The reason why I wanted to meet Astrid is because she values international collaborations in her design practice. So far, she collaborated with Vietnamese and Japanese craftspeople – which makes her experience highly relevant to The Dorayaki Project! Astrid shared about innovation, social and creative responsibilities of a designer.
As a designer…
In addition to being an independent designer, Astrid is also a workshop facilitator. She helps people handling tools and making their project come true: “my mission combines two sides that are of paramount importance to me: an emphasis on interpersonal relationships as well as an exploration of processes”. Astrid solidly believes in this human factor and values meeting new people. “Many of the projects I have done are collaborations and often they take place with people who are not designers themselves”. She therefore celebrates interdisciplinary projects. “As a designer, I cannot be a loner and I need people to achieve my projects. I really get my inspiration from people”. Astrid also tries to design smartly while conserving resources, using what is available in a given environment – she calls it “economy of means”.
Creating impact is also important for Astrid. However, society may not be acknowledging the importance of creative jobs: “when you go for a creative career, you do create high added value but you are not paid enough for that in return”.
What is your definition of craftsmanship?
It is about people, culture and know-how. Most importantly, they can make a living out of it. “It is about being a professional, about creating an expertise based on making something”.
On interdisciplinary collaborations
There are so many benefits of getting involved in interdisciplinary projects. “It is about creating the space for people to develop new skills, to experiment different ways of seeing, of testing, of working together”. It is about empowering people.
Collaborations have their challenges, too! “You need to look for someone who is ready to… collaborate – willing to test new things, being open-minded, etc”. Because craftsmanship is about mastering a know-how and specific gestures, it is sometimes hard for craftspeople to change their habits and picture a way of doing things differently.
Astrid tells the story of a collaboration project she carried out in Vietnam. When meeting with a bird cage maker, she offered to change the shape of the bird cage and turn it into a lampshade. The craftsperson felt skeptical and told her “do you understand that if you open this shape, the bird will fly away?”. As a designer, the challenge is to make clear that you want to change not only the shape but also the function of a given object. From a human and professional standpoint, the idea is to find a way of working together, starting from each person’s specific set of skills – in that case, the ability for the craftsperson to produce various shapes from bamboo.
How can you make sure that a craftsperson will be ready for change? “When showing them sketches on the first meeting, I could just feel whether they would be open to new possibilities or not”.
What Astrid brings to these collaborations, both as designer and as a foreigner, is a different view on the world and different skills: “I am different, that should be an asset!”
Astrid took part in Kyoto Contemporary program with Les Ateliers de Paris. This program plans collaboration between designers from Paris and craftspeople from Kyoto. That is how Astrid spent three weeks in Japan. When I asked her about what she recalls from Japan, she says “peacefulness, zen and excellence of know-how”
Vision of excellence
« Excellence… It means, paying a lot of attention to details, but it is also… quality, always looking for a high-quality result, process or interpersonal relationship with people I collaborate with”.
On the importance of testing and prototyping
When starting to work on a new project, Astrid does not know what the final result will look like – and that is exactly what feels exciting to her. It is really important to go through a series of trials and errors to keep the project alive and nurtured with inspirations. “If am I am given a blank page, I am not sure if I am so interested into drawing random shapes from scratch”. Many solutions can be found when prototyping at an early stage.
On Kyoto Contemporary
When collaborating with a Japanese craftsman, Astrid stayed true to herself and went beyond the boundaries of her design practice, especially with innovation in the process or in the shaping. In the future, she wants to “find new opportunities” in which she can “use [her] design approach with other kinds of know-how, other companies, other craftspeople communities”- the cool thing about innovating in the process being that it opens a way broader set of possibilities. Astrid was proud to share her feedback about this collaboration experience during a conference held at Maison & Objets fair in January 2018 in Paris. This opportunity is consistent with her will to share her experience with others and tell the stories behind the objects she makes.
Many thanks Astrid !
Check out Astrid’s work at http://astridhauton.com/