High Order Discipline

Will Lisak’s perspective on design and craft

I founded ETWAS in 2010, mostly as a reaction to what bothered me in the design industry coming out of school, and thinking about what a career as a designer looked like. 

I didn't want to end up as an employee devoted to trying to make products appealing. To me design is a higher order discipline; all of the systems and structures which govern our lives and affect us most are designed-but usually not by designers, but by financiers. Is it more important for the thoughtful designer to be involved in making products comely, or would they be better put to use making systems of industry, production and employment that give meaning and freedom to the producer and consumer alike?

With these thoughts in mind, I set out to create a business where every aspect of the system was just as elegant and graceful as the final product. Where process and product are consistent, and all secondary products of the undertaking were considered.

This brought me to traditional handcraft systems. Its a clean and energy efficient technology and one where the worker gains tangible and rewarding skills. When a person learns to operate a specialized piece of industrial equipment, they become tied to it, they can't apply that skill to other things, but when you teach someone to swing a hammer and keep a knife sharp they can apply those skills to innumerable different trades as well as personal and domestic life. By giving them those basic skills you give them a little more liberty. 

ETWAS is the german word for "something" because it was just that, something, a platform from which to explore these ideas. Etwas is in german a nod to some of the historical design movements that helped point me in the direction of this kind of wholistic design thinking - the Bauhaus and the Wiener Werkstatt. The product could have been anything, but bags seemed evocative to me, they bridged the tool-bag of the tradesman and the laptop bag of our new generation of digital craftspeople. 

The bags are entirely hand crafted using no machines, teaching a new generation age old skills of hand sewing, copper riveting, and using and keeping a keen edge. The products in turn are a cut above anything machine made, all the stitching is double needle saddle stitched, with an overhand knot in each stitch, so even if one side is severed  the seam will not come undone. The stitching is also set deep in a cut channel so it cannot be abraded by wear. On the outside. the naturally tanned domestic leather is conditioned with beeswax and pine tar to protect it against weather and mildew. 

It's an honor and a joy to be able to work on a project like this, to share a beautiful concept with the world while revitalizing the spirit of tradesmen and craftspeople.

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