Hans Brumann is showing me a bangle: made of the indigenous hardwood kamagong and embellished with narrow strokes of silver and diamonds, the piece is a good example of the style Brumann has cultivated in the past 44 years that he has been in the business.
“Listen to this,” he says, gesturing for my wrist and pulling a latch on the bangle which opens with a pleasing affirmative click. “This is the sound of workmanship.” The wood is polished just enough to show the grain, and whatever gloss or luster might be found lacking is easily compensated with just enough lines of stones and precious metal. “Just enough,” also applies to the weight around my wrist as I turn it to observe the bangle which just rests easily against my skin instead of slipping up and down my arm like any other awkwardly cast resin piece. “Just enough,” in this case applies to everything except the price tag, which is twice what we paid for the car I drove to Brumann’s Legaspi Village studio.
This is the price of workmanship; an aspect of craft common to the practices of art and design. While both share an obligation to the creation of beauty, design’s primary role is in the production of utilitarian objects. What both practices also share are reservations expressed even by its icons. “My job is completely useless,” says virtuoso of French minimalism, Philippe Starck, “But I continue to work, even if it’s for a toilet brush.” The relationship of design to art could indeed be a common obligation towards the continuation of a narrative that is progress, which in the right degrees can contribute to the enrichment of our humanity—even when the object in question is a toilet brush.