Roxane Lahidji, reinventing salt as a sustainable design material, sees herself as ‘an alchemist as much as a designer’. Dutch designer Dirk Vander Kooij is ‘a contemporary craftsman, who embraces technology and machines’. Studio Furthermore develops work with ‘a craft-centric design method’ informed by culture, science and technology. Brecht Duijf and Lenneke Langenhuijsen from BELéN work ‘in collaboration with material’. Their deep material research leads to appealing and tactile appearances and experiences.

The works of British designer Max Lamb seem to be made with very simple and direct actions: cutting, carving, sand casting, moulding, folding. ‘I want the process to be communicated in the final object,’ he says, and ‘the aesthetic is a consequence of the making. It’s not about design: it’s about how it’s made.’

There is clearly a recent movement visible in the way designers work and (re)define their practice. They show a renewed interest in crafts, production techniques and materials. In recent years, their focus has shifted to manufacturing processes and materiality as a counterpoint to globalisation and dematerialisation. What these designers also share in common is a hands-on approach with exploring major social and ecological issues, taking these concerns into their own hands. The designer and the maker are defined as agents of change, moving forward and seeking to tackle the issues of the 21st century head on.

The exhibition Poème Brut at the Design museum Gent captures this movement within a series of poetic and intimate object ensembles: curators Siegrid Demyttenaere and atelier lachaert dhanis selecting international iconic designers, as well as emerging young talent with a keen eye on material experimentation. The objects show the power of hands-on processes and a return to materiality.

As stated by Kate Franklin and Caroline Till in their new book, Radical Matter. Rethinking materials for a sustainable future (Thames & Hudson 2018): ‘We are potentially on the brink of a materials revolution that could help rebalance our relationship with our planet and reshape society for the better. (…) We need a better, smarter, more cyclical approach, in contrast to our current linear “take-make-discard” relationship with materials. We are beginning to see that alternative systems of production and consumption are possible.’

Poème Brut. Curators: Siegrid Demyttenaere/DAMNº Magazine & atelier lachaert dhanis

30 March 2018 – 2 September 2018

Design Museum Ghent, Belgium