On Monday evening I was invited to join a panel discussion at the Royal Academy of Art on ‘Considered Interiors: The Role of Craft in Our Spaces’. The talk was led by Yelena Ford from The New Craftsmen, who guided us through a discussion on the powerful role of craft in interiors.
The evening was hosted in the beautiful surroundings of the Academicians Room. It was a full house of patrons of the Royal Academy. On the panel, I was joined by Matthew Cox, a furniture maker and restorer, Oscar Peña from Studioilse and the architect, William Smalley. It was a lively and vibrant discussion, covering subjects from the relationship between art and craft to the future of craft in a digital age.
Craft is often seen as the little sister of art but I believe that this may be changing, as certain crafts become increasingly rare. The Heritage Crafts Association recently released a list of endangered crafts including basket weaving and watchmaking. Cricket ball making is now an extinct craft here in the UK.
I am always championing crafts – the touch of the artisan’s hand enhances the story behind a piece. Craft is more anonymous and more generational than art. It tells a narrative on human creativity; each piece can connect you to a place, time and the individual who created it with such dedication and skill.
The interior touches at my hotels are down to different craftsmen – if I’m inspired by their work, I commission them to create something. Craft plays a major part in our designs and makes the hotels very individual. It means the interiors cannot be repeated, they have a life of their own.
There’s always a nostalgic affection for craft and folk art because it is a part of all of our backgrounds. Even something as simple as the basket plays an important role to almost any nationality. Something that is made with soul and made with heart, speaks to so many different people in many different ways. At The Whitby Hotel in New York, our installation of baskets from the British Isles are a reminder of human creativity and craft, juxtaposed against the stark skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan.