By Regina Connell.
The name kept coming up this summer. Friends from London would mutter the words “The New Craftsmen” and “you should check it out” in the same breath. Meghan Urback, one of our Stateside mavens, mentioned the same thing. And it came up again during an interview with a consultant about the future of craft.
I was starting to wonder how I could have missed something so juicy-sounding.
Well, all I can say is, I must have been under a rock to have missed it. The New Craftsmen is a great idea, a site and online store, and—for the next few weeks—a delectable pop-up called The Garage in London’s Mayfair.
The idea is simple: to bring together the work of makers who use traditional craft skills in modern ways and to sell that work to a discerning audience that understands the value and power of craft. As the founders themselves put it, “The New Craftsmen represents a vision of sustainable, real luxury, expressed through dedication to makers, materials, method and design.” Amen to that.
The New Craftsmen was founded in 2012 by Mark Henderson, Catherine Lock, and Natalie Melton, who, since 2010, toured the British Isles meeting and documenting the lives of makers, and finding and assembling the finest materials, skills, and craft products of the British Isles.
In the founders’ own words: “We seek out makers and iconic objects that are deeply connected to culture and place, we forge collaborations with designers and makers to offer a contemporary take on specific skills and materials, and we offer our customers a range of services that enable them to customize and develop bespoke pieces.”
Mark Henderson, one of the founders, is a former Alfred Dunhill executive, and is now the Chairman of famed Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes. And this pedigree shows. He gets that a great deal of the challenge of craft is how it’s marketed. In a recent interview with the UK’s CRAFTS magazine, Henderson said that one of his seminal moments came at the UK Crafts Council’s Assemble conference two years ago: “Somebody there said that the problem with the luxury goods industry is that it has hijacked the craft agenda. I thought, ‘No, stupid, the problem with the craft industry is that it’s not very good at marketing itself.'”
Henderson found kindred spirits in Natalie Melton, a former Commercial Director of Arts and Business, and Catherine Lock, a former product, trend, and brand developer for British high street brands. And thus was born The New Craftsmen.
So, who are the makers under The New Craftsmen umbrella? Some of our long-time favorites, such as Robin Wood, Helen Carnac, ceramist Nicola Tassie, and Chris Eckersley, together with new “finds,” like Eleanor Lakelin, London Honey Company, and Doe Leather. The highly curated mix of crafts ranges from jewelry to pen knives to sheepskin rugs. Oh, yes.
The site is a nice balance of product, story, and perspective: nothing overwhelming, nothing to detract from the feeling of calm, refinement, and fresh luxury—an important distinction. And the pop-up (open until September 28), has not only beautiful products but maker events (workshops, demonstrations, readings and more), too, that help tell the story of craft, create deeper connections with buyers, and transform buyers into connoisseurs.
We embrace the redefinition of luxury (we’ve been talking a lot about what we call the New Luxury of late), we applaud their taste, and we love the smartness of what they’re doing.
Go see for yourself.
All images courtesy of The New Craftsmen