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New documentary “The Future is Handmade” reflects on value of craft

The documentary invites us to consider the question of what we consider valuable knowledge. “We need to realise that doing and thinking are intertwined in ways we did not comprehend before” argues Maikel Kuijpers, archaeologist and the producer of the documentary. “This will have consequences for the way in which we organise our educational system.”

A cognitive achievement

“Working with one’s hands is still popularly seen as low level work. Devoid of intellect.” Professor Trevor Marchand opens the film. “The acquisition of skill is a cognitive achievement. Perfecting one’s craft. Learning to problem solve. To make and repair, involves a great deal of intellect.”

Tools of the trade in the workshop of Noemie Viaud, a violin maker in Risskov, Denmark.

New opportunities for craftsmanship

In the documentary, one expert after another talks about the vital skills and virtues that have been lost as work has drifted further and further away from hands-on expertise. Now, however, with the advent of sustainability and the circular economy, new opportunities for craftsmanship arise, because we need to rethink our relationship with materials.  

Defining craftspeople as those who work, shape, and understand materials, we should nowadays extend this group to also include designers, scientists, and especially engineers, who might better be seen as craft technologists. These are the craftspeople of today, experimenting with new materials. “Being creative with materials is desperately important, because we are plundering our planet mercilessly. But they are occupied with more than simply making things.” Maikel says. “They are also creating the kind of mentality that we need for the future, for a circular economy; placing focus on values such as excellence and durability.”

“Craft is a way of exploring and understanding the material world.” Maikel explains.
 “It occupies an interesting position between tradition and innovation, thinking and doing, the local and the global. Like science and art, craft will guide future development. The methodology employed by craftspeople is that of experience. Their claim to truth is based on the fact that what they make, works.”

The cast includes a tailor, a violin maker, a ceramicist, a winemaker, and a barber.

“My concerns lie in the future”

Why is “The Future is Handmade” made by an archaeologist? Maikel Kuijpers has an eloquent response to this question: “I might be an archaeologist, but my concerns lie in the future,” he says. “This is why I like to focus on the formulation of knowledge, the effects of new materials on societies, or how innovations work. As many of these are long-term processes the past is an ideal place to study them. Archaeology is a way of thinking, long-term thinking to be precise.”

Watch the documentary “The Future is Handmade”

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The documentary was made possible by the Centre for Global Heritage and Development.

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