Re/Active – Innovation in Product, Process, Service in Craftsmanship

How can digital fabrication and interactive materials impact artisanal craftmanship?

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Is it possible to merge the disruptive power of digital technologies and fabrication with master craftsmanship built over hundreds of years? The artistic craftsmanship of Tuscany has long been world-renowned. Today, artisans in Florence are exploring new approaches that celebrate their past while incorporating the digital technologies of the twenty-first century – building a link between the old and the new, merging innovation and creativity, and helping establish a sustainable way to relieve the relentless economic pressure on costly, traditional methods. In a yearlong project with Fondazione TEMA, the Mobile Experience Laboratory helped guide this exploration. We researched the products, materials, processes, and tools of craftspeople in the region working in ceramics, leather, paper, and textiles; engaged highly sophisticated artisans – many of whom have viewed innovation as their enemy – to think about what collaboration might look like between the work of their own hands and the latest fabrication tools and technologies. Among the notable results has been to figure out how to customize from afar, replacing timely and expensive travel with a digital means to obtain the kinds of precise measurements masters require.

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