Sofie Lachaert and Luc Dhanis met as students when they both studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Higher Institute for Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. Together, they have made their names as trendsetting artists, curators and scenographers, garnering fame across the globe. Their pieces have hidden levels of meaning and interpretation, resulting in layered metaphors. To sum up their eclectic world is not so simple: “Art is art, craft is craft, design is design. But we would like to explain to you why we’ve chosen to ignore these boundaries, why a chair is art, and lapis lazuli is paint. We show you diamonds that you can write with, and money that you can sleep beneath; we serve appetisers on shards and painters’ palettes,” they say. Their studio, Atelier Lachaert Dhanis, is in Temse, in an old shipyard, and arranged as a massive cabinet of curiosities. Visitors can even spend the night there.What does craftsmanship signify for you?
Sofie & Luc: It is part of a country’s identity, an intangible cultural heritage which we must recognise and protect. The skills and creations of craftspeople often represent a lifetime of achievement. It’s vital to ensure young people connect with master artisans to learn the skills and kickstart a cultural movement.How does it feature in your life and work?
Sofie: I am a trained silversmith and goldsmith, so I have lots of experience working with my hands. I grew up surrounded by creativity. My family were involved in fashion design; my grandmother and great grandmother made haute couture pieces. From a young age, I was aware of the value of making handcrafted items.Do you work with craftspeople?
Sofie: I am involved in a programme that supports young emerging artisans, matching them with designers. I also design pieces and then find suitable craftspeople from all over Europe to fulfil them. I relish the exchange of creative ideas and listening to the artisans’ detailed explanations; I am always learning from them.Do you have any stories about the artisans you work with?
Sofie & Luc: Yes, Annemie De Corte was our first intern, aged only 16. Watching her take her first steps through to seeing her accomplishments now is a privilege. With Casimir, we made a trestle table together, a complicated project which required a high level of craftsmanship.