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Craft is never out of fashion

A passion for craft, honest materials and honest food is what linked the participants of this year’s Meesterlijk. The yearly event held at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam is organised by Uniquole.

By Cassandra Pizzey / 05-12-2013

Nicole Uniquole to be precise and the initiator and creative director of the event. Together with designers Maarten Spruyt en Tsur Reshef, Uniquole is now hosting the fifth edition of Meesterlijk at the Westergasfabriek. 

Meesterlijk is a collection of craftsmen and women handpicked by Uniquole and invited to present and sell their wares for three days on location. The idea is that in a world filled with things, it is important for consumers to know where their products are coming from and know who they were made by. At Meesterlijk it is possible to work together with the designer or craftsman to create your ideal product. 

Uniquole takes us on a quick tour of the fair, or event as she prefers to call it, proudly introducing us to the creative talents of Meesterlijk, the chefs and culinary adventurers of the NeighbourFood Market and stand holders. It’s apparent that Meesterlijk has a clear visual concept as each stand is made from the same material, corrugated cardboard. This concept has been translated across the board so that even the staff is dressed in head-to-toe, stylish brown. 

Something Old, Something New

Taking up a prominent position in the main hall of Meesterlijk we find Royal Delft, a world-renowned company that has been producing their Delft Blue since 1653. Around the world, the blue-and-white glazed porcelain is known as ‘typically Dutch’. A number of master pieces ar still made today and some of them are on show at Meesterlijk. Joyce Ruijgrok of Royal Delft explains that the original techniques are still used by the pottery painters. 

There is still a small market for these hand-made objects and Ruijgrok carefully turns over a large dish to show the marks of an original Royal Delft. We also spot the price and she explains that it can take up to two days to complete the painting and glazing techniques. We’re offered a magnifying glass to take a closer look and marvel at the intricate detailing on a tulip vase.
A few stands away we bump into Daniel Hulsbergen and more Delftware, this time combined with handwoven baskets. The project is named Pronkstuk which is a Dutch play on words meaning broken centrepiece. Hulsbergen explains he spent time learning traditional Dutch basket weaving craft which he combines with broken Delft Blue vases. He first adds a wicker bottom to the vase and then replaces the broken neck with the basket weaving technique creating a new shape and feel. 

‘Craft is never out of fashion’

One of the youngest participants at Meesterlijk is sure to be Sonny Roffel, currently in his third year of the Royal Academy of Arts, The Hague (KABK) and this year’s sponsored participant. The conditions for this spot are that the student creates his/her own textiles and shows dedication. Going on Roffel’s second year collection, a piece of which stood on show, there is no doubt he is one to watch. The collection is based around traditional clothing and features layers and layers of textile research, all in white hues.
At Meesterlijk the young creative is selling his bow ties. They feature reflective tape most often seen on road-worker jackets, and he explains how he wants to give this cheap yet fun material a more up market feel. 

Two of the most passionate craftsmen we met at Meesterlijk (perhaps ever) were Dirk-Jan Kortschot and Marcel De Leeuw, otherwise known as De Hoedenmaker (The Hat Maker). Their stand could be found inside the Machinegebouw and immediately caught our eye. On show were unique, handmade felt hats for men, a small series of flat caps and the owner’s themselves, two very stylish gentlemen from Arnhem. 

One is a milliner by trade, the other runs the administrative side of the business but when talking about the hats they make “not just for men mind you”, their passion shines through. They are keen to talk about the process of creating a hat, choosing the right materials and paying attention to detail, and how there is a notabel change in men’s fashion in which hats are playing a major role. 

This is Meesterlijk

To go alongside the fair a book was commissioned by Jan Jaap Knol, Director of the Foundation for Cultural Participation. Featuring essays by the Director himself, design journalist Jeroen Junte and art historian Nienke Simon Thomas the book is a summary of contemporary Dutch craft-based designers. Among the featured designers we find Jan Taminiau, Scholten & Baijings and Christien Meinderstma. Each designer tells a little about their used techniques and inspiration, hopefully to serve inspiration to the next generation of designers. 

We leave Meesterlijk – after sampling some wonderful street food from the monthly NeighbourFood Market – with an uplifted feeling. Granted this is no high-end design fair, but that isn’t what it’s pretending to be. The point here is to give the public a sense of what Dutch craft entails, yet it’s a shopping and food event at the same time. Most of the stand holders don’t participate for the money, they want to share their love and knowledge of craft and that’s never a bad thing if you ask me. 

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