Eva van Kempen & Ming Design Studio
NEW CRAFTS by Crafts Council Nederland
In the Netherlands, Eva van Kempen is one of the few artisan makers of filigree, a metal decoration technique in which the metal is twisted and rolled into fine threads. These can then be used to decorate surfaces or to build intricate, lace-like open structures. In the Netherlands, the technique was used for the making of jewellery for centuries. As regional dress traditions are waning, the filigree craft is in danger of disappearing from the Netherlands. This would mean the loss of one of the oldest and most prominent techniques in smithing as well as tacit knowledge that is difficult to convey in words.
In China, which has an even longer and richer filigree tradition, much more is done to preserve and promote filigree craftsmanship. Through an international innovation programme dedicated to Chinese inlay filigree in Shantou, South China, Van Kempen met industrial designers Mingshuo Zhang and Yona Huang. Together they form the Chinese-Dutch design duo Ming Design Studio. Under this name, they design objects that unite values of handcraft and industrial production.
Zhang, Huang and Van Kempen combined their knowledge of filigree and digital design and production techniques to develop 3D-printed tools that can be used to easily create a filigree pattern. The tool works like a press: thin strips of metal can be placed between the two parts. Under pressure, these strips are bent into the oscillating shapes of filigree. The result can be used decoratively in a variety of ways.
The tools are suitable for precious metals as well as more accessible materials like aluminium. They can be used by experienced and less experienced makers. The tools could inspire them to (re)discover the original filigree technique, bringing it back into the spotlight. At the same time, this hybrid working method inserts a contemporary and abstract form language into the age-old filigree tradition.
Text: Nora Veerman
Photography: Fan Liao