by Saxon Henry, Editor-in-Chief
Industries that began as handmade endeavors, the ones that have survived at least, have at some point been impacted by the invention of the machine. Take clothing, for instance. The naked form of man in cave paintings, little more than stick figures sans adornment, morphed to more sophisticated bodies with loincloths in hieroglyphs created by the ancient Egyptians. The more progressive the culture, the more clothed a body became—until modern times in Western civilizations, that is, as we are prone to being sun-worshiping cultures!
Artistry Illuminates Precision
Furniture began its evolution as handmade constructions for the home, but it’s less the case with lighting, as by the time we were using bulbs to illuminate our existence, machines were on the scene (unless, of course, you count fire as a precursor to the lumen!). That said, there are aspects of lighting that are still handmade—mouth-blown glass globes like those once created by Global Lighting’s CEO Larry Lazin when he was an artisan fresh out of college, for instance.
Most recently, we introduced a Made-in-Italy family of products that serves as one of the best examples of combining the machine- and hand-made than any I’ve seen pass through our collections. It’s the Ring series, designed by Enzo Panzeri in the ECCO Collection. You can see from the Craft page dedicated to the version covered in fine gold leaf that the minimal lines of these circular fixtures, fitted with LEDs, and the texturally rich surface of the hand-applied gold comingle to form a beautiful contradiction of precision and artistry.
Manus x Machina at the MET
It struck me as I was walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology that many of the examples of fashion on view carry the same contrast, the point the curators intended to make, of course. Staged by the MET’s Costume Institute, the show is on view in New York City through September 5, 2016, and I highly recommend it if you want to see fashion progress from being hand- (Manus) to machine- (Machina) made.
Some of the edgiest examples in the exhibition are by Iris Van Herpen, whose talent for folding and crimping materials is evidenced by the ensembles in the video below and in the image above, which are shown in the exhibition. The fashion designer’s About page states that normal rules don’t apply to her, an obvious caveat given the wild constructions she actualizes: “She creates a modern view on haute couture that combines fine handwork techniques with digital technology,” the narrative notes. She sees what she does as forcing “fashion to the extreme contradiction between beauty and regeneration.”
Though the experimental—such as 3D printing, computer modeling, bonding and laminating, laser cutting, and ultrasonic welding—seems to have created the most buzz, the curators didn’t scrimp on haute couture from the more conventionally minded houses. In this vein, the exhibition is arranged throughout a series of rooms based upon traditional métiers, including embroidery, featherwork, artificial flowers, pleating, lacework, and leatherwork.
The more than 170 ensembles include designs by fashion’s most lauded brands, such as Dior, Chanel and Givenchy; and names such as John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta and Hubert Balenciaga pepper the placards describing the fashion. One of my favorite rooms is dedicated to the ateliers of tailoring and dressmaking, showcasing the process that separates a maison de couture from less made-to-order houses.
In the exhibition, Oscar de la Renta is quoted as saying, “The great thing about fashion is that it always looks forward.” Seeing the creations that some of today’s most avant-garde designers are envisioning with materials and processes not in existence when he began his career in fashion, he summed up the exhibition beautifully. If you have visited or plan to do so, please let us know your favorite creations in the show, would you?
Tagged under: avant garde, chandelier, design process, designers, exhibition, fashion design, fashion for light bulbs, Larry Lazin, LED, light fixtures, lighting design, lighting trends, museum exhibitions, Museums New York City, new products, New York, surprising use of materials, suspension fixtures, Things to do in New York City, traditional craft