Tag Archives: craft

The job for a robot

A CNC machine has just become a talented craftsman. At least when it comes to carving in customised ceramic tiles. The robot is eight times faster than a human, and in terms of man-hour – or rather robot-hour – is much cheaper. But is it as cool as a handmade product? Well, yes it is.

Michael Hammar, founder of Tilemark – a young company that offers ceramic tiles the machine can carve into any pattern that resembles manual work – explained me in Stockholm why he invested in robots instead of a craftsman.

I interviewed Michael Hammar at Stockholm Furniture Fair 2017. The transcription has been edited for space and clarity. To listen to the original conversation recorded in Sweden, please scroll down and watch the video embedded at the bottom of this page.

Tilemark Stockholm Furniture Fair 2017 credits TrendNomad
At the world’s premiere of the brand, Tilemark showed a forty-five square meter ivory tiled map of Stockholm, illustrated by Form Us With Love. Photo by TrendNomad.com

TrendNomad.com: What is the story behind Tilemark? How did you start your company?
Michael Hammar: I was traveling around the world, looking for innovations and new products for surface materials for buildings and construction industry. One day in China I stumbled upon a set of hand-carved tiles. I found them very attractive, they looked like a piece of art. At that moment I decided to develop a machine to make the production cost so low that carved tiles could be interesting for a bigger audience.

Tilemark adds the dimension where you can feel the tile. You can feel the structure of the carved area and build your story around it.

What was the second step?
When I come back to Sweden, I met an amazing guy who told me that within a year he can build a machine ready to produce carved tiles.

tilemark 2
Photo by Makeiet

Did you build the machine from scratches or did you apply a technology that already had been available on the market?
After some analyzing, we decided to use a CNC machine as a base device. We have adjusted the machine with several tools to our needs. We developed the final tool that carves into tiles.

Photo by Makeiet

Is the production cost the only reason why you decided to automate the carving process?
I wanted to automate the carving process for several reasons. One of them is that [in our part of the world – ed.] we don’t have the tradition of carving into tiles. The other reason is that I don’t want to be dependent on people or have to educate them to produce carved tiles.

Photo by Makeiet

How long does it take to carve a pattern on one square meter of tiles?
For one square meter, it takes around eight hours to handcraft it. Our machine makes the same job approximately in one hour.

What is the price?
The price is 125 euro per square meter when you order carved tiles, and 50 euro per square meter when you choose a plain version.

Tilemark pictograms Stockholm Furniture Fair credits TrendNomad
In collaboration with Form Us With Love, Tilemark has developed a collection of patterns and symbols for architects and designers. Photo by TrendNomad.com

What are the limitations of this technology?
The technology works under certain conditions. The machine has to be placed in the factory where biscuits are being produced. Biscuit is the name of a tile prior to firing. It is very fragile. The machine carves into biscuits, and then they go into the kiln. We want to have this machines in factories all around the world.


Tilemark is not only about the product. This is also a service, am I right?
Yes, that’s correct. We developed a tool for designers and architects, so it’s easy to upload free vector images and preview how the set of tiles will look like. It works online, you can use it in your browser.

Tilemark enables a seamless transition from a digital print to a physical product by carving any free vector, pattern or typography onto the durable and hygienic surface of the ceramic tile.

An architect can upload any design he or she wishes for. They can play around with tiles, change the color of the glaze, and preview the effect. The quotation is made automatically. We want to make everything as automated as possible.

Render by Gustav Wiberg

What will happen to people who will lose their jobs due to the robotisation?
I believe that we will find jobs in new industries and new sectors. But if we don’t, I think, there should be a political adjustment. From my perspective, we can not avoid this, but at the same time, I understand that people are afraid of it. We need to solve this problem in a political way.


If you have any questions regarding Tilemark brand and its products, you can send an email directly to Michael Hammar at michael.hammar@tilemark.eu. To listen to the video interview recorded in Stockholm, watch the video above.



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The craft of survival

In ten years from now more people will associate precise manufacturing, customization, short and unique series of furniture with the 3D printing technology than with a traditional craftsmanship. Will experienced stonemasons, woodcarvers, glassworkers and ironworkers be able to find jobs in the next decade?

About the condition of Polish furniture industry, the future of crafts, the value of brands, and a new technology fever, I talk with Wojciech Łanecki, the creative director of the new Polish interior brand Brahman’s Home, founded by two brothers Marek and Grzegorz Zbroszczyk.

Trend Nomad: In terms of the value, Poland is the fourth largest furniture exporter in the world. The first three places belong to China, Germany and Italy. In the ranking of exporters counted in tonnes, Poland is second to China. Are these huge amounts of furniture produced in several giant factories, or rather in thousands of small manufactories?
Wojciech Łanecki: In 2013 the Polish furniture industry consisted of about 24 thou. companies, but only 100 of them were large companies [employing more than 250 people – ed.]. Roughly 350 companies are medium-sized enterprises [employing between 50 and 250 people – ed.], and 1,5 thou. are small businesses employing from 10 to 50 people. The vast majority – approx. 22 thou. – consists of micro firms, employing less than 10 workers.

Brahmans Home Wojciech Lanecki
Wojciech Łanecki, the creative director of the new Polish interior brand Brahman’s Home.

What kind of furniture are made in Poland?
Mainly cheap ones made of furniture board. A huge manufacturer operating in this segment of the market is the Black Red White furniture group, selling low-cost products in more than 40 countries. The scale of Polish exports also stems from the fact that several Polish manufacturers of upholstered furniture are subcontractors of global giants such as IKEA. In addition to affordable products, Poland is also a place where high-end, expensive furniture are made, but rarely they are branded with Polish brands. Final no-name products are exported to countries such as Italy, where are branded with Italian labels and then re-exported to fancy showrooms around the world to be sold for a fortune.

The price of an end-product depends on the reputation of its label. Polish companies perfectly cope with the production process, but still have to learn how to build a good image and a value of their brands.

Brahman’s Home says sincerely from the very beginning: „We are a luxury company from Poland”.
We are honest. We do not pretend that we are an Italian brand to increase sales. We say: „Made in Poland” without any complexes but also without a sense of superiority. We find Polish roots as something natural. However, we are not ambassadors of typical Polish design, because we are inspired by the philosophy of the Far East and we use materials from all over the world.

Brahmans Home Sexto Carrara credits Trend Nomad
Sexto side tables made of Carrara marble. Photography: Trend Nomad

What kind of materials do you use and where are they come from?
We use Italian and American walnuts. Oak wood and glass come from Poland. Carrara marble is from Italy, leather we buy in the Netherlands. Metals partly come from Italy, and partly from steel mills operating in Poland – those once belonged to the Public Treasury, and since 2003 are in hands of one of the richest men on Earth – Lakshmi Mittal, the president of the ArcelorMittal group, the world’s largest steel producer. Currently, we use stainless steel, polished or covered with a layer of gold. We found only one workshop in Poland that manages to do gilding on as large surface as we need.

Brahmans Semtimo
A part of Semtimo low table. The frame is made of stainless steel coated with 24-carat gold.

Despite the vast number of micro companies operating in Poland, it was hard to find qualified craftsmen?
It was a challenge, probably because the domestic demand for furniture made by experienced craftsmen almost does not exist. The market is dominated by a demand for cheap, mass produced products made by machines. We work in a niche. There are few craftsmen who have 40 or 50 years of experience. Most of the micro companies were founded 10 or 20 years ago and operate in the segment of low-cost and mid-range furniture. They received substantial grants from the European Union and work on the newest machines.

Brahmans Home Decima credits Trend Nomad
Decima table. In the upper right-hand corner: a shape of Quintus chair. Photography: Trend Nomad

In June 2015 at DMY Festival in Berlin Piero Lissoni was asked whether he is concerned about the disappearance of traditional crafts. He answered: „No. This is the evolution”.
I can agree with him: is a natural change. Some crafts disappeared five hundred or a hundred years ago – this is nothing new. Crafts die, but some values – e.g. the truth to materials – remain. I do not see anything wrong with that experienced craftsmen begin to use modern machines. It is hard for artisans to work in a traditional way and keep the highest quality at the given time. In business, we can not afford such instability. Quality and timeliness of deliveries are our top priority, so we work only with experienced craftsmen who have knowledge of manual production, but they also know how to use modern machines. It’s a good combination.

Brahmans Home Decima Quartus
Decima table and Quartus chairs.

In the UK and USA organizations such as the Craft Council care about the interests and PR of craftspeople. Does Poland have similar entities?
Yes, The Polish Craft Association. It has been operating since 1933. It is a nationwide entrepreneurs organisation that constitutes the biggest and the oldest structure of the economic self-government in Poland. It represents interests of micro, small and medium enterprises towards government and regulatory bodies, public administration, courts and social-economic organisations in Poland and abroad. The Polish Craft Association influences bills on economic and social policies – taxes, national budget, labour market, EU structural funds and salaries. It is also involved in the social dialogue at the European level.

Does this organization also ensure that the knowledge of craftsmen is being passed down to the next generation?
The Polish Craft Association reports that in more than one hundred professions – from modern ones to these unique with artistic and handicraft character – craftsmen currently employ and train more than 92 thous. students. Thus, there is a significant chance that different kind of crafts will survive. On the other hand, one of our subcontractors confessed to us that he wanted to convey knowledge about his profession to his son, but he was not interested. He prefers to be a waiter.

Polish people need some time to understand that the highest value remains in items made by human hand.

Maybe because craftsman does not earn a lot of money?
It is a lucrative profession, if only you reach a high level of performance and work at the edge of art and furniture industry. Orders received from luxury brands are paid very well. Crafts will always go hand in hand with luxury.

Brahmans Home Chateau De Gudanes credits Trend Nomad
The preview of the Brahman’s Home collection took place in late July this year in the interiors of Chateau De Gudanes located in the heart of the French Pyrenees. Photography: Trend Nomad

In the next decade, we will see a diffusion of technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality, the Internet of things and self-driving cars at the mass scale. Millions of people, including taxi and trucks drivers, may lose their jobs. Do you think that at the same time Neo-Luddism movement opposed to technological progress will become stronger than ever?
It has already started, and not just among people who are at the risk of losing their jobs due to replacing them by computers. More and more people of all ages feel overwhelmed by an avalanche of new technologies. They do not want to learn over and over again how to use new devices, and they begin to reject other novelties. The digital world is fascinating, but the real one, filled with objects made by human hands, can be even more alluring. People who are looking for authenticity and dreaming of returning to nature will find the harmony in brands such as Brahman’s Home.

Brahmans Home Quartus credits Trend Nomad
A part of Quartus low table. Photography: Trend Nomad

Furniture collection by Brahman’s Home will be available from 1st of September 2015 in the online store and at selected showrooms. If you have any questions regarding the described brand, you can send an email to its creative director, Wojciech Łanecki: w.lanecki@brahmanshome.com.


Do you like the interview? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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