Faraway countries and bygone times – many handicraft enthusiasts look beyond their immediate environment in search for inspirations. Influences from all over the world and the combination of traditional handicraft techniques and modern individuality are therefore trendy topics at CREATIVA, Europe’s largest exhibition for creative design in Dortmund (14 to 18 March 2018).
An increasing number of people travel more frequently. When they return home, they bring with them not only individual souvenirs or handmade clothes but often also a lot of inspirations and ideas for their own projects. Whether it be designer fashion from Uzbekistan, Peruvian products made of alpaca wool, Mediterranean cosmetics, traditional Irish and Danish fabrics or pearls, beads and jewellery from Asia and Africa – the increasing variety of international exhibitors at CREATIVA reflects that trend and invites all exhibition visitors to embark on a journey across the world of individual design in Dortmund.
Counterbalance to the Digital Life
Home country and tradition continue to play major roles in many creative handicraft techniques. Although the necessary knowledge and skills on which numerous indigenous trades are based have often been passed on through many generations, handicraft has undergone a profound change in Germany in the course of time: Whereas such handicraft was mainly necessary due to domestic needs in the past, for example, the mending of clothes, it is nowadays predominantly a hobby. On one hand, such hobby allows the expression of personal creativity and individuality and on the other hand, it is a ‘tangible’ counterbalance to an increasingly digital life. The Internet nevertheless still plays an important role in such hobby: “That has made the platform for inspirations and ideas much larger,” says Gert Eberhardt, Managing Director of the Handicraft Initiative. Homemade things therefore continue to be sought after by many young people. Constantly new fashion trends and influences ensure that techniques, such as hand spinning, weaving, quilting, embroidery and tailoring, remain current. There is no other exhibition where so many traditional crafts can be found as at CREATIVA. This fact again underlines the importance of Europe’s largest exhibition for creative design.
Bobbin Lace: Centuries-Old and Still Modern
Another example is lacemaking. It might have a somewhat old-fashioned image but in fact there is hardly any other handiwork that is as diverse, and therefore always modern, as bobbin lace. There is no limit to creativity in this handicraft because lacemaking allows all the threads to be moved into any direction. “The techniques have always moved with the times and fashion,” said Martina Wolter-Kampmann, Head of the ‘Lace Web’ distance-learning school and publisher of special literature on this topic. Whether it be small accessories, certain collar shapes or lace necklets, bracelets or earrings – bobbin lace can be used in many ways and adapted to any trend.
The following applies: Complicated patterns must still be done by hand. Machines only master continuous pattern. That is also why the products of this about 500-year-old technique are still unlikely to become a mass product and will instead continue to be a niche product. Real handmade lace has a high labour cost in production and is therefore relatively expensive. “In general, only high-quality materials are used to obtain a reasonable price-cost ratio for the finished product,” explains Martina Wolter-Kampmann. Interested visitors can learn basic lacemaking techniques from the instructor at CREATIVA 2018.
Mosaics: Artistic Variety and Durability
Mankind has produced mosaics for 4,000 years. Examples can be found around the world and throughout Europe. And mosaic arts and crafts are still very popular today. “Mosaic art offers many ways of artistic expression, is sustainable, durable and is suitable for indoor and outdoor use,” says Robert Kaller (M.F.A.), Head of Dortmund’s mosaic construction school (Mosaikbauschule Dortmund). The fields of application are diverse: They range from garden design or embellishment of concrete-grey urban areas to interior design, for example, in the bathroom. Different influences from all over the world are combined in contemporary mosaic art. Techniques from all art periods are rediscovered and used. The mosaic construction school will introduce itself to visitors to CREATIVA as the only training centre in Germany where people can be trained to become a mosaicist. It will also show the various fields of application in architecture, art and education to make the profession better known in the German-speaking countries.
Swarovski – Sparkling Enjoyment of Life’s Pleasures
Personal experience like travelling, discoveries or an authentic lifestyle is becoming increasingly important to many people who place less value on material possessions. With ‘Swarovski Create your Style’, this so-called 'Experience Economy' is a main feature of the spring and summer seasons of 2019. Under the 'wanderlust' motto, the company will show on its exhibition stand how sparkling Swarovski crystals can be creatively processed and turned into brilliant design jewellery. The view from the atelier to far horizons is also reflected by the four key trends on which Swarovski will focus in the coming year: Culture, Freedom, Adventure and Leisure.
Rococo Opulence – Made of Sugar
In contrast, the Queens’ Battle will take a journey into the past. The live competition that has been held at CREATIVA since 2016 playfully combines the baking and cake decorating topic with the fashion world. Participants will turn coloured fondant into life-sized and edible clothing before the eyes of the visitors on all exhibition days. Everything revolves around the High Rococo style, a style of clothing that conquered all of Europe with its excessive opulence and exuberant pomp between 1750 and 1770.
“This style, this declaration of love to an extravagant life, still shapes fashion until today,” says Katharina Kraft, freelance costume designer and make-up artist for film, photography and theatre and a jury member for this year’s Queens’ Battle competition. “Large couture houses such as Dior, Gaultier, Westwood and McQueen indulge in retrospection of the past full of pink, golden and sky-blue colours. Rococo is not dead; it is a fashion that continues to be popular.”
Starting a Business with Homemade Products
According to the Handicraft Initiative (Initiative Handarbeit), handicraft supplies worth 1.25 billion euros were sold in Germany in 2016. Although that is a slight decline compared to the previous year (1.28 billion euros), the market remains stable at a high level according to the association. The sewing sector even shows sustained growth: Sales in the sewing machine segment increased by about five per cent to 171 million euros in 2016 compared to the previous year.
The trend that creative design increasingly develops from a pure hobby to a business model for some people is reflected by, for example, DaWanda, the German online marketplace for handmade products, which was in the black for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2017, or Amazon, the US online trading giant, that has been offering a handmade shop for quite some time.
The trend can also be noticed at Dortex. The Dortmund-based company, which specialises in personalised textile labels, even in very small production batches, responds to this trend by offering a growing material range that currently includes classic cotton, leather and artificial leather but will in the future also include various types of metal and wood. The labels allow designers and creative people to clearly label their homemade products as their own. “People who create something individual also want to show that,” says Elke Dohmann, Marketing Manager at Dortex. That is also an important motive for start-up founders – profit is not always the primary objective. Tips for ensuring that the first steps into self-employment will nevertheless be successful can be obtained by founders on the Saturday of the CREATIVA exhibition during the StartUpDay, of which Dortex is a co-operation partner.