Right in the heart of Brighton, one company is playing with our perception of what is real. Just off New England Street, Craftwork Projects create unique environments that look real, but are entirely fabricated. They take a client’s concept, design, or brand, and then communicate it in a unique and imaginative way.
The company was born from the British film industry, globally revered for its highly skilled workforce. There was a realisation that the skills and methods employed were transferable to other industries. “We wanted to share our knowledge and really reach out to other companies that may never of had access to the kind of skills we have,” says Craftwork’s director, Ian Zawadzki. From painting elephants for a battle scene in the Thai jungle to making an antiqued stone statue of an angel, in the likeness of a client, the work is always varied and exciting. His team has worked on major blockbuster franchises like ‘Harry Potter’, ‘James Bond’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, as well as events and exhibitions for Dreamworks and Universal.
A project starts with an initial brief, and then a concept, budget and schedule are all laid out. After being digitally visualised, models are made along with physical samples, to help them best choose the materials and determine the overall aesthetic. Finally comes construction, then installation if need be. “It’s essentially a machine. In goes an idea, out comes a finished piece.” The same ‘blueprint’ is used for pretty much every project they undertake. Being so well drilled at this methodology allows Craftwork Projects to get ideas off the ground and delivered far quicker than normal design companies.
As well as working with clients they are also reaching out to local creatives in a number of exciting ways. Currently the company is collaborating with Brighton artists on a project to design and make bespoke furniture. Last month they hosted an event for Brighton Film School, Zawadzki and BAFTA winner David Roger offered students an insight into the fascinating world of the set design process.
As well as designing, they provide project management, fabrication and installation services. The work can range from large to small-scale installations and refurbishments, custom branding and signage, furniture and props. If you need something interesting built, they can make it happen. Craftwork Projects also produce original and commissioned artwork and photography. A field they excel in is the creation of specialised paint finishes, textures and surfaces. Their team of artists can replicate almost any surface or material imaginable. Concrete, brickwork, rock face, marble, wood and metallic finishes…
Recently they produced all the sets for ‘Life in Squares’, a BBC portrayal of the Bloomsbury group. The volume of artwork that had to be created, and achieving the authenticity of the ‘Omega’ style as it was evolving, was challenging and complex. They worked very closely with local production designer David Rogers and the team at Charleston House, Lewes, to recreate the different eras.
The Craftwork crew has just returned from the UAE, after making sets for the upcoming Brad Pitt feature ‘War Machine’. In the near future is another collection of intricate sets for a new Sky TV drama anthology based on the work of HG Wells, which marks the 150th anniversary of the author’s birth.
Zawadzki says there’s no typical day at Craftwork, every project is different and requires its own specific skill-set and approach. On hand are sculptors, scenic artists, joiners, metal workers, graffiti artists, as well as designers and graphic artists to help with the visualisation. The ultimate aim is to produce a piece of work that is utterly convincing. With source material and reference varying so greatly, it’s hard to pinpoint where the inspiration comes from. It can relate to a place in history, an era or genre, or a place in a geographical sense. “It’s very important to me to really look hard at the world we live in; natural materials, man-made materials, and the effect of nature on man- made materials.” Doing the best job they can is perhaps the greatest source of inspiration.
Alongside the film work, the team also creates innovative designs for the retail sector. They’ve been involved with clothing brand AllSaints, Mexican street food chain Wahaca, restaurant Salt & Good and The Body Shop. Now they want to build on their good reputation and reach out to new clients who may never have had access to a company like this. “We have a very unique set of skills and look forward to being able to meet every new challenge with a fresh, innovative approach.”