In July 2014, ten months after joining Loewe as creative director, Jonathan Anderson embarked on a trip to the small town of Mashiko, Japan to visit ceramicist Tomoo Hamada. Here, three generations of master craftsmen – Tomoo, his father Shinsaku and grandfather Shōji Hamada, a major figure in the Mingei folk-art movement ­ – worked their wheels, and it is also where Tomoo created special pieces for Anderson’s first re-designed Casa Loewe store in Tokyo. 

This ceramics project was born from the Irish designer’s interest in British studio potter Bernard Leach, who after several years in Japan became a close friend and collaborator of Shōji Hamada. ‘In Mashiko the workshop has been turned into a museum,’ Anderson explains. ‘It’s a generation thing and when you see it being passed on, it’s very exciting.’

Anderson’s respect for the manual toil and skilled expertise of such handiwork has since inspired him to launch a new international craft prize with the support of the Loewe Foundation. ‘Craft is a very important inspiration to me and I think craft is underestimated, so I wanted to support people who make real craft.’ Through the Loewe Art Prize and its €50,000 grant, Anderson plans to shine a global spotlight on the honest talent of craftspeople – from basket-weavers to furniture designers and jewellery makers – whose work is of both functional and aesthetic value to the modern world. ‘Loewe is about craft, that is where the modernity of the brand lies,’ he continues. ‘It’s about creating an object, engineered by hand, with a formula of its own, coming up with a new dialogue that is your own. It is very interesting to explore new types of craft and to be able to enrich the global spectrum.’

In addition to the winner, the Loewe Craft prize jury – including Anderson, Enrique Loewe, Patricia Urquiola and Benedetta Tagliabue – will also select 12 finalists to take part in a travelling exhibition, which will open in Madrid in May 2017. ‘There is no intention to work with the winner,’ he adds. ‘This is not about a brand collaboration, it is about celebrating them. It is about the individual.’

As originally featured in the May 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*206)