Tools of the trade in the workshop of Noemie Viaud, a violin maker in Risskov, Denmark.
  • Film

The Future is Handmade - Maikel Kuijpers

20 August 2019

“Working with my hands is what gets my mind going,” Ollie Trenchard, a pattern-cutter at Anderson & Sheppard, a Saville Row bespoke tailor shop in London, told Kuijpers at one point. “There is a connection with what I am doing, with the cloth, the garment, even the customer.”

One day in December, 2003, when he was a young archaeology student, Maikel Kuijpers was attending a workshop, at the Netherlands’ National Museum of Antiquities, and was handed a sword made during the Bronze Age. The workmanship of the ancient weapon immediately captured him. “The lines, the details, the ne balance when holding it,” he recalls. “The attention put into its making was still resonating 3,000 years later.”

Kuijpers realized that this ancient weapon posed enough questions about the nature of knowledge—how it’s produced over time, and why knowledge matters—that it could inspire a long-term program of study. Over the next 15 years, as he developed a Masters thesis on metalworking technology, Kuijpers thought about almost nothing else. His journey took him from excavation sites and artisans’ studios to the heights of academia, eventually earning him a PhD in Archaeology from none other than Cambridge University.

The dissertation for that PhD turned into a 318-page addition to the annals of academic research on the nature of craft and skill. Kuijpers’ case study for this inquiry was Bronze Age metalworking, which became a book entitled “The Archaeology of Skill” (Routledge, 2017). Along the way, with help from the Netherlands’ Centre for Global Heritage and Development, Kuijpers also produced a remarkable documentary, called “The Future is Handmade.” (See video below.) Running just over 12 minutes, the documentary features interviews with several of the world’s leading experts on craftsmanship, played over scenes of various master artisans at work. The cast includes a tailor, a violin maker, a ceramicist, a winemaker, and a barber.

The resulting film, brief as it is, is nothing short of a tour de force—both intellectually and emotionally. Over the coming months we will be helping each other find ways to revive and elevate the principles of craftsmanship in pursuit of a mutual goal: to infuse today’s society with a kind of second renaissance in creativity and skill.

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To watch the documentary - The Future is Handmade, follow the link to YouTube.