INTERVIEW: PRODUCT DESIGNER RO SMIT ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY & CRAFTSMANSHIP
When we came across the work of Dutch designer Roland Pieter Smit (a.k.a. Studio Ro-Smit) we were so intrigued but his way of working and just fell in love with the look and quality of his handwoven woolen blankets. We wanted to know more and what better way to find out more with an exhibition?! The ‘Wolwaeren’ exhibition is running in our shop in de Hallen until the end of April. We also asked Roland a few more questions about this amazing project in a mini interview.
IT IS YOUR MISSION TO PUT THE WELLBEING OF PEOPLE CENTRAL. HOW IS THIS TRANSLATED IN YOUR WORK? As a designer I always focus on the strength of each individual, each maker. If you look at the Wolwaeren project this shows in the choice for the kind of yarns I used to design the blankets.
I started with doing workshops with people with a disadvantage. During these workshops I discovered that that autistic people are strong in working with fine yarns and precise patterns, whereas people with the syndrome of Down want to see result very quickly. The blankets of the collection are a reflection of the qualities of the makers.
Because we’ve been working with very thick yarns I developed my own weaving frames, as it wasn’t possible to do this on the frames which are normally used. I ‘enlarged’ the weaving process, so it is easier for the maker to follow an to recognise and recover mistakes.
MAINTAINING OR RECOVERING VALUABLE PROCESSES OF CRAFTSMANSHIP ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR WORK AS WELL, CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR VIEW ON THIS? Designers and producers from the West easily move their production to low wage countries as to produce everything as fast and as cheap as possible. Often it is forgotten that Europe has a beautiful handcrafts industry, which is at the risk of dying out. With my design company Ro-Smit I look for these forgotten and often invisible local crafts/industries and make them visible again through my projects.
With my designs I try to make contemporary translations of these ‘old’ techniques to bring them back to life and available for next generations.
ONE OF YOUR KEY VALUES IS TO USE HONEST RAW MATERIALS, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THIS? AND WHAT IS THE LINK TO SUSTAINABILITY? To me honest resources are raw materials without anything added. For example; The Wolwaeren blankets fare made of 100% wool. I consciously choose not to dye the raw wool and have the material speak for itself. Let the material be the material and show it in its purest form.
WHICH FEELINGS DO YOU HOPE YOUR PRODUCTS TRIGGER WITH PEOPLE? AND DO YOU WANT TO CREATE AWARENESS WITH YOUR PRODUCTS? I hope my products call for a feeling of cosiness and trust with people. The idea is that people want to feel the material and have nice associations with the feel of the material.Besides that I would like to make people aware of the beautiful raw materials, which can be found locally and show in what way we can work with that material locally to develop it into products we can still use. ‘My motto is act local, think global’. My Wolwaeren project shows the beautiful wool which comes from the sheep you come across in the Dutch ‘polders’, developed into a carpet or blanket, which is made in the Netherlands as well.