“The Art of Craftsmanship” Exhibition

Up until recently, I was editing a 27-minute work-in-progress for “Men of the Cloth,” so I haven’t had much time to post. While in the midst of editing, a multi-page advertising spread in The New York Times caught my eye. Parsons The New School for Design joined forces with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc. for “The Art of Craftsmanship Revisited: New York,” an exhibition on New York’s Governor’s Island. It’s free and open for one last weekend, June 26 and 27, and showcases the work of Parsons students and local artisans.

LVMH knows all too well that artisans have been the driving force behind many of its illustrious brands — which includes Fendi, Berluti and Hublot. This is one of LVMH’s social responsibility initiatives in New York City and around the world. And I, for one, applaud it. There will also be a panel discussion at the Times Center on artisanry’s “Past, Present and Future” on June 22, which I’ll be attending.

The LVMH program brought 23 teams of Parsons students from diverse disciplines together with local artisans working in areas ranging from architectural and ceramic arts to graphic arts. Through an extensive collaboration with the artisans, the student teams created original fashion ensembles and short documentary films, which were previewed in February, during New York City’s Fashion Week.

Renaud Dutreil, chairman of LVMH in North America, said:

“This exhibit allows us to expose thousands of New Yorkers and visitors to the City to the enormous talent of our local artisans and to see the work of our next generation of design talent come alive. The designs created by the Parsons’ students reflect exceptional vision and innovation as well as an understanding of the importance of craftsmanship and precision in creating a work of art. In artisanry, like in luxury, it takes skill, talent and hours of precise and passionate work to create every product.  It is important that the next generation of design talent understands their responsibility in ensuring that the traditions and heritage of craftsmanship survive.”

Decorative Painter Osmundo Echevarria in his studio

Claire-Aude Staraci, a spokeswoman for the company, added that the artisans in the project were selected among hundreds of New York Artisans.

“The ones selected were so inspired and eager to transmit their knowledge to the next generation embodied in this project by the Parsons students. They were also very articulate about their art and processes, which added a critical educational component in the project.  It was a tough decision but an important one considering that teams of 5-6 students each were assigned to one master artisan whom they spent many hours with in their studios, watching and learning from the artisan’s work and life experiences.”

Silversmith Valentin Yotkov creating one of his pieces

The web site is a fantastic spotlight on these artisans. It  includes videos of Valentin Yotkov, a master silversmith who hails from Bulgaria and uses the same tools and techniques employed hundreds of years ago; master clockmaker David Munro, who draws from the tradition of French precision horology of the 18th and 19th centuries; and Les Metailliers Champenois, a metalwork studio in Paterson, NJ responsible for the recreation of the Statue of Liberty’s torch.

Patrick Fenton of Swayspace letterpress print shop poses the question: “Are we losing something through our advances in technology?” And Ornamental metalwork artisan Jean Wiart, who apprenticed with his father, states in his video:

“I consider something beautiful that is well-made, well-engineered, well-fabricated. We are in a world of visual(s), and it is my responsibility to make sure that was is looking good is good in itself as well…My workers, like myself, are extremely aware that they are part of a chain – of a chain of unforgotten traditions that trace back for centuries — of  refined techniques and tricks of the trade that has been transmitted orally for hundreds of years.”


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