Craftsmanship, a return to basics for design students at the Ecole de Condé

For two weeks, students in the second year of a bachelor’s degree in design at the Ecole de Condé in Paris discover craftsmanship. Workshops that allow them to get out of their usual worlds to enrich their creativity and artistic knowledge.

Engraving, cabinet making, weaving, recycled paper, screen printing, ceramics… We are sometimes very far from what design students are used to doing. Specialized in graphic design, spatial design, product design or fashion design, the second-year bachelor’s students of design at the Condé school in Paris are all mixed for two weeks in different workshops to discover the crafts of craftsmanship. A necessary moment to open up to new perspectives, but also to take the time to create a very personal project, far removed from the purely academic framework.

“We are far from Ikea furniture!”

Between the machines that drill or saw, the dust that swirls about the room and the smell of wood, no doubt, this is indeed the furniture workshop† The few students present are crowded in the four corners of the room, with noise-canceling headphones on their heads. Concentration is essential: after making their own hammer, the students get to work on the design of a tripod stool. “I think I made it difficult for myself,” exclaims Anouch, 20, a space design student. I wanted to make a seat in the form of bee cells and that takes effort.”

At his side, Bastien Phung, furniture maker and teacher at the Condé school, smiles. This was the whole issue of this “initiation” workshop for him, he recalls. “Later on they start bartering with craftsmen, they need to know how to communicate with them because this maker/craftsman relationship is very important.† They must realize that it is long, that it is painstaking. We are a long way from Ikea furniture!” he assures us. Therefore, in just two weeks, the students have learned a few basics about the different wood trade and woodworking and now know how to use the different tools independently. ” Now we know we what it’s like spending the day in the workshop,” says Anouch.

Some sophomore design students have chosen to experience life in a furniture workshop.
Some sophomore design students have chosen to experience life in a furniture workshop. // © Photos provided by witnesses

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Experiment with new artistic techniques

On the same floor, other students move between the tables, holding basins filled with colored water. There are vases, mannequins, candlesticks, cups or plates all over the room. All these creations have one thing in common: recycled paper. †We collected pieces of paper that would be thrown away and now the goal is to turn them into objects.“, explains Séverine Scaglia, fashion teacher.

And not only: in groups of two, the students have two weeks to create their own shop. Guilia and Eléonore are busy with their model. A first for these two 19-year-old students who are more used to building models. †We would never have done that in spatial design. We have fun here, it’s a completely different project,” they trust. The idea was precisely to get out of their comfort zone, even though everything wasn’t easy. The white dress they imagined will be clothed in large sheets of paper and reinforced with metallic threads to give the impression of movement. The students worked on textures, colors and the name of their brand, Iton which means “paper” in Hebrew.

Before the workshop
For the workshop “recycled paper” the students have to imagine their future store. // © Pauline Bluteau

Having fun is also what comes out of the engraving workshop. Corentin, 20, in fashion design is also discovering another specialty. “I’m trying to do something different and I like that.” The theme of the student’s project is the world of cars. First he draws on a white sheet, takes a transparent plate and scratches on the support to make the elements appear. “Then we run it all through a roller machine, add pressure, spin, and let’s do our engraving,” he explains.

A work that completely convinced Laurence Groscarret, teacher at the Condé school. †It is a fun workshop for them. They experiment, they make mistakes to achieve a really successful project. They realize that every impression is work. We reconnect with the profession.” Finally, this also allows her to get out of her habits: “Every year they teach me things. It’s very enriching and then, they are all very proud so i’m happy, it’s satisfying.

After the drawing, the students mold their support to make their engraving appear.
After the drawing, the students mold their support to make their engraving appear. // © Pauline Bluteau

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Add skills to your design education

If the duration of these workshops seems anecdotal on the scale of the five-year study to become a designer, learning new techniques seems more than necessary for these young artists. “It allows them to add and have a string to their bow a project that they can present in their portfolioLaurence Groscarret confirms.

For Corentin it is also a way to develop his creativity. “All the artists I know, even the biggest, do different things. If you are an artist you must be open“, he insists. In addition to the highly supervised courses throughout the year, these workshops are an opportunity to give yourself a little freedom. “We’re dropping the classes and we’re taking advantage, it’s relaxed,” Corentin continues.

It is also an opportunity to work with other people on a large project. We can always use recycled paper to make models from elsewhere”, Eléonore continues. At the end of the week, the students will present their work. Projects that will not be assessed, but will count towards the validation of their year… design.

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