroque? Why decorate something that looks, and works, perfectly fine as it is? Perhaps it’s that, with very rare exception, the ’artwork’ tends to be so crude, so damn ugly. (I have the same aversion to street art.) Or that it’s always seemed to me to be such a mindless waste of time.
However, I had a change of heart this April after meeting Josh Fisher in Milan during Salone del Mobile. Josh is among the finest of the young craftsmen working for furniture manufacturer Emeco and had been dispatched from its Pennsylvania workshop to take centre stage at our Handmade exhibition.
It was the first time Emeco had sent one of its artisans abroad and the first time Josh had boarded a plane (or even travelled from his home town), so we were suitably excited to have him with us. For a week, he took up residency in a specially created pop-up workshop in the Wallpaper* Arcade, and shared his passion, skill and expertise with us and with our guests. Self-taught – his interest in making things was born of a passion for motocross racing, and he learned many of his skills from YouTube videos – Josh combines traditional metal craftsmanship with the tools of the digital age. He patiently showed and taught thousands of visitors a variety of metal crafts, from cutting to panel beating, sanding and polishing aluminium surfaces, while creating a new version of Jasper Morrison’s ’Alfi’ chair.
What could not be missed during his performance, of course, were his hands. And there, inscribed neatly above the knuckles, in a rather smart outline font, was the declaration HANDMADE. A bold and succinct expression of Josh’s passion and commitment to the art of making things.
So I now find myself a little more tolerant of the tatty tattoo. But don’t expect me to rock up at next year’s Salone del Mobile with ’the stuff that refines you’ tattooed on my forehead, or ’less is more’ inscribed somewhere inappropriate.
The August 2015 issue of Wallpaper* is out now - subscribe here