I saw a young man at this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) ride a bike through it, and it struck me that he had exactly the right idea. This year’s show is significantly smaller than it’s been in previous years, but it still fills the lower level of the Javitz Center. In previous years it’s been thrilling to walk the floor, and each new booth had the potential to surprise and delight. But this year I spent an hour walking through aimlessly and then took a seat while my friend finished her viewing. The floor felt like an endless array of the same handful of products: artisinal wood tables, artisinal hand-blown glass lamps, and artisinal wallcoverings.
I’m all for a return to craft, sustainable materials, and small-scale fabrication. But most of the artisinal products at ICFF are far too obsessively designed and machined to be authentically artisinal, or even artsy. Their one-off hand-finished look is just an aesthetic. It’s obvious that, behind the reclaimed materials and artfully irregular finishes, highly ambitious trained designers (frustrated architects, perhaps?) are at work. The rage for handmade stuff has already been parodied, lovingly, by the iconic Put a Bird On it! skit on Portlandia. What’s the limit to the number of artisinal products the market can bear? Isn’t it just a matter of time before the sensibility, like all other trends, falls out of fashion?