On a visit to Portugal in 2012, designer Jasper Morrison became fascinated by the display at Lisbon’s National Museum of Ethnology. The collection of everyday objects from pre-industrial rural Portugal are crafted out of local materials, the designs have been passed down from generation to generation, progressing and refining along the way. Some are purely functional, others carry a little decoration – an ode to their village or family. Captivated by what he saw, Morrison proposed to photograph the objects and, with the help of Lars Müller Publishing, create a book that allows each of these seemingly humble artefacts space to breathe.
The Hard Life celebrates the ordinary and offers us a new perspective on design – something Morrison has been keen to explore in his career. He has photographed and described each of the objects on these pages. This lovingly researched and crafted book is a homage to the beauty of ancient artefacts. Some of these objects are of the purest of designs, some are simply functional pieces serving generation after generation.
What’s fascinating is how collectively the objects on display in The Hard Life bring a slice in history to life. We see how generations, through trial and error, individual craftsmanship and an instinct to carve out the essential with the slenderest of means, made objects that made life easier, gave it meaning in pre-industrial society.
Flicking through, I am transported to a Portuguese village where a stamp was used to mark your bread or cake before baking in the communal oven so as to identify your loaf. Elsewhere, I find myself in the village square at dusk as the community gather grilling sardines and roasting chestnuts on the local barbecue. Perhaps there is music and dance… maybe a little wine.
The Hard Life speaks of a time in history, of a way of life that may seem simple to us now, but here objects had meaning, they had value, they were intimately connected with nature. And from this solid base was born a beautiful collection of objects that inspire us today.