Anthony Bourdain Hosted This Web Series About Artisans, and We Miss It (And Him)
Oh, Anthony Bourdain, you left us too, too, too soon.
When the intrepid traveler, chef, author, and TV host passed away in June, fans were left hanging on to the last season of Parts Unknown, featuring uncompleted episodes that CNN had to work around in order to release to Bourdain's grieving audience. Between that and the past seasons that are still streaming on Netflix, we'll take what we can, knowing full well that it'll just make us miss him even more.
But some of our favorite Anthony Bourdain episodes aren't even from his immensely popular series. In 2015, Bourdain hosted the web series Raw Craft, a show featuring talented but little-known artisans who were putting out all sorts of beautiful pieces of handcrafted design.
It's the Bourdain we've all come to love (and miss). Whether talking to Brooklyn hipsters about cast-iron skillets to a master tailor who was also a boxer, Bourdain was at his most personable, enthusiastic, and curious. "The term 'handcrafted' gets thrown around a lot these days," Bourdain says in the series intro, "It's become a movement, a trend that could obscure the passionate folks who actually make amazing things by hand. Their remarkable stories deserve to be told, and I'm going to find them."
The 14-episode web series was released online in 2015, and was bankrolled by whisky brand The Balvenie—though thankfully there's little evidence of the sponsorship in the episodes themselves, save for a little subtle product placement at the end. In the meantime, we can enjoy these mini- masterpieces where Bourdain gets to talk design with some pretty incredible artisans.
"I don’t see it as a segue from food to design; it’s simply another area of curiosity and appreciation for me," Bourdain told reporter Anne Quito in an interview in Quartz about the series.
In the same interview, he later says: "I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur of design. But I often find myself drawn to what can only be described as the innately strange and beautiful.
The entire series is worth revisiting—or discovering, in case you're one of the many who missed it its first time out. The episodes, ranging from only six minutes to about 17 minutes long, are each a satisfying mini-documentary. Here are a few of our favorites:
Anthony Bourdain visits Frank Shattuck, "the boxing tailor," in Upstate New York
"Anthony Bourdain and The Balvenie visit the legendary 'boxing tailor,' Frank Shattuck, in Upstate New York to learn what it takes to create true 'bench-made suits.'"
Anthony Bourdain visits typographer and master printer Andrew Hoyem of Arion Press in San Francisco
"Anthony Bourdain & The Balvenie head to San Francisco, California to meet with Andrew Hoyem, master typographer and printer of Arion Press. One of the last of its kind, Arion Press has only a handful of members on its staff, all fellow craftsmen dedicated to this age old process. Each works meticulously to create the books in multiple parts, from the typecasters, to the proofreaders, to the printers and the bookbinders. All of these hands build a work of art through a process that must be seen to be believed, and can only, truly, be described as magic."
Anthony Bourdain meets Elizabeth Brim, master metalsmith, in North Carolina
In one of his favorite episodes, Anthony Bourdain heads to Penland, North Carolina to meet with Elizabeth Brim, master metalsmith and instructor at the Penland School of Crafts. "Brim is one-of-a-kind in the industry and her work is noted for the creation of traditionally feminine objects created from iron. In this episode, Brim introduces an original method she developed for inflating metal. Each of her works contain hours of detailed labor to achieve end results that will last a lifetime."
Anthony Bourdain visits "improvisational furniture maker" Mats Christeen in Brooklyn, NYC
"Anthony Bourdain heads to the heart of Greenpoint, Brooklyn to meet with improvisational furniture maker Mats Christeen. A former hockey player, turned model and owner of his small shop in Brooklyn - Foundry Wood, Mats brings a unique eye to each of his pieces. Using reclaimed wood and iron parts Mats is able to breathe new life into old materials he finds around New York City. Each piece of furniture is carefully constructed and uniquely original."
Anthony Bourdain meets Max Hazan, custom motorcycle maker, in Los Angeles
In this episode of Raw Craft, Anthony Bourdain and The Balvenie head to Los Angeles, California to meet with custom motorcycle builder Max Hazan of Hazan Motorworks. Over the years Max has cemented his position as one of the industry’s most original thinkers and a craftsman of the highest order. He builds his bikes entirely from the ground up, from sketch to finished product.