Jasper Morrison explores the art of craft in The Hard Life

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.

Nargess Banks

The Hard life is published by Lars Müller

Design Talks | The Textile Building | 29a Chatham Place | London | E9 6FJ | UK
Design Talks is published by Spinach Design
All rights and labelled images are covered by ©

Ordinary objects with extraordinary stories

The Design Museum is running a seemingly simple exhibition of ordinary, mass-produced products. These, though, are not any old objects  – they all have interesting stories to tell and have in one way or another shaped our modern lives. Whereas exhibiting art requires little dialogue from the curator– it almost ruins the sensory experience – here at ‘Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things’ the story is almost as crucial as the objects on display. The new permanent exhibition reveals intriguing insights in the most exceptional of everyday objects, and the surprising origins of lesser-known designs.

For instance we learn of Ettore Sottsass’s Valentine – a central figure in the 60s and 70s avant-garde movement. His revolutionary typewriter, designed in 1969 for Olivetti, represents the very first time a work equipment was made to look playful. The machine was in hot red and the ribbon spools bright orange, plus the stylish carrying case doubled up as a stool.

This creative approach paved the way for Jonathan Ive’s iMac for Apple. Playful and colourful these computers completely altered the design of electronic gadgets, along the way helping Apple become one of the most valued companies in the world.

A section on Modernism provides a snapshot of a dynamic period of design in the UK when the likes Bauhaus designers Marcel Breuer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and architect Erno Goldfinger, took refuge from war-torn Europe.

Breuer designed the tubular steel cantilever chair here in 1925 – supposedly inspired by his bicycle handlebars whilst cycling. This now iconic design was not so warmly received back then, which reveals how tastes evolve. The influence can be seen in British designer Jasper Morrison’s Handlebar Table of 1983, made of the simplest of elements – a glass top, timber and two bicycle handlebars.

Fashion designer Issey Miyake using recycled PET from plastic bottles to create fabrics used in his designs. The exhibition traces the dominance of plastic in our lives with examples of luxury through to everyday plastics from the last 75 years.

The opening of the museum’s permanent collection marks a milestone in the journey towards the future of the Design Museum at its new home in Kensington – the former Commonwealth Institute building – where the entire top floor will display the museum’s collection of twentieth-century design.

Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things runs from 30 January 2013 at the Design Museum in London.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks


Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©