Like its founder, designer Jonathan Anderson, the Loewe Craft Prize thinks big. Conceived with the intention of honoring skilled, under-recognized makers, it seeks to unearth new talent and accentuate the importance of craft in contemporary culture—much in the way that Loewe, the Spanish fashion house helmed by Anderson, celebrates its 171-year history of working with master artisans by spotlighting the techniques they utilize today.
Through October 17, any work in the applied arts can be submitted, so long as it is one-of-a-kind, made in the past five years, and hasn’t previously won an award. In January, the prize’s Experts Panel will whittle entries down to some 30 finalists, whose work will travel to London for a spring exhibition at a yet-to-be-announced location and be reviewed by a jury, who will award their top choice the €50,000 (roughly $59,000) prize in May. The list of jurors reads like a who’s who of the design world: London Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic, World Crafts Council president Rosy Greenlees, Pritzker Prize jury member Benedetta Tagliabue, designer Patricia Urquiola, and Anderson himself among them.
“It’s completely new for craft to get this kind of attention,” says Ernst Gamperl, who won the prize’s first edition out of some 4,000 entries from 75 countries last year. His entry was composed of three meticulously carved vessels from his “Tree of Life” project (a collection of objects made from a 300-year-old fallen oak tree) which, thanks to the prize, he’s now able to complete. Gamperl spent the summer touting the initiative with Sheila Loewe, the Loewe Foundation’s president, and fielding calls about his previously unknown work. He’ll help select the 2018 winner, who will be invited to judge 2019’s competition.
“There are more exciting things going on in craft right now than in contemporary art,” Anderson remarked in April before revealing Gamperl’s victory to the press, who photographed and interviewed the finalists as if they were celebrities. A year later, Loewe’s crusade for artisanship still impresses Gamperl. “It’s a big organizational effort with a very strong impact,” he says of the prize. “It’s the perfect recognition for craft.”