traditional craft

CRAFT and AI | Does the rise of AI make craft more or less relevant?


We've been thinking about the rise of Artificial Intelligence in relation to the world of traditional craft and artisan communities. Many in the design world and beyond are voicing concerns about the displacement of human-made literature, art, and music. So today we wanted to explore this question in terms of the threat to artisan communities: will new technologies and AI render traditional craftsmanship obsolete, or amplify its relevance?


Krzsztof Pelc wrote for Wired Magazine that AI will make human art more valuable: "Technological progress... changes what is easy and what is difficult, and our running definitions of the beautiful and the vulgar are instantly affected by these criteria." AI's emergence won't devalue human-made art and craft; instead, it will amplify its worth by emphasizing rarity and uniqueness. He predicts that "the gap between the artists and the robots will grow wider, just as their technical abilities continue to converge."


Pelc draws a comparison to 1870s England and the Arts and Crafts movement that emerged as a backlash against the industrial revolution. "Just as technology was bringing mass-produced goods within reach of the middle class... elite tastes turned to block-printed floral wallpapers and furniture purposefully left unfinished, the better to hint at its handmade origins... By the end of the 19th century, Arts and Crafts interiors had become the dominant style in British middle-class homes."


“Morris Chair” designed 1865, image from the V&A picture library

This historical instinct to counterbalance rapid technological change with traditional handmade craft still rings true today. Take recent fashion campaigns and couture shows featuring weaving and traditional Mexican embroidery (Bottega Veneta, Loewe, Dior), world class art shows and museums exhibiting craft (Frieze London's Fall curated section on woven art, Sheila Hicks everywhere), and celebrated interior brands broadcasting their efforts to preserve local craft traditions (Soane Britain, Atelier Vime).

Hand embroidering Dior's Cruise 2024 Collection in Mexico


The New York Times technology podcast Hard Fork interviewed Sam Altman in late 2023 about OpenAI, the tech company he co-founded. When interviewers asked if he expected there to be value in non-AI-assisted work in the future he replied "I expect... that if we look forward to the future ... things that we want to be cheap can get much cheaper, and things that we want to be expensive are going to be astronomically expensive... Real estate, handmade goods, art. And so there will be a huge premium on things like that. ...Even when machine-made products have been much better, there has always been a premium on handmade products. And I’d expect that to intensify."

Portrait of our craft partner Susana Vicente Galan by Rosalinda Olivares


Far from displacing traditional craft, lately we have seen designers we deeply respect using new technologies to augment the work of craft communities.

A favorite of ours, Fernando Laposse - a Mexican artist and designer based in London - is working with indigenous farmers and artisans in the small community of Tonahuixtla in south west Mexico to make veneer marquetry for furniture and lighting using the husks of indigenous heirloom corn varieties.

technology and traditional craft

Image of corn husk veneer from MoMA / Fernando Laposse

To do this Laposse has set up a workshop that employs local women (mostly young mothers) to transform multicolored corn husks into intricate patterns using sophisticated laser cutter machines. The result is not only a stunningly beautiful product, but also a process that contributes to local biodiversity and provides economic opportunities that are very much in harmony with the local community.


In the end we believe the rise of AI will make traditional craft more relevant. There is an inherent beauty in the imperfections and idiosyncrasies of handcrafted goods that is deeply resonant in the world of design and beyond. We expect that as AI automates various sectors, society will increasingly recognize the value of handcrafted goods, and of preserving artisanal skills.

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