At the end of February, I contacted Betakut in Erba, Italy – a traditional artisan tool manufacturer who have been making high-quality, hot-forged tools since 1955. I have a very old pair of their Kingshead, steel scissors, and I wanted to find out if it was possible to somehow refurbish them – I’ve been trying to be less wasteful. There’s a lot of information about restoring old/vintage tools online, but these possibly needed a bit more work.
My mum originally purchased the scissors in the 80’s in Japan when she was taking seamstress courses. When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to use them on my kiddy art projects – they were “the good scissors”. Many years later when I went to Art and Design school in Atlanta, USA, I took the scissors with me. They were trusty through 4 years of late night art and design projects. Later when I moved to London as a Designer and Illustrator – I brought them with me. They’re very well worn, but STILL WORK (just a little loose). So, with a lot of happy memories attached, I wanted to try to fix them – they lasted for over 40 years since my mum purchased them, so I didn’t want to be wasteful and replace them with something cheap, plastic and mass-market.
Unfortunately, the region of Italy that Erba is located had been hit quite hard by the virus – the week I contacted them things were getting quite serious, which I didn’t find out til the end of that week. Obviously the whole area was under shutdown, and this has impacted them and made things even more challenging for their business. Understandably, a refurbishment wouldn’t be possible. I’ve now “retired” the first pair and replaced them with the Betakut Tailor shears. It’s a signature product they’ve produced since 1955 – forged and hardened steel, and of really great, substantial quality. I’m sure I’ll still be using them when I’m very old and still making colour art somewhere! If you’re able to, support Betakut and similar traditional, artisan producers when you can. The quality and craftsmanship of their work lasts so much longer than throw-away mass-market versions. It’s important to keep these interesting traditions alive so future generations can experience them.
Photo: both old and new artisan tools together. The background fabric is a Memphis Milano inspired fabric I designed a few years ago. The Memphis Group and Memphis Milano, the 80’s Italian design movement, still influence my use of colour and Postmodernism in my work today. I love that they broke away from practical, impersonal design and inspired people to live more colourfully.