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Photography by N Kubota, Courtesy of Loewe

Unveiling Craft

The LOEWE FOUNDATION Craft Prize and the Role of Craftsmanship in Modern Society


The LOEWE FOUNDATION Craft Prize  is an annual international award that recognizes outstanding craftsmanship across various disciplines. The prize was first established in 2016 by the Spanish luxury fashion house, Loewe, which has a long history of supporting and promoting traditional craftsmanship.

Craftsmanship has a rich and varied history, dating back to the earliest civilizations. Over the centuries, artisans have developed highly specialized skills and techniques for working with a wide range of materials, including wood, metal, glass, clay, and textiles. Today, the craft is experiencing a resurgence of interest and appreciation as more and more people seek out handmade objects that embody a sense of quality, authenticity, and uniqueness. The Craft Prize is one example of how this renewed interest in craftsmanship is helping to foster new talents and inspire a new generation of artisans. 

In this interview with Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, renowned Spanish architecture and Executive Secretary of the LOEWE FOUNDATION Craft Prize Experts Panel, discusses the importance of the prize in promoting and preserving traditional craft skills, as well as in recognizing and supporting innovative new approaches to craft, creating new forms and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Photography by N Kubota, Courtesy of Loewe

Subin Anderson: How is the Craft Prize cultivating and spotlighting craftsmanship, and how can the general audience interpret it better?

Anatxu Zabalbeascoa: The LOEWE FOUNDATION Craft Prize is a showcase of many outstanding contemporary artisans. We feel we have managed to be so by designing a show that points out different ways of updating traditions. The Prize is both plural in terms of techniques and media and in terms of cultures. We feel the audience can get to see, and celebrate, how Craft is being updated by visiting the shows, looking at the physical and online catalog, assisting with our debates, and watching the studio visits we produce.

The Loewe Foundation Craft Prize embodies a diverse and remarkable array of contemporary artisans, each showcasing their exceptional craftsmanship. Our curation of the exhibition exemplifies our commitment to showcasing a breadth of techniques and mediums that are rooted in tradition yet updated with a modern twist. Through the Prize, we strive to celebrate the rich plurality of cultures that infuse the art of crafting, highlighting the creative fusion of different techniques, mediums, and cultures. We invite our audience to immerse themselves in the show, reveling in the beauty and complexity of the works on display, perusing the physical and virtual catalogs, engaging in our intellectual debates, and delving into the intimate world of the artisans through our studio visits.


SA: What role does craftsmanship play in today’s society?

AZ: Craft is a reminder of the skills and materials that unite the world’s cultures. It is a legacy that reminds us how important it is to use both our hands and our brains. It is this capacity, and the chance to channel emotions through creativity, that makes us humans. Craft is also a reminder of what we should preserve in material terms and knowledge. It speaks about daring and achieving.  

Photography by N Kubota, Courtesy of Loewe

SA: And what did this year’s submissions reveal to you about the future of Craft?

AZ: Craft intimately appeals to us as human beings. It speaks of origins, time, legacy, and art. We also realize that the Western point of view has been paramount in shaping the history of art. So what we are doing, edition after edition, is to try to open this canon to non-Western techniques, skills, and ideas.

We hope to broaden our perspective of Craft: this year, there are figurative works not included in previous editions. In Dominique Zinkpè’s The Watchers (2022), we cross boundaries between painting, sculpture, and installation. He links traditional Yoruba carving with the recycling of a canoe and the creation of a personal microworld. This is something we look for in our search: a world of one’s own that connects us to the planet. 

We also look for the courage to break the boundaries by trying different materials. This is the case in this edition’s furniture piece: Chair 11 (2022) by Liam Lee in felted merino wool. By contrasting it with another furniture work, Dong Han’s Rebirth (2022) in bronze, we highlight the medium’s role in contemporary craft.


SA: There are diverse materials and categories between each finalist every year, and I wonder what the core value has been in choosing these talents.

AZ: We always look for a very broad (in terms of categories, materials, and nationalities) selection to summarize what contemporary craft has to offer. Among the many makers who send us their proposals, we look for exceptional ability and for imagination. We search for work that breaks the boundaries of innovation and updating tradition.


SA: What would be the most valuable discoveries you can share as you have encountered works of global creatives? 

AZ: We are always thrilled when we find a maker with a personal world of his or her own. Sometimes it is a new material or a more daring expression or shape. This year, for example, we present the work of Georgia-born Giorgi Danibegashvili in silk and paper. We have never encountered anything close to his textile sculpture, Naked (2022).

We admire Moe Watanabe’s use of walnut bark to create a work of timeless craft and Wanbing Huang’s boldness to make a sculpture from hemp fibers, and yet, we are thrilled by Nathalie Doyen’s audacity to mix stoneware, oxides, and pigments. Creativity is both in shapes, in updating traditions, and in the boldness to approach a different yet skillful, craft world.

This story is from Issue Six.