Cranewalk is the brainchild of designer and studio furniture maker Christopher Kautz. It all started with a kitchen spoon. You know the one: generic pale wood from some majestic tropical tree in the middle of what is now a clearcut, the manufactured shape that somehow manages to be both heavy and weak, and the complete absence of flex, dexterity or soul. Where are the alternatives to this spoon?

It is a rare object that combines function, feel and ethics into an aesthetically pleasing whole. Each cranewalk object represents an attempt to join these requirements to answer a design challenge. There are no shortcuts except through inspired design.

What is cranewalk then? The name is derived from both the bird and the action. Both provide insight into the nature of the work itself. Sandhill Cranes have traversed the North American continent unchanged for 2.5 million years. Known as an exceptionally adaptable and versatile bird, the crane is a reminder to maximize efficiency and elegance— not only in design, but in labor. Walking, the most basic human motion, is a complementary reminder that these objects are intended for everyday use. Not just artful items for display, they are humble objects that gain value and meaning with continuous use— over time they develop wabi-sabi, the Japanese concept of beauty in imperfection. Christopher extends this belief into the presentation of his housewares, wrapping them in simple butcher paper to suggest that they are objects to be used.

In his Montana studio, Christopher works with his hands as a maker. In tandem, the subtle questions involving ethical design stimulate his mental work. What does (very) small-scale sustainable manufacturing look like in America? What would make it economically sustainable against the big-box store offerings coming out of China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka? These are not entirely new questions. The British and Japanese studio potters Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada wrote eloquently of them through the middle of the 20th century. By choice, they worked small— a response to the Industrial Revolution. What is the appropriate response to the Technological Revolution?

The answer is simple. With electronic devices dominating our mental attention, we need to invite beautiful and tactile objects in our daily lives to ground us in the physical. This is the common denominator. Beauty in every home.

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