Makers Marks

Discover the best of British craftsmanship through the fascinating Homo Faber Guide

Art and Design 23 Dec 2020

Homo Faber

The Carter watch by watchmakers Craig and Rebecca Struthers. Photography: Jonny Wilson

Imagine a resource that gives you information about artisans and craftspeople making beautiful things, where you can source unique handmade items and contact small, local workshops to commission truly bespoke pieces.

Well now there is Homo Faber, an online searchable guide that provides just that service and showcases ateliers, galleries, museums, and, crucially, artisans, across Europe.

Created by the Swiss-based Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship, which seeks to curate and promote local expertise, Homo Faber is a live event and now a website and app that were launched in September. Homo Faber ( “Man the Maker” in Latin) is a philosophical concept derived from Latin literature that states that man can control his destiny. The Humanists rediscovered the idea and it was central to the Italian Renaissance.

Paper marbler Lucy McGrath of Marmor Paperie. Photography: Richard Cannon
Paper marbler Lucy McGrath of Marmor Paperie. Photography: Richard Cannon

After hosting its inaugural event in Venice in 2018, Homo Faber will return to the city in 2021 to once again celebrate artisanal craftsmanship through a curated programme of activity.

In the meantime, though, there is the online Homo Faber Guide, which features not only established master craftsmen, but also rising stars whose talents deserve to be celebrated and encouraged.

The British section of this is a treasure trove of insider information. For London, there is a city ambassador in the form of fashion curator Judith Clark, who shares her secret recommendations: young metalworker Adi Toch, woodworker Wycliffe Stutchbury and glassworker Anne Petters.

Gallerist Brian Kennedy will introduce you to a number of fascinating galleries in the city too, and then there are the featured artisans: visit the studio of Lucy McGrath where you can be taught paper marbling, or discover Bellerby & Co. globe makers, whose handcrafted terrestrial and celestial globes make incredible presents.

Peter Bellerby Artisan_Bellerby & Co Globemakers credit Tom Bunning
Peter Bellerby Artisan_Bellerby & Co Globemakers credit Tom Bunning

There are more craftspeople endorsed by Homo Faber in the capital, but outside London the guide will take you far and wide – to Birmingham’s famed jewellery quarter to meet husband and wife Craig and Rebecca Struthers whose watchmaking combines traditional fine craftsmanship with contemporary technology; and to a small village west of here where you will find a scagliola maker, Thomas Kennedy, a man who practises this rare, centuries-old craft of creating imitation marble or stone.

Then there’s blacksmith Jenny Pickford in Hereford, who creates floral sculptures with metal stems and blown glass petals, willow sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon in Matlock, guitar maker Tom Sands in the Yorkshire Dales, boatbuilder Gail McGarva on the Dorset coastline, who constructs boats by eye, without the use of technical drawings, silversmith Wayne Meeten in Devon, who makes ornamental vessels by hand using techniques he learned from the late Professor Hirotoshi Itoh, who he studied under at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, and textile designer Kazuhito Takadoi, who makes spectacular wall hangings from grasses cultivated and grown in his Liverpool back garden.

Watchmakers Craig and Rebecca Struthers, photography: Andy Pilsbury
Watchmakers Craig and Rebecca Struthers, photography: Andy Pilsbury

Meanwhile, in Scotland you’ll find ceramicist Frances Priest in Edinburgh, who creates colourful ceramic vessels that recall puzzles, and north, in Aberfeldy, a town in Highland Perthshire, furniture maker Angus Ross, who uses the ancient technique of steam bending alongside modern, digital technologies for wood cutting.

So if you are looking for something different, something made by hand, something that others will not have, visit Homo Faber and explore the vibrant contemporary world of craftsmanship.