Recap: Hands-on Experiences with Craftmanship at the Craft in Focus Festival

_L_ast weekend, one could hear the sounds of banding wheels, scraping chisels, and little pieces of stone falling on the floor of an old factory building at Industry City in Brooklyn. Stone carvers, ceramists, violin makers, weavers, mosaic artists, basket makers, and many more craftsmen from The Netherlands and the United States had set up their temporary workshops for the second New York City edition of the Craft in Focus Festival (May 18-20), modeled after the annual “Ambacht in Beeld” festival in Amsterdam. Craft in Focus was situated right next to the NYCxDESIGN exhibition space of design platform WantedDesign, with people walking in and out both exhibition spaces and admiring the installations, products, and designs.

Craft in Focus presented not only handmade products but also over a hundred hands-on workshops for all ages, inspiring lectures by renowned craftsmen, master classes for professionals, and documentaries on master craftsmanship, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to get hands-on experiences with different materials and techniques. This interactive approach is the festival’s effort to let true craftmanship survive and thrive “in a world where children are swiping their iPhones and 3D printers are building houses”.

Have a look at some of our highlights from The Netherlands:

Eco-printing your own scarf

Harm Harms and Meinie Wardenier of renowned HAWAR textile institute from the Dutch province of Friesland brought along their expertise in working with fabrics. During a workshop eco-printing, visitors were invited to make their own scarf, using natural dyeing techniques.  With eco-dyeing, also known as plant printing, a pattern is printed on fabric using leaves from different plants. The goal is that the leaves do not only color the textile but also imprint their texture. Different kinds and sizes of leaves, flowers, and twigs were neatly presented on a table, from which visitors were free to choose, or they would bring their own leaves to use for transferring onto a plain woolen scarf. During the workshop, visitors learned about the natural colorants of the different leaves and how you can make a nice sharp print.

The scarves showcased by HAWAR showed how the extensive selection of leaves could result in a variety of patterns and colors.

Calligraphy + Graffiti = Calligraffiti

Amsterdam based artist Daan Wille, also known as Team Blazin, is an expert in calligraffiti, combining the ancient art of calligraphy and modern graffiti. His large, fluorescent pink design of the words Craft in Focus welcomed visitors as they entered the building. His workshop taught people of all ages the beginnings of calligraphy. Participants could experience first-hand how the quantity of ink and water in the brush, and pressure, inclination, and direction given to the brush, influences the design on the paper. Writing their own name or anything they wanted, visitors delighted in making their own piece of art in this hybrid graphic style.

Printing letterpress posters

Graphic Workshop Amsterdam, a foundation that organizes workshops, courses, and interdisciplinary projects, was present to teach graphic design-minded visitors to design, typeset, and print their own A4 size letterpress poster. In line with the foundation’s aim to conserve Dutch graphic heritage and keep the origins of printing visible in the 21st century, visitors were invited to choose from wooden and metal letters and to combine them with illustrations by Maartje van den Noort in order to create their own letterpress poster.

Adorable postcards with birds and flowers drawn by Maartje van Noort were also for sale at the booth.

Epic leatherwork

Lovers of leather were at the right spot at Danielle Roossien’s leatherworking booth. Roossien has loved working with her hands since her childhood and after experiences with a range of materials and techniques she eventually started her own leathercraft business, Epic Leather. Her workshops included making a lined bracelet with inlaid stone, making and coloring a coin pouch, and braiding a leather bracelet. While creating their own leather product, visitors learned the basic techniques of how to process vegetable tanned leather and decorate it using different techniques. Roossien’s own products presented at her booth showcased the different functional and decorative purposes of leather, from whips and pouches to bracelets, inspiring visitors to attempt something of their own.

Other Dutch workshops were organized by Marissa Oosterlee (airbrush painting), Floortje Roetemeijer (pottery), and Esmé Hofman (basketry). In addition to the workshops, Craft in Focus also featured a booth that showcased products certified by Amsterdam Made, a quality mark for products created or made in the metropolitan area of Amsterdam, ranging from beer to bicycles.

The booth presented Dutch handmade items by knits for your inspiration, sustainable and unique ties by Wool and Water Ltd, a cutting board and serving tray in one by Damplank Amsterdam, original hats by Mirjam Nuver Hats, bowls made from wood waste by Blaauw Hout, jewelry by Uono Amsterdam, and organic soaps by Zeepziederij Borssenburg and The Amsterdam Soapfactory.

And last but not least, Stroop Club was baking the famous Dutch delicacy stroopwafels on the spot, including a multitiered stroopwafel cake!