Keith Recker is the Founder and Editor of HAND/EYE magazine. Featuring stories from Africa, Haiti, and Central Asia, the magazine profiles forward-looking creators, faraway cultures, ancient craft traditions, and cutting-edge design innovation. As a color forecaster and branding consultant at Chromosapien, Keith’s clients include Pantone, London-based fashion trend analysis service WGSN, and international artisan associations.
We caught up with Keith just before the February 2016 edition of Artisan Resource at NY NOW as he was preparing a seminar called “The Future of Handmade” for the Design Council Day, co-produced by The HAND/EYE Fund and By Hand Consulting. Here are his insights into craft trends and color predictions.
What craft and design trends have you identified for the coming seasons?
Some familiar threads continue to unspool. As we react to an ongoing inundation of media and shrill opinion, and as we max out on smartphone content, there’s a need for quiet, poetic authentic reinterpretation of tradition, and of traditional materials. The value of seeing ancient motifs reinterpreted by young creatives is still on the rise, and a gentle, respectful use of wood, stone, and fiber is major. Design initiatives embracing these factors are the new classics.
One new-ish outgrowth of these thoughts is the heating up of the world of ceramics. The tactile and idiosyncratic nature of handmade clay is so valuable…in the face of too much too-smooth industrial product.
Craft as a medium for grassroots political expression is ripening. As US politics this year show, “The Folk” are longing to shake off stultifying establishment ways. Craft can perhaps lead us all in a constructive way towards expression and consensus. Heaven knows what we see on the news is not helpful!
How do you see the future of handmade?
My thoughts about the future of handmade have remained pretty consistent for the last 25 years. Craft is relevant in our world because it is an emotional antidote for makers and consumers facing a sense of economic, political and social alienation. Beyond emotion, craft has major potential in many societies to provide primary and secondary employment. Craft is here to stay, and not just in discretionary, luxury contexts: the solutions it offers are durable and important.
Do you think that there is a “mainstreaming of craft” currently happening? If so, what effect do you think it will have?
The message of handmade as bespoke luxury has been growing right alongside handmade as broader antidote to faceless corporate industrial practices, so in a sense it has broken out of hippie and loving hands at home boundaries. Has it replaced Bed Bath and Beyond and Walmart? No. Craft is a growing and meaningful movement on so many levels, but I would not call it mainstream. We have a ways to go before we handmade advocates need to start examining the effects of our hegemony!!!
In your opinion, how will the handmade sector fare as digital printing and further automation in manufacturing takes hold?
It will fare well. Perhaps some handmade innovators will pay more attention to creating amazing little machines to make their product, but the flavor of independent, artisanal endeavor will remain with all its wonderful quirk and flavor and expressiveness. But the need for meaningful, personal experience is only deepening for consumers – and the “charm” of disposable STUFF is fading in every sector.
Do you have any advice for independent makers competing with mass produced products?
Aim for amazing quality of material and method, and embrace the kinks and complexities that emerge in the process…because these are evidence of your presence. Use your story, whether it’s about an ancient culture or a contemporary exploration, because while we might be able to find hundreds of soup bowls, the one you make might give us the flavor that we lack in our lives. Walk forward with originality and personality with every thing you make.
How do you identify craft products that will successfully make the journey to the commercial marketplace?
Price, quality, performance, and a look that will translate well from where it was created and who created it into the lives of those who might buy it. It’s definitely an inexact science, trying to match maker with market.
What are the top colors (and color combos) in your current color forecast?
There’s hardly such a thing these days as a trend that sweeps the marketplace, but there are some very promising palettes, especially for artisans, because there’s so much openness to the beauty of raw materials, and to the individuality inherent in handmade work.
At the top of the list for me are whites and near whites, especially combined with the natural colors of wood, clay, stone, wool, and other honest materials.
I’m also loving tone-on-tone clashes of red-orange, or intense blues or greens. A shiver of anxiety and energy is expressed in these colors rubbing up against each other that is a reflection of our times. These energetic clashes work very well in ombré dye and glaze effects.
We’ve had a lot of floral patterns in fashion recently, and these are going to get more scientific, with the feeling of cellular-level photography rendered in the rich, intense but still natural colors of flower petals and living matter.
It looks as if we’ll have a chance to back away from black for a while, with dark navies, sumptuous kelp greens and dark nut browns. There are so many gorgeous darks that don’t have the potentially scary aspect of black – which we really don’t want right now.
Do you see a path forward for natural dyes to become an option for commercial brands?
Absolutely. A big slice of the public would like that to happen, particularly younger consumers who will gradually age into the prime target for marketers.
Have you recently come across any independent makers or artists that caught your attention?
Through my work with HAND/EYE, we meet so many interesting makers. I think about so many of them that when the opportunity to list them comes along, I usually just refer people to the site so that they can see what they think: www.handeyemagazine.com
What are the places that we should we travel to in 2016 for inspiring design, contemporary craft, and traditional arts?
Anywhere and everywhere. I moved back to my hometown of Pittsburgh over a year ago, after living all over the place for 31 years. I have been introduced to a flourishing arts and crafts scene and am really enjoying a sense of discovery. There’s always something amazing right where you are, and it’s very comforting to be inspired where you live.
Images by Keith Recker, portrait by Edward Addeo.