Modernist Craft and Crafting Coffee

Collaborator: Bauhaus Foundation Dessau
Work Conducted: February – June 2016

  • How can craft history be presented in an exhibition?
  • How can one think about the ways in which craft and design intersect?

coffee image

(Click image to view video of the condensation process)

In the 1920s, designers at the Bauhaus in Dessau created a novel kind of coffee-maker, through collaborations with glass-makers. It works by a process of condensation. As the coffee is made, over several minutes, the beads of water appear and grow across the surface of the glass. Water is forced by pressure from a lower glass globe up into a higher globe where the coffee brews. As it reaches a certain height, the liquid coffee filters back down ready to drink.

This beautiful and novel product facilitated the historical movement of coffee making, from being hidden away behind kitchen doors to becoming an entertaining spectacle in the living room. It is a design which celebrates design.

In this piece of work, the MAD team proposed an exhibit which would not simply give an account of design history, and the role of craft in it, but which would work to help an audience consider questions of what craft is, how designed goods come about, and what it means for a contemporary audience.

The coffee maker speaks to many histories and issues, gender histories, the making of homes, how designs happen and succeed or fail. The original coffee-maker has spent many years in the Bauhaus material archives, and is made entirely of glass (the modern version, used in these videos, incorporates plastic). The work of investigating the object involved several trips to the archives; uncovering the succession of coffee maker designs which succeeded the original one over the decades; exploration of the guide books and historical documentation of coffee makers; and looking into contemporary platforms and modes of communication around making coffee.

The core proposal and development of the work was a model for a video platform for Bauhaus crafts and domestic objects. In the modern age, according to our work, craft resides on Youtube. It is a place where design afficionados can show off their treasures, or see rare collectors pieces. On video platforms, design collections are not just static, still, fully assembled, as if in a glass case. They become animated and contextualised, and collectors are also crafters, assemblers and diss-assemblers.

Secondly, the metaphor of condensation expresses many dimensions of a making process. This coffee maker emerged as much from a physical exploration of a material, as it did from a conceptualisation of form. Condensation expresses not only the impact of an idea, and the assemblage of discrete entities in creative work, but the necessity of time and notions of particulate transformation. This work explored ways to communicate craft and design in the modern day beyond assemblages and making.

filer image

(Click image to view video of the filtration process)


Work Conducted By: Claudia Martinez, Rhiannon Haycock, Hanine Habig.
Work Conducted For: Regina Bittner, Bauhaus Foundation Dessau.

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