The Craftsman: Issue n.002 —April 2017

Gianfranco Chicco
The Craftman Newsletter
5 min readOct 25, 2017

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A collection of products and experiences celebrating craftsmanship, paying homage to those who take the expression of our humanity to a higher level.

“Before everything you have to know the technique. You cannot improvise to be a great chef, but if you’re a great chef you can improvise”.

Massimo Bottura, Osteria Francescana

[Source: GQ]

Photo: YStudio

YStudio Fountain Pen, Taiwan

“We dream to make fine artifacts which can be used for a lifetime”.

This is my favourite fountain pen ever. Created by a small design studio in Taiwan, it uses simple but robust design to deliver a beautifully functional writing instrument. It’s presented in two versions, untreated copper (the one I have) which in time will develop a beautiful patina, and brass covered in black paint, which will erode with use to reflect wabi-sabi-esque beauty. It comes with a wooden carrying tube and a loop to tie it to your bag or trousers for portability, compensating for the fact that nowadays few people have shirt pockets.

Photo: Blenheim Forge

Blenheim Forge Knives, London

While the 10,000-hour rule to mastery might be nothing but a rough approximation, craftsmanship still requires years of deliberate practice. That notion makes me wonder how much work did the three founders of Blenheim Forge, who until 3–4 years ago had almost no previous blacksmith experience, had to put in to reach their astounding proficiency, that has already made their knifes the preferred tool of plenty of pro-chefs. I recently visited them in Peckham to pick up a blue paper steel santoku, and was delighted by their friendly no-frills workshop and by the product, which is now my go-to knife in the kitchen.

Recommended reading: Inside the Secret London Blacksmiths Crafting Knives for Michelin-Starred Restaurants (Munchies).

Blenheim ForgeArch 229 Blenheim Grove, London SE154QL, United Kingdom

Photo: The Collector Vermouth

The Collector Vermouth

Produced in small batches, The Collector started as the handcrafted drink of The Ethicurean restaurant in Somerset, made with a selection of twenty botanicals grown in the restaurant’s walled garden and in the surrounding areas. Everything about it feels premium, from the label to the decanter-style bottle and of course what makes a difference is its taste. It is so good that you might want to enjoy it simply on the rocks (that’s how the first bottle went by, with friends) but it also makes an awesome staple for a refined Negroni, a refreshing Americano or an old-school Martinez. Not the easiest product to find, check out their website for stockists.

Da Burde. Photo: Gianfranco Chicco

Trattoria Da Burde, Florence

This place had been in my list for quite some time and it was only due to a fortuitous event (read: flight cancelled) that I finally managed to visit. They do classic Tuscan cuisine and they do it well. Picci al ragù di chianina, trippa in umido, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, you name it. The selection of wines is second to none (the most memorable of the night was glass of a superb Bolgheri Superiore), and co-owner Andrea pointed me to the right wine-food pairings.

Trattoria da BurdeVia Pistoiese 154, 50145 Firenze, Italy

Photo: Officina Profumo Farmaceutica

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Florence

This is a pharmacy, in the original meaning of the word, founded in 1612 Started by friars to serve the adjacent monastery that has kept up with the pace of the modern world without losing its traditional flavour. The products range from perfumes to scents of various kinds and are still locally made, following old formulas and the experience amassed over the centuries. Their Carta d’Armenia, with its subtle aroma, is among my favourites.

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria NovellaVia della Scala, 16, 50123 Firenze, Italy

Photo: Mr Bingo

Mr Bingo Valentine’s Cards

Commercial illustrator turned artist (and rapper!), Mr. Bingo is a force of nature. With his trademark shorts and penchant for foul language, he is also an advocate for “not wasting good ideas on companies”. After a successful crowdfunding campaign to launch a book collecting his famous hate mail postcards, he deleted his website but still has an online shop for the limited edition sales he does from time to time. For Valentine’s day 2017 he produced postcards for single people which came in three flavours: romantic, creepy and filthy (I went for filthy of course). Each card was a one-off print and here you can see a selection of them (beware, the content might not be suitable for everybody). If you get a chance to see him speak live, don’t miss it!

The Revenge of Analog

This book tells the stories of those men and women bringing back vinyl, photographic film, board games, print magazines, stationary and other goods and services that stimulate all our senses. It’s a celebration not of perfection but of the beauty and romance of the inefficiency of our humanity (compared to digital’s perfection). My only issue with the author is that he often uses the word “real” as in “real life” when he’s actually referring to “physical” life or things (digital products and interactions are real too, they just lack physicality).

The Revenge of Analog by David Sax [referral links to Amazon US / UK]

Abstract: The Art of Design

Launched in February 2017, Abstract is a documentary series on Netflix consisting of 8 episodes featuring the lives and work of famous and successful designers — often lone wolves — in different fields like illustration, photography, stage design, graphic design and architecture. While not perfect, the series is enjoyable and very well produced. My favourite episodes were those with Christoph Niemann, Tinker Hattfield, Es Devlin and Paula Scher.

Recommended reading: Celebrating Design Without Contending It (The New Yorker).

Abstract: The Art of Design on Netflix [Watch trailer]

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Gianfranco Chicco
The Craftman Newsletter

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