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    Touch Points

    Between the fingers, underfoot, wrapped round the whole body: touch has as much power to conjure experience as any of the other senses. We asked five artisans who rely on their hands to recognise—and make—quality materials a question: What single texture, surface or material has the power to transport you to a specific place when you touch it?

    For almost 45 years, Ted Muehling (@tedmuehling) has been designing jewelry and decorative objects that find their inspiration in the forms and shapes of nature.

    “One place I frequently travel to is Sweden; my partner of many years, Mats Gustafson, has a wonderful apartment in Stockholm and we have many dear friends and family there. Upon arriving at Arlanda Airport I am always struck by the stone floors—this interior paving stone is ubiquitous in Sweden, from museums to hospitals, palaces, libraries, apartment building halls and stairways. It is a limestone from Öland, an island in the Baltic. It is honed to a fine smoothness, not shiny like granite; more burnished than polished. Durable, but with an inherent softness. Appropriately Swedish, even in its restrained and subtle colors, from brick pink to blue-gray to gray-brown. It invites you to glide lightly over it. It is also full of fossils, lovely shapes of creatures trapped in the ocean floor 450 million years ago. I love shuffling my way up the graceful, curving stairway to our 19-century apartment, on that ancient sea.”

    Franco Loro Piana (@ifrenkyboy) is co-founder, with his brother Giacomo, of Milan-based SEASE (@seaseofficial), which designs chic, sustainable, high-tech clothes for the sailor, skier, and stylish city dweller.

    “There is a particular pigment obtained from Isatiis Tinctoria—a plant known as ‘guado’ in Italian, and dyer’s woad in English—which, when I sift through it with my fingers, immediately reminds me of the countryside in Le Marche. It comes in small sundried lightweight blocks, which are pulverized into tiny and ultra-smooth particles. Pigment dust in your hands is like …it’s like feeling a painting; one could say like lapis dust, but probably even more lightweight. And in fact this was guado’s original use: as a color for paintings and frescoes, before eventually it was used for dyeing various cloths. Historically it was known as l’oro blu, blue gold.

    In modern times, Guado, as it’s more commonly known now, is at the root of a fascinating project local to Le Marche, a territory that has been hard-hit by earthquakes: the breeding of native sheep for wool, which is then dyed the most beautiful blue shades, thanks to the botanicals extracted from the plant. It’s an eco-conscious, low-emission technique dating back to the Renaissance—the best testament I’ve found to the Italian art of starting over. I treasure the memory of the first time I came across it.”

    Daria Reina (@dariareina) is co-owner of Chez Dede (@chezdede), one of Europe’s most singular boutiques—a bricks-and-mortar paean to all things small-production and hand-crafted, including Reina’s own ultra-limited line of womenswear.

    “That’s easy: the feel of antique Tuareg mats under my bare feet. It’s the texture that is most evocative to me—it takes me straight to Morocco, and the wonderful little riads of Marrakech and Tangier that Andrea [Ferolla, Reina’s husband] and I love deeply. It’s why I have bought several of the mats, both for home—many years ago—and more recently, also for Chez Dede (@chezdede). They impart a unique, old-world traveler allure to every room.”

    One of the champions of British Isles artisanship, Catherine Lock co-founded The New Craftsmen (@thenewcraftsmen) in London’s Mayfair in 2014.

    “When I lie back and think of the textures of the British Isles, I think of family holidays surrounded by sullen dreadlocked sheep and their pillowy-white, gangly offspring. I remember picking off tiny clouds of fleece from hedgerows and drystone walls to dye with tea, spin into wormy yarns and weave into fragile creations. I think of the acres of luxurious ‘keep-off’ rugs, woven in the glory days of Axminster, that carpeted hallowed hallways of the grandest country houses we traipsed around. And the earnest Welsh tapestry blankets which weighed heavily on me in our beloved cottage; fisherman jumpers so tightly knitted they were impervious to the gales, for sale in the local chandlery; and my neckerchief, the softest, wispiest Shetland-lace that once swaddled me as a baby. ”

    The handmade ceramics and pottery by artist and gardener Frances Palmer (@francespalmer) have a cult following that ranges from SoHo to Sydney.

    “The perfectly smooth, cool, pale-blue surface of celadon glaze on translucent porcelain instantly transports me to China. The clay body is vitrified, so non-porous and impenetrable, with austere beauty. In 2013, I lived for a month in Jingdezhen, where porcelain has been produced for over a thousand years, to study the history of this fascinating process. The city is filled with artisans, ceramics in every shop and delicious, intriguing food. Bookending my journey, I stayed in Shanghai and spent time with the gorgeous Ming and Song dynasty celadons in the Shanghai Museum collection.”

    PRIOR Team

    The PRIOR editorial team, overseen by David Prior, works together to write and produce stories that inspire curiosity about, and the desire to connect to, places and people across the world.

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