Research and development of crafts in fishing communities
The people we met in the course of this work have a particular connection with things, their surroundings, their nature, and the nature of things. It was what we first understood: that there is another reality beyond what one sees, hears and does. Like the fisherman who can tell the depth of the sea by looking at the (water) surface.
This awareness is reflected in the way a material culture develops in the places where fishermen live and work. Where at first we saw rubbish and spoil, we discovered scores of potential “other things” or materials from which yet other things can be made. The creativity that forces us, at sea, to know beyond what we see, also applies on land. All things can become other things. A canister can be a vase, a bowl can be an appliance, a plastic bottle can be a ballast or buoy. To this vision we added the ability to create with what is at hand t hand – the art of resourcefulness. In these communities, which are no more than 70 years old, the scarcity of material goods, even natural ones like wood, resembles what is experienced on a boat, where any need has to be solved with the means available on board. This forced creativity, together with the necessary dexterity for the fishing arts – nets, knots and rigging – is the origin of so much aptitude and ingenuity. Because beyond a vision, the transformed artefacts showcase artistry, knowledge and a lack of rules – they are completely free. Here, the law is tide, sun and luck.
We arrived in these communities expecting to find natural materials, indigenous objects and a collective memory, but these things are not part of this seaside universe. Instead, there is a very individual way of doing, of solving, of finishing an object. Here, the solutions, despite having the same functional essence, have different results, with particular colours, knots, shapes and improvements.
The free, spontaneous and conscious manner of using materials and producing artefacts is the specificity that defines the material culture of these ports and fishing communities. How, even adhering to certain cultural codes, these artefacts are created independently and autonomously, free of formal or aesthetic rules, and responding only to the individual imagination of those who make them.
This “ingenuity of improvisation”, which constantly merges the natural beauty of the place and the synthetic beauty of materials, was what struck us most and ended up guiding the whole design process. And, possibly, it will never be forgotten.