Last June, in CLUB ALMA SENSAI Madrid, we gathered Enrique Loewe and Izaskun Chinchilla together to talk about beauty… Beauty as an honest way to understand our world. It was a magic and timeless moment. With Adrián Salvador, Creative Director of ONESIXONE, acting as moderator, they talked about art, craftsmanship, leather, sense of touch and how important is to look at the past in order to face the future… “Slices of life” said Enrique… This conversation has been included in the prologue of the book from the new collection ENDLESS, curated by the artist Anna Talens.
Talking about beauty
Enrique Loewe – It is a pleasure to be here with you, Izaskun!
Izaskun Chinchilla – The pleasure is absolutely mine, Enrique.
E – I have devoted many years of my life to working for the pursuit of beauty, to think, somehow, what was beauty and what has it got to do with craftwork. Craftwork is trendy because it exists, because we need it, because, in a situation of losing our ways and our values, in such an ambiguous and terribly anodyne situation as the one we are living nowadays, clinging to tradition, to earth, to history, grasping at all these things, seems to be not only a very good alternative but also, it might be our last resort… I don’t know much about emotional design, because I believe there is no design without emotion… Art and beauty have both a substantial emotional and cultural component. They bring us closer to our roots, to a different way to see life.
I – You have talked about craftwork and, curiously enough, for me, it means both going back and looking ahead. I think many people identify craftsmanship with tradition, but I do it with future, lifestyle, everyday activities, products, materials… Due to its simplicity, it seemed we wouldn’t be given what we were looking for within a contemporary environment and product anymore;yet, suddenly, we can return to a countryside life, we can find a tough willow or, carrying out some improvements, the perfect esparto grass for shoes… It is precisely technology and the way things evolve what is releasing us from modernity’s impositions. I truly like this idea of craftsmanship, in the sense of a synthesis of what we are, even more effective than philosophy itself. It would be very difficult for me to give a conscious description of what Spain is; however, when I am manufacturing, when I am making and touching, I see things clearer, I am able to think better, to synthesise what I have around me and understand it in the most truthful way. This thinking while making is exactly what gives sense to everything.
E – Slices of life
I – Slices of life, indeed.
E – As Walter Benjamin said, it is a matter of leaping back to take some bits from the past and project them into the future. It is not about looking for tradition, heritage, different kinds of clay and materials; it is about enlighten, somehow, the present with those bits of life. It is like if something happens that prompts us on our way, on a correct way, on a way with the virtue to help us know where we are going, knowing well where we come from…. Bringing craftsmanship closer to culture, to poetry, to ballet, to music… I think there is a sort of vibration in all this that makes sense. It makes me hopeful to think about ecology and sustainability development; about, necessarily, changing values because the ones we have believed in are not possible anymore, as luxury no longer makes sense the way we have perceived it up to now, because there are better options to define human soul… a number of hopes which are always searching and finding within uncertainty. We are in a moment of lucidity, of truth.
I – You have accounted for the slices of life in the present, but I would say that they also involve freedom. Occasionally, I listen to old coplas and what they tell is that the real happiness lies in living along a river while a canary bird sings every morning… Why couldn’t we be free to live a little how we want to, coming back to that longed-‐for simplicity?
E – What is beauty, Izaskun? Not only pretty beauty, but desire, longing, human soul unrest. I cannot help submitting you to this question…
I – Beauty is a social right to me. We should struggle to think beauty is something that has to be at man’s reach. Beauty is everything that makes your daily life happen within a much better environment, a way to take care of yourself as well as others. It is the aesthetic ascertainment of an act of love. Love for the rest of people who surround you.
E – I believe that, to understand beauty, we need opportunities, formative exercising and aesthetic training. An education is needed to be able to perceive those explosive moments, emotionally important… Slices of life. Slices of beauty. Beauty can also be the unexpected, one of those great mysteries that accompany us through life.
I – Never, ever could we separate the word culture from the idea of beauty. Beauty is a level of intensity. That path you mentioned to reach beauty understanding is, necessarily, culture’s path. And I think, not only is it an institutional legacy, it is there: Harvests, complete secrets of a territory, the history of a place, popular culture…Beauty’s sublimation through the realization of the tremendous, of the intense. Something beautiful makes life much more powerful, meaningful, memorable and everlasting. It may anchor yourself to your memories, to that vital moment, and turn it into a part of what you are, inside your personality and your own nature.
E – I would tell you that one of the most beautiful experiences in my life has been the possibility of joining designers and craftsmen; approaching this handcraft work phenomenon to the concept and the idea of, suddenly, producing beauty heights. Touch understood as something ahead of the feeling of touching, something that can be sensed by other senses, that can be seen and heard; as anticipation, as hope. I leave behind a well-‐done work. It is nice that kind of collective pride of praising such a material as leather, of reaching beauty with your own hands, of having discovered a number of possibilities and worlds within a material. Quality must be a living concept. It is not a factor, but a combination of elements that join together for a particular purpose. It is more than that; it is a feeling, an endless road. And now, Izaskun,can I ask you something else?
I – Yes, of course, Enrique!
E – Why are you so smart and so nice?