The Craftsman: Issue n.001 — January 2017

Gianfranco Chicco
The Craftman Newsletter
8 min readOct 24, 2017

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A collection of products, services and experiences from craftsmen and artisans from around the world, who are leaving their very human stamp and, in a way, fighting back the dominance of out future robotic overlords.

This newsletter pays homage to those I find, meet, admire and look up to.

[Guidebook] Ma Vie à Paris: A guide that distils 20 years of local living

Ma vie à Paris by Astier de Villate is not your typical city guide, and I’d argue it’s no travel guide at all but a collection of interesting places enshrined in a superb physical form. I serendipitously discovered it a couple of weeks before a trip that would take me to back to La Ville Lumiere after a 6-year hiatus. Printed on a traditional linotype machine and with a beautiful golden edge, the book collects the favourite Parisian places from Benoît Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli, to save a certain kind of local knowledge from being lost forever (their words). The places featured range from dentists and cobblers to groceries, hotels and restaurants, with an insider vibe that will make you feel like you’ve known the city for ages. I loved that during the multiple book presentations made around the world the authors signed and embellished the copies being sold by using old-school stamps. (Photo: Gianfranco Chicco)

Ma Vie à Paris

[Restaurant] Le Baratin, Paris

Raquel, the Argentinian-born chef, and her French partner Pinouche offer heartwarming food and (mostly) organic wines in this bistrot located in the Belleville neighbourhood of Paris (20 arrondissement). The place had the vibe of a neighbourhood restaurant rather than a fancy one, and it over-delivered on both the food and wine. I had the oyster ceviche, the tender braised lamb shoulder and a Fontainebleau dessert with marron glacés, paired with glasses of white wine, red wine and aquavit respectively as suggested by the friendly and knowledgeable waitress. Better make a reservation in advance. (Photo: Gianfranco Chicco)

Le Baratin 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020 Paris, France

33 1 43 49 39 70

[Clothes] McNair Shirts, made in Northern England

They call it a mountain shirt (probably because of the lack of side pockets) but it’s more of a jacket, and it could be the one to rule them all. Handmade in Yorkshire from pure merino wool, the mid-weight version is great for Autumn, Winter and Spring if layered appropriately. The merino wool makes it comfortable, offers superb thermal regulation, dries up fast and prevents it from smelling. The tough build and heavy stitching makes it a durable object. If you want to learn more about the story behind McNair, check out the founder’s Do Lectures talk. (Photo: McNair Shirts)

McNair Shirts

McNair Shirts

[Apparel] Kiriko Made, textiles with stories from Japan to Portland

I came across Kiriko a few years ago, when I was obsessed with pochettes (pocket squares) and was looking for unique designs. Kiriko searches Japan for traditional textiles that range from hand-dyed shibori, vibrant kasuri, slow-made denim and boro (patched and mended old/used textiles), and gives them a new life at their Portland (OR) workshop by creating new garments out of them. Some have centuries-old patterns, others find new life by composing modern clothes, like their beautiful up-cycled used Kendo jackets, which one day I will be courageous enough to wear. (Photo: Kiriko Made)

Kiriko 325 NW Couch St., Portland, OR 97209, USA

[Eyewear] Black Eyewear, inspired by Jazz

Optician and eyewear designer Robert Roope translates his appreciation of ’50s Jazz into beautiful, retro glasses and sunglasses with a contemporary feel. Each model carries the name of a Jazz legend and Mr. Roope not only shares the stories about who these musicians were, but he has also curated playlists on Spotify to accompany each design. You can probably acquire them online but visiting their tiny shop in Goodge Street will allow you to chat with Robert about the musician that gave each pair its name. Both Robert and Brian were dangerously good at selling me a pair each. I ended up with two Woody (named after Woodrow Charles “Woody” Herman) with clear and sun prescription glasses and have set my eye on the Mezz (from musician turned drug dealer Mezz Mezzrow) as a backup. (Photo: Black Eyewear)

[Tea Caddies] Kaikado, a handmade temple for your tea

Kaikado, a 130 year old company in Kyoto now run by sixth generation craftsman Takahiro Yagi, makes simple products to protect tea leaves from humidity and preserve their scent. And it’s that simplicity that makes these objects functional but also beautiful. They use tin, brass and copper because these materials age well, bringing a new layer of beauty due to wab-sabi. I was fascinated by the fact that some of their products achieve their peak beauty only after several decades of use, the opposite of today’s tech-world planned obsolescence. They claim “A tea caddy that has been filled with the memories of 100 years can be passed onto the next generation to treasure”. Their products are also available at Postcard Teas in London. (Photo: Kaikado)

Kaikado 84–1 Umeminato-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600–8127, Japan

[Food] Acetaia San Giacomo, standing on the shoulders of tradition

Most people would just call it balsamic vinegar, ignoring that that name has been used and abused, and most likely what you’re adding to your fancy salads does not even come close to the real thing. Andrea Bezzecchi, a young forty-something artisan, runs this acetaia to produce a fabulous, honest Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia Dop (ABTRE). Their concoctions keep the tradition alive while experimenting with new products in the lab, like with faceto, “a kit for home production of vinegar with a state of the art acceleration and control system using sensors”, as part of the Food Innovation Program, that has been featured at design temple La Triennale di Milano. I’ve been blessed to share wonderful meals at the acetaia with Andrea’s family, including vinegar spruced cotton candy. Their products are available internationally. When not visiting in person, I stock up at London’s Borough Market and have seen them appear in NYC too. (Photo: Acetaia San Giacomo)

[Food shop] La Bottega, Consorzio Agrario di Siena

Founded in 1901, the Consorzio Agrario di Siena is a cooperative that gathers farmers and food producers from the Tuscan provinces of Siena and Arezzo. Their bottega in Siena offers a selection of meats and meat products, cheese, pasta, vegetables, olive oil, wines and other delicious treats typical from Tuscany at honest prices. What might cost dozens of pounds/dollars in London/New York, is available here for just a handful of euros for double the quantity. Beware, not to be visited on an empty stomach! (Photo: Gianfranco Chicco)

Consorzio Agrario di Siena Via Pianigiani, 5, 53100 Siena, Italy

[Shop Design] Taxonomy of Design by Aesop Cosmetics

The highlight here is not on the actual products that Aesop sells (which are great by the way), instead I wanted to shine a light on their unique shops and how they bring them to life. Retail has been suffering since the advent of online shopping, and most physical shops have struggled to find a meaningful role. Apple uses them as a marketing channel, luxury brands as a statement and a place to offer exclusive services, but most others have no clue in how to use their physical presence. At a time when brands decide to clone their shops so that they become almost indistinguishable (think of Starbucks or H&M), Aesop takes a diametrically opposite approach by bringing different designers and architects to transform theirs. The brand’s philosophy and results are carefully documented in Taxonomy of Design. Just for this, I make an effort to visit Aesop shops in different cities even when I don’t need to buy anything from them. (Photo: Aesop)

Aesop Taxonomy of Design

[Stationery / Kickstarter] Piuma, minimalistic fountain pen

This is the only thing in this edition of The Craftsman newsletter that I haven’t yet tried or seen in person, but this review on Pen Addict convinced me on its features, plus Ensso design has a reputation of delivering. The Piuma fountain pen is a sleek, simple and seemingly robust fountain pen with an utilitarian but elegant look. If I were to get one (there’s time until January 23rd), I’d go for the titanium version with titanium EF nib. (Photo: Ensso)

Piuma fountain pen by Ensso
Currently campaigning on Kickstarter

[iOS App, Book, Concierge] People Make Places, Tokyo

My copy of the book is currently back-ordered, but People Make Places’ Instagram account is already a fantastic source to discover old and new craftsmen and traditional shops in Tokyo: from kimono tailors to soba restaurants, from ceramic ateliers to artisanal cookware. (Photo: People Make Places)

People Make Places

[Plants & Arrangements] RoCo Shop brings exotic greenery home

Rose and Caro’s RoCo Shop in London designs and makes plant products and decorations for the home and events, but I came across them via a terrarium workshop I attended in 2015. RoCo also offers a wide variety of air plants, pots and himmeli hangers. (Photo: Gianfranco Chicco)

RoCo Shop Somewhere in Northern London, United Kingdom

[Article] NYT: New Foundation, Backed by a Luxury Titan, Focuses on Craftsmanship

“In October, quietly and without much fanfare, [Johann Rupert, 66-year-old South African billionaire, chairman and controlling shareholder of the luxury goods group Richemont] co-founded the Michelangelo Foundation. A Geneva-based nonprofit organization, it aims to champion master craftsmanship (initially focusing on Europe) by building networks of like-minded artisans and their supporting institutions, facilitating apprenticeships and nurturing global recognition for the Continent’s applied arts culture, hoping to bolster its future.

Read full article on The New York Times here.

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Gianfranco Chicco
The Craftman Newsletter

Curator of The Craftsman Newsletter. Conference director for hire, digital-physical experiences, marketing & storytelling. Japanophile. ✌