Making – whether it’s a Rolls-Royce, a sterling silver pen, or extruded plastic furniture pieces – is a multisensory experience. The Sound of Craftsmanship explores the sonic cues, inspirations and wares of expert makers.
Over the following months, ten podcast focusing on ten skilled expert makers will be featured by LCW in collaboration with KEF, launching with the David Monks from Rolls Royce, Metal Worker Adi Toch and Artist Yinka Ilori. Hear their craftsmanship stories below and to read more about the project go to soundsoflife.com.
Stepping into a Rolls-Royce is to enter a world unto itself, with its distinctly opulent design and more than century’s worth of engineering expertise. And where many car companies work hard to articulate a brawny roar, the signature sound of a Rolls-Royce bucks the trend.
That sound is silence. But, not just any silence, the very right kind of silence. In this episode of The Sound of Craftsmanship, we meet Dave Monks, engineer for Rolls-Royce – a man who’s preferred ‘tuning fork’ for the sonic experience of the cars is none other than Metallica. (You’ll find out why.) Thanks to a Rolls-Royce’s double-paned windows, its specially-designed sound-dampening tyres, and so much more, Monks gets to choose what sounds to leave out, and importantly, which to let. The result is the quietest car in the world, but equally one where anything from a whispered conversation to cranked-up heavy metal music is heard exactly as they should be.
Rolls-Royce Motorcars has been in the game since 1906 when the company was formed and launched the six-cylinder Silver Ghost. That model, hailed within a year as being ‘the best car in the world’, set Rolls-Royce on its course to become a brand inextricably linked to luxury and prestige.
We meet Adi Toch, a maker in metal whose work regularly exposes, creates or plays with the relationship between her chosen material and sound, in a series of vessels that sit somewhere between domestic object and artwork.
Right from the very start or making, she’s listens – the rhythmic planishing by hammer, the caressing tones of sanding. Not only do theses noises guide her process, as they do for any metalsmith, she’s also captured them to act as a soundtrack to the exhibition of finished pieces, playing alongside them the recorded tracks of their production.
Her work also at times acts as instrument, and in others as active audience member. Her soothing Whispering Vessels are near-instruments, with stones or beads inextricably, but visibly, placed within them, singing to you as the object is rolled around in your hands. Her playful Vessels on Stilts are metal pots sat atop delicate tripods – so delicate that when sung to, the pots quiver from the vibrations, becoming more concertgoer than passive object.
From her studio in North London, a former parachute and ammunitions factory from the Second World War, she marries millennia-old traditions with contemporary forms that elevate metal’s innate musical qualities. “Craft,” she says “teaches you about the past and history, but it’s also the future.
Yinka Ilori’s work is unmistakably bright and optimistic, not least because of his palette (a swathe of pastels and intensely punchy primary colours). Whether a public pavilion or pop-up playground, the message is clear: enjoy yourself.
Born in Britain to Nigerian parents, Yinka’s workshop is filled with references picked up in Lagos and his late grandmother’s village – fabrics, paintings… and music. Deeply inspired by Nigerian afrobeat pioneers such as Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, and Ebenezer Obey, you can feel those rhythms even in static objects that he produces.
Yinka’s process, he says “is in making mistakes,” playing around and allowing himself to recognise when something unplanned or unusual in fact deserves to become the final product. An example of this is a series of uncycled (or “pre-loved” as Yinka says) chairs, which were sawed, painted and upholstered to create bold, kaleidoscopic pieces for a show called If Chairs Could Talk. A cross between useable chairs and sculptures, a more pragmatic series was then produced in support of social enterprise Restoration Station.
In June 2019, he unveils two new projects in London: the Dulwich Picture Gallery pavilion, in collaboration with Pricegore architects, and another called “Happy Street”, an art installation on the Thessaly Road Railway Bridge, in Battersea.