It is mostly amongst your own circle of friends and acquaintances that you discover the most exquisite ideas. Not that one should not look outside his community or beyond borders but it just happen that friends knows what is best for them and if real friends therefore what is best suited for you. Also we tend to gather with those whose tastes are similar of course not totally as it would be called being in a ghetto … Far from that hopefully even with common fields of interests we tend to grow things our own way and so it is nice to be introduced to a subject that is of interest to you but seen through a different perspective. This is just what happened when I was told about Julie and Hélène’s project. Although I had a bit of a hectic agenda I felt it was a must so I ventured for a short but intense call at Severine Redon’s showroom and offices in Paris where the installation brought by The Artisans was held. Later on I was glad to mention it as a ‘keeper’ while I was sharing ideas with the audience of Hermès Hors Les Murs conferences series. Now the above discussion with the two founders comes as a natural following up. Hope you enjoy reading it !
Business Madame : What is your background and how did it prepare you for your current venture ?
Hélène Borderie : We both have complementary backgrounds and a common sensitivity to craftsmanship and the Arts. Julie grew up in newsrooms, nurtured by photo-journalism. She studied international politics in London, where she worked for the BBC and Channel 4 on the writing of documentaries. It was by this time that she started filming her first personal videos-art projects in Sangatte, Gaza, Rio. Her career as a video artist took a new turn when she shot a short film O Homem Espelho exhibited at the Cartier Foundation and later purchased by the Rio Museum of Modern Art.
In France she collaborated with luxury and fashion brands and in parallel created a blog named Out Of The Woods. She designed it like an open window on a purely creative world, freed from consumerism and angst, where she shared her wanderings and encounters with creative personalities. This really allowed her to develop her technique in photography, graphic design and photo-montage.
I was partly raised by my grandfather and nurtured by his poetic and offbeat creative universe. He was an engraver and draughtsman, who also worked as a cartographer, his passion. I was also inspired by the love for fashion and craftsmanship of his sister, who was “petite main” for Couture houses from the twenties to the 60’s.
I started my career in the United States, at Louis Vuitton, before achieving a master’s degree in management at the Institut Français de la Mode. I later worked for luxury groups, like l’Oréal and designers as well, in a variety of operational positions from product development to sales management.
For eight years I developed and managed my own online boutique and clothing brand, geared towards new-borns and young children, selecting and designing eco-conscious, sustainable and fashion forward basics for children.
Our training and experiences gave us strong basis in artistic direction, communication and marketing on and off line. Our purpose with The Artisans is to use these skills not on a brand, but on a topic we cherish: the work of the hand.
BM : Talking about your new venture, tell us about The Artisans. What is the story behind the project ? How do you work ?
HB : We met three years ago, Julie had just given birth to a baby boy, and I had changed my life and career, moving to the country-side. We were both taking some time off, which helped us take a stand back to think about what we wanted to do with our lives. We both felt we wanted to make our work more meaningful. So we had the idea of documenting this evolving movement of craftsmanship.
We really saw that there was something really global going on here, and it was not really being documented in France. We wanted to play our part, let people know about these makers, their values, their lives, their productions, to encourage people to consume differently, and perhaps to inspire them to become makers themselves….
And we found out we had completely matching skills. We work in complete collaboration. Julie is the eye of The Artisans. She brings to these artisan notebooks, her sensitive and humane point of view on the people we meet and highlights their work with her pictures and films. I am the pen of The Artisans. I also find the women and men who will compose these arts and crafts miscellanea.
BM : Who are the artisans on the photographs series ? And how did you come to meet with them ? ndlr what is your criteria when selecting artisans.
Julie Berranger : Our series really focuses on the “new artisans”, a new emerging profile of craftsmen who are redefining the game altogether.
Most of them have this in common: they have left behind a high profile white-collar career to embrace a blue-collar life. They are “makers”, they produce functional objects with they own hands. They do not follow a family tradition and do not reproduce a technique. They have a fresh take on things and a new approach. They learn and adapt ancestral techniques to fit their creative endeavours.
Having chosen this path, they are passionate about what they do. The objects they design and produce are generally little pieces of art. They are also very connected and aware of how to develop their business, they know how to use social networks, work their image and communicate. Yet they choose to stay small sale, and use environmentally friendly techniques. What they offer is a new alternative to mass-market consumerism: a more humane, warm and mindful approach.
When we decided to write about craftsmanship, it was really because we wanted to talk about this new emerging trend. It’s an exciting alternative and we believe it’s just the start. It’s the future !
For the series we photographed Fred Jourden, from Blitz (custom motorbikes made in Paris), Aurélie Dorard (Paris-based ceramist), Bruce Cecere (Paris-based ironworker), Anais Guery (Paris-based textile designer). Come and read more about them on The Artisans!
BM : Your concept comes at a time when craftsmanship, arts and crafts have been shown again and again, to the point that maybe to a certain audience it may seems that everything has been said. Obviously I do not share this point of view but some voices argues so. How do you respond to that ?
JB : Craftsmanship is really taking a new super exciting turn. It’s no longer about endlessly reproducing ancestral traditions, it’s about moving forward, reinventing our surroundings and it’s also about revolutionizing our commercial interactions as well.
More and more people are becoming « makers ». It’s a growing movement.
It’s not about the past; it’s about the future! And it’s happening now. It’s only the beginning and only a few people are aware of it. Craftsmanship is no longer just a theme monopolized by luxury brands. It’s becoming a philosophy, a way of life for all of us…
BM : … and there is so much to say, to explain … Maybe this is what you intend to do with an original take on the subject being realistic on the profiles whom are actuating giving a new face to the industry. Beyond the clichés. In a way that have been a bit under the radar at least in France where other Europeans not to say Americans media were at the forefront demonstrating the actual people, facts and figures of arts and crafts. I am thinking Hole & Corner magazine – definitely a keeper – but not only.
JB : Well, in the US, crafts are really huge. There are markets, and fares, and medias and entire social networks dedicated to them. They are a huge point of interest for a very large audience. In France, craftsmanship is still associated to a nostalgic vision of an old Gepetto-like figure, working away in his dusty studio, when really the new artisan has an incredibly creative, sexy aura !
BM : We first encounter as you were exhibiting the work of Anaïs Guery in Paris. Comments. Plus what are your upcoming projects ?
HB : We launched The Artisans and presented our first curated collaboration with two artisans last November. We reunited Parisian textile designer Anaïs Guery with Californian weaver and fiber-artist Meghan Shimek, and together they designed, dyed in indigo and weaved six pieces that were shown at La Vila Rose in Paris. One of the purposes of The Artisans is to produce collaborations with artisans, matching craftsmen with designers, artists, or other craftsmen, to produce collaborative objects that we will show to the public and sell as well. We plan on having two more collaborations this year. The idea behind these collaborations is to blur the frontiers between art and craft and show how artists are skilled makers to the same extend makers express their own subjectivity and aesthetics in their work.
JB: Its also a way to get out there, in the real world, and introduce people to each other, not just via the web. It’s fun, it’s beautiful. Generally we try and organise workshops so that people can also try it all out, share a real moment together.
Further informations : The Artisans. Copyrights Julie Berranger.