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Design and fine crafts: towards digital craftsmanship?

Innovation and tradition are two notions often confronted in design. Both convey technical values that are both industrial and artisanal. Generally considered as an ancestral heritage, craftsmanship is often immutable. Conversely, innovation implies an idea of perpetual renewal. What if the hybridization of these traditional skills and new technologies were the new added value to creation in the broad sense? Craftsmen, designers and companies share their views on this booming phenomenon.

A new furniture manufacturer and publisher, Éditions Souchet has just launched Lifflow, a first collection with just the right shapes. Nicolas Souchet, carpenter in seats and founder of the brand, collaborates with the designer Grégory Lacoua (portrait in the number 210 of Intramuros), in turn upholsterer, interior decorator and designer, on this project. “ The vision of my job is to perpetuate the hand of man . The company essentially works with wood by developing the use of digital upstream. This step offers more working time with real added value to the craftsman. For the Twirl pedestal table, the machine works on 70% of the production with precision to the tenth of a millimeter. The carpenter then intervenes by adjusting the curves of the piece of furniture with a concern for the harmony of the senses, which are sight and touch. We tend to think that the machine removes added value from a piece, but for Grégory Lacoua, there is only complementarity between machine and hand. “ With our collection, we break this image and we put the two skills on the same level , neither is the poor relation of the other! »

Collection "Lifflow", Souchet x Studio Lacoua © Mario Simon Lafleur
Gregory Lacoua and Nicolas Souchet © Mario Simon Lafleur

Here, computer-aided design optimizes the mastery of drawing, outline, descriptive geometry and capable mass (the amount of material to be used). There are fewer losses, which is a real duty, both from an ecological and economic point of view. And Nicolas bounces back: “ our collection aims to show our carpentry know-how in seats. Associating Grégory, who has increased technical knowledge, with the project was important. This allowed real machining efficiency. The three pieces in the collection symbolize the brand’s values: solidity, high standards, generosity and comfort resulting from a fusion of hand gestures and digital exploration.

Collection ``Lifflow``, Souchet x Studio Lacoua © Mario Simon Lafleur

A fair balance between two areas of expertise


If the heritage of ancestral know-how were to be symbolized, it would undoubtedly be through companionship. Since the Middle Ages, the Compagnons du Devoir have been committed to passing on their expertise. Against all expectations, some of them are now using digital technology as a work tool. Talented and determined, Kevin Joly began his apprenticeship at the age of 14, in stone cutting. Two years later, he began his tour of France with one idea in mind: to combine stone cutting with a new technology. His project was born when he created a technological center within a large company at the age of 22. 3D modeling, 5-axis digital machine programming, 3D digitization are part of the pole, all accompanied by a conventional charter which defines the part of the work of the man and that of the machine.

Portrait of Kevin Joly, founder of i-craft © Franck Tourneret

In 2018, Kevin founded his own company, i-Craft, in which high technology and stone cutting come together. I-craft reflects the assemblages and reflection of various processes that are created in my head. The optimization of practices in a concept of controlled evolution is important for professions, for humanity. Sometimes frowned upon, the combination of these two practices, which may be considered contradictory by some, enhances the gesture of the hand and allows us to reinvent the field of possibilities. Digital makes it possible to develop specific points in the production chain.

I-Craft collaborates with many groups, including multinationals, but also with craftsmen, on creation, repair and restoration projects. The Studio Sherlock, heritage incubator of the Center des Monuments Nationaux, is one of them. Charlotte Trigance, engineer in charge of the studio, works on innovative methods in the context of heritage restoration. Digital technology acts as a mediation tool that makes it possible to transcribe the understanding of the operation of the works in a pictorial way that is understandable by all. It simplifies certain interventions and provides a large amount of information. It serves our approach and not the other way around.

© I-craft
© I-craft

Also a companion, Mathieu Herce now works at XtreeE, which specializes in large-scale concrete 3D printing. After being responsible for the Institute of Masonry Trades for the Compagnons du Devoir, a position focused on technical monitoring and training, he joined the platform dedicated to concrete in 2019. As a mason, I wanted to realize the impact this technique can have on my profession and what skills are now necessary for masons . Constantly evolving, the profession includes current techniques while adapting to those of the future. Among the Masons Companions, groups work regularly on the future of the profession, so as to be able to prepare the companions of tomorrow. For XtreeE, Mathieu is responsible for production. He works in particular on 3D furniture but also on 3D housing.

© I-craft

Our company tries both to reconnect with old practices in order to cultivate a fairer way of life, while developing ever more innovative supports for a better comfort of life, the rapprochement between these two know-hows then becomes a reflection justified. Far from being incompatible, the articulation of a hybrid research between tradition, innovation and digital machining technology is a rereading of a new type, that of sublimating the artisanal gesture.

Cecile Papapietro-Matsuda