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Marifé Navarro Pérez de Heredia, Vegetal fibre craftswoman

Vegetal fibre craftswoman and graduated in Technical Architecture. She is an atypical craftswoman who alternates between experimentation and innovation with professional designers and students together with a catalogue of personal products based on traditional techniques that, in her hands, recover the former luster. No wonder why she is one of the few women that have been rewarded with the prize Extraordinary Hands of the Valencian Community. And, if that was not enough, her collaboration with Sanserif Creatius in the exhibition “Essence” made her finalist in the National Craftsmanship Awards in 2012.

How does an architect turn into a craftswoman?

I don’t think that there is a big difference between the two, architecture, to some extent, consists in closing down a space with walls, trying to make it resistant, aesthetic and to make it react to the use we have created it for. It is very similar to what we do when we create a basket. It’s only a matter of scale.

Could you explain which techniques do you use and what do they consist of?

As my job of basketmaker does not come from tradition but from fondness, I don’t have very strict diagrams when it comes to elaborating pieces. The techniques come from the possibilities of the material used in every instance and from the necessities of the final object.

Is the election of materials such as the rush pit, the algae cords or the chestnut strips determined by a geographic matter or by the properties of these materials?

Fundamentally by the properties that every material brings, in the same way that the potter can not only make pottery with the clay of his patio or the glazier with the sand of the nearest beach. Because of this I think that the basketmaker does not have to limit himself to knit with the plants that grow in his environment. I think he can and he should use any plant material within his reach or not.

Maybe, the most innovative part of your work is the application of the study of structures for the production of experimental pieces that you have developed in collaboration with local designers. What are you working on now?

In various things, as well as keeping on with the basketmaking lessons, I’m collaborating with young designers in the creation of some pieces and preparing and exhibition for the summer.

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In fact, you are one of the first craftswomen who supported the collaboration with professional designers searching for new horizons for craftsmanship. How would you evaluate the result to date?

Very favourably, it has been and it is a great experience working with young people, with great eagerness and lots of new ideas, that help to incorporate the basketmaking trade into the world of design and innovation, rescuing it from old stereotypes and opening a huge range of possibilities for him, beyond the typical basket or hamper.

Are you one of those who think that the future of craftsmanship goes inexorably through the collaboration with other professional fields to manufacture products that adjust to the new necessities, or do you think that a product that has lasted for two centuries still has a place in modern homes?

Traditional techniques will always have a place in our works, because we depart from them, but I think that craftsmanship is not at odds with a render, a 3D printer or the Internet. Craftsmanship and basketmaking in particular do not have to be rudimentary.

I believe that we must get rid of the antique or old tag when we refer to a craft object, an object produced when time didn’t have the value it now has for us. That is why I think the multidisciplinary teams are so interesting, in which craftsmen, designers, computer technicians, etc., work together with the final purpose of creating and commercialising our products.

How do you see the future of the plant fibre craftsmanship in the Valencian Community?

Very well, I think basketmaking and craftsmanship in general are recovering their place and that the buyer is appreciating again what is handcrafted, because of their uniqueness and exclusivity. We also have to show gratitude for the institutional support that craftsmanship is getting in the Valencian Community.

New technologies have made easier the access to the global market of craftsmanship products, although it still seems that there is no massive response from the buyer. What do you think is the cause of this?

I think that we still like “touching” what we buy, especially in the case of craftsmanship, in which there are not two objects that are exactly the same and we can choose the one we like the most amongst very similar ones. But every time craftsmen rely more on new technologies, so our products can become famous more easily and competitive in a heavily industrialized world as the one we live in, but without losing the essence of craftsmanship, which is handcrafting.

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