The Art of Craftsmanship

Tod’s collaborates with photographer Tim Walker for a joyfully surreal campaign

All photography Tim Walker

Sewing needles are wielded like harpoons and an oversized measuring tape wraps around legs like a python – these fantastical images are the result of internationally renowned fashion photographer Tim Walker having a great deal of fun with Tod’s. Magnifying what makes the ‘Made in Italy’ brand special – craftsmanship, quality, attention to detail – Walker celebrates artisanal processes such as cutting leather, stitching and brushing through playful ironic scale, highlighting the phases of creation of some of its iconic products, such as the Di Bag and Gommino shoe. The project, titled The Art of Craftsmanship, recently launched through an exhibition at Milan Design Week at the Cavallerizze of the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Technologia Leonardo Da Vinci and will be open to the public until Saturday 22nd April, before travelling around the world. To mark the launch, Walker expands on the inspiration behind it, as well as his creative process, below.

This project wants to celebrate craftsmanship and its values. How did you translate this concept into images?

I spent a fascinating day at the Tod’s factory where I was able to witness the craftsmanship and skills that go into the products for myself, along with my set designer, Gary Card, and we both drew inspiration from this. We wanted to let the specialist tools and methods play a starring role in the photographs – the artisan tools are so specific to the creation of Tod’s iconic products – we wanted to find a way to celebrate them in a slightly surreal way in the photographs, playing with perspective, and hopefully some with some wit.

What was your own creative process like? Can you draw any parallelism between your craft and creation process and that you’ve witnessed with the Tod’s artisans? How did you prepare/create the set?

The creative process always starts with a meeting and discussion with my key collaborators – in this instance set designer, Gary Card, and stylist and costume designer, Gerry O’Kane. We discuss the elements of the shoot, our inspirations, and think about how to respond to the client’s brief – in this case with surreal portraits. There is a huge difference however between the processes we witnessed at the Tod’s factory and the way we executed the ideas for the shoot – we were largely experimenting with scale and perspective and with playful scenarios, using 2D cutout props of the tools and models to create the images. The disposable and temporary nature of the props we created for the shoot contrasts greatly with the creation of the Tod’s products, which have a feeling of great quality and longevity, along with the highly specialised skills, acquired over many decades that we witnessed at the factory.

In your art you are celebrated for your imaginative, surreal and playful images, spectacular settings and passion for detail and quality. What is the inspiration behind these pictures?

The inspiration all comes from the people we met at the Tod’s factory, the associations we have with the brand, the craftsmanship that we witnessed, and the desire to create images that show these things in a humorous and arresting way. I have no interest in creating anything too literal – it’s much more interesting to me to elevate these elements with something a little unexpected.