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Collect 2018 – in search of textile crafts

The Crafts Council’s Collect 2018 launched at the Saatchi Gallery on the Kings Road yesterday with a superb selection of galleries and makers from around the world. With over 400 artists exhibiting the whole of the Saatchi Gallery is filled with work spanning the spectrum of the modern craft practice. Boundary pushing ceramics and glass pieces sit alongside contemporary jewellery and bookbinding. I did notice a distinct rarity of textile pieces overall, which was a little disappointing, so am concentrating my efforts in a celebration of the few pieces that are featured.
There were some exemplary pieces of constructed textiles to be seen in the Collect Open section of the show, notably work by Korean textile artist Jiu Jang who has created site-specific pieces for an installation symbolizing the divine power of Numen, which rules the “eternal cycle from birth to death in all natural elements on earth”

Jang uses natural fibres to create monumental “garments” layering, stitching and felting fibres and dying with the seeds of the ebony tree to give a rich gamut of charcoal greys and earthy browns. The tactility of these pieces is reminiscent of ancient artefacts and the scale of the work is an impressive testament to the craft and patience of the artist.

In contrast to Jiu Jang’s wholly organic fibres, RCA graduate Hannah Robson has created a series of richly coloured woven structures using metal threads woven with yarns to create self-supporting textile structures and large hangings with 3D surface elements. Hannah incorporates copper wires in the warp of the weave and cleverly constructs forms that spring into 3 dimensional forms once they are removed from the loom.

The tradition of the woven tapestry has been used by Jilly Edwards as a story-telling medium, she has created a series of thirteen tapestry segments, each representing a four week time span. Colours are inspired by skies, and landscapes around her Bristol studio and map changing weather patterns. Presented on a long table top, this tapestry is a subtle and sensitive example of constructed textile skills.

As a lover of stitch I was intrigued by the work of Emily Gibbs. Layers of coloured silk organza are hand stitched in the seemingly simple running stitch as drawings or “portraits” of fellow makers exploring the idea of portraits, looking at depicting the person through their workspace and tools. This series of embroideries is a celebration of the often underrated skills of makers encompassing crafts such as glassblowing, pottery metalwork and shoemaking.


Amongst the 40 galleries exhibiting at Collect 2018 I only found a brave three that featured any textile based work, notably 50 Goldborne has travelled far to find their textile based offering. The gallery exhibits the Ubuhle Collective from South Africa, which is reviving the tradition of beaded textiles as art. Millions of meticulously hand sewn beads form sumptuous images and patterns reminiscent of tropical flora.


Afke Golsteijn’s hand embroidered bird sculpture is shown in the Gallerie Marzee exhibit, with hand stitched silk as the flowing tail of this piece.

And the Katie Jones gallery is showing a selection of indigo-dyed pieces by renowned Japanese textile artist Shihoko Fukomoto.


I may of course have missed some pieces, but as I have an eagle-eye for textile art, it is a real disappointment that I had to search so hard amongst over 400 artists in these prestigious international gallery offerings for contemporary textile craft pieces, when we know that the world of textiles has such a rich craft heritage. Hopefully 2019 will be a better year!

Indoor gardening

I revisited one of my favourite art venues this weekend in the Cotswold town of Cirencester. The Brewery Arts Centre was one of the pioneers in encouraging designer makers to set up workshops and studios in their purpose built hub.For the past 40 years the Cirencester Workshops’ aim has been to ‘give the public good quality crafts, provide craftspeople with a fair rent and encourage them to produce creative work of a high standard, and to put the enterprise on a sound financial basis’.  I have been priveleged to witness the evolution of this centre over the years and have always enjoyed popping in to see what’s on in the gallery or peep into the workshops to witness some really stunning works being created. (Not to mention the fab coffee!)

The current exhibition, “How does your garden grow?” has been curated by garden designer Geoff Carr. He has created an indoor garden design which features ceramics, sculpture, garden furniture and tools. Although I was not a great fan of the synthetic lino ’tiling’ which didn’t really do the works sitting upon it justice, I thoroughly approve of the concept behind the show. So often, garden design elements are shoved to the background, overshadowed by showy plants and flowers, but this exhibition gives us the opportunity to see gardening staples, such as terracotta flowerpots, trowels and bird boxes in a new light as bona-fide pieces of craft in their own right.

The sculptural qualities of woven willow are more apparent in a gallery setting, before they have been overgrown with the plants they are destined to support. The ceramic forms of Nigel Edmonson incorporate ‘landscape based abstraction that responds to the Lakeland fells’ that lie on his doorstep.

Karen Edwards also works in clay , exploring her interest in plants and landscape. The pieces are hand formed, using various techniques to create individual pieces which are then embellished, embossed or polished and glazed.

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Karen Edwards

 

The palatial clay birdboxes created by Peter Garrard are a fantastical journey into his world of fascination with Chinese, Medieval and Pre-Renaissance artefacts. Lavishly decorated and glazed these dwellings would be for the most discerning of feathered property tycoons!

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Peter Garrard

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Peter Garrard

 

A row of beach hut striped teracotta pots spans the width of the gallery and I love the idea of these colourful elements added to the simplest form of garden pottery. The humble flowerpot has been given special treatment by potter Simon Hulbert who works in Haye-on-Wye. Simon says;”My work has always been varied in scale and complexity- from the humble plant pot, simply thrown, through to the larger one-off pieces which are often monumental in scale.” I am so pleased that he has treated us to this display of ‘humble’ pots.

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Simon Hulbert

I seem to have focussed on the ceramic elements in my photographs but there was a range of other mediums on show, including some stunning steamed wood baskets from Jane Crisp

jane Crisp

And just in case you feel the need to get your hands dirty and actually plant something in your garden here are some really splendid bespoke tools from Implementations to adorn your garden shed walls!

 

New designs at Pulse

If you have ever been to a product design trade fair you will know the feeling of walking in to face interminable corridors of small booths filled with hopeful business owners. The weight of responsibility sometimes outweighs the pleasure of discovering new talent! Having spent many years of filtering the wheat from the chaff at shows, and having been on both sides of the counter I have developed a speedy approach to trade show visits; it takes something quite special to catch my eye these days, I whizz up and down aisles waiting to be wowed rather than actively looking in each stand.

This season’s Pulse show at Olympia showcased new interior design products and grouped new designers and products into distinct sections of the show. So, my habitual zig-zag up and down the aisles went out of the window!! The ‘Launchpad’ section of the show featured young businesses launching their products into the marketplace, many of whom were exhibiting for the first time. A fleeting glance around the exhibition highlighted the fact that the most activity in the show seemed to be taking place in this and the Raw / UALnow  areas. New design is the key to the future of retailing and it is essential that these up-and-coming designers are encouraged. They have invested in their products emotionally and financially, taking them to market is one of the bravest things a designer can do.

I am showing a selection of the products that caught my eye, they may not be to everyone’s taste, but that’s the joy of new discoveries!

(Please do click on the links to see more of these lovely things!)

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Sevak Zargarian. Ceramics

 

 

Emma Ware, Leather and recycled silver body pieces

 

Arty East Dulwich

Stephane Godec

East Dulwich is now renowned as one of London’s up and coming areas, this formerly dowdy corner of South East London boasts broad leafy streeets and burgeoning high streets. Property prices are rising a higher rate here than anywhere else in London and this ‘gentrification’ bemoaned by some old timers, has resulted in an upsurge of trendy restaurants, design-led shops and personal trainers in every green space. Of course, the past inhabitants of East Dulwich (formerly known to many as part of ‘Peckham’) were those drawn to a cheap area of London to live in, and voila, a community of creatives emerged. The Camberwell and Goldsmith’s Schools of Art are within easy reach, so many ex-art students have remained in the area, growing careers and families in this leafy corner of South East London. ‘Incomers’ have been attracted by great transport links to the City, Docklands and the West End, bringing a whole new demographic to the area.

Jeannie Avent gallery

Jeannie Avent Gallery

 

The Dulwich festival incorporates the Artists’ Open House event, two weekends when the local artists literally open their homes and studios to the public, and this is a fantastic opportunity to see how artists work and live. As an artist, I know how much pleasure comes from the opportunity of meeting like-minded people, getting face to face reaction and feedback to new work, and chatting about art and design. This melting pot of artists and designers spreads over the ‘Dulwich’ corner of South East London and I love the opportunity of seeing, not only what these creative souls have been working on over the past year, but taking a sneaky look behind the facades of the Georgian and Victorian streets into other people’s homes! A stroll around the back streets is punctuated by the Artists’ Open House signs posted outside the participating properties, some front doors are left open, (Something unimaginable in this area twenty years ago!) some doorbells need to be rung, but in either case a warm welcome, often with the offer of a glass of wine, and snacks is always to be had, so don’t be shy, go out there and see what there is on offer!

This weekend we made the most of a blisteringly hot day to visit a few of the open houses around the Lordship Lane and Bellenden Road area, and the artists have kindly agreed to me sharing a few images of their work, of course this is only the tip of the iceberg as there are in all over 150 homes or studios open for the event, which runs over next weekend, the 14 – 15th May.

Tig Sutton Has been working on expressive brush marks, gloriously free in their movement, the subtleties of colour have been enhanced in their translation ito fine art prints, this is a bold move forward from his monochromatic prints of fine linear expressive drawings last year.

Ceramicist Sacha Tanyar ( Twitter handle @bansheeplum) is showing her gorgeous ceramics with friends illustrator Angus Robertson and painter Louise Hardy. A little foray into the back yard unveils cute hand painted bird boxes created by Sacha’s partner too; a real family affair!

bird box

hand painted bird box

David Hopkins

David Hopkins. Portraits

The home of David Hopkins is that of the archetypal artist, canvasses stacked against the walls, paintings covering every surface, portraits gazing around every corner, and occasional lighthearted looks at patisserie and foodstuffs. It was a delight to talk with the softly spoken David, who explained that his portrait subjects’rarely look directly at the viewer as he finds it disconcerting, and sees this as a tribute to Velazquez who also avoided the direct gaze of his subjects.

Sarah Kier

Sarah Kier

Scenic artist, Sarah Kier has been working on a series of paintings exploring the maps showing bomb damage to streets in the Blitz. The maps have been stencilled onto canvas and painted using scene painting techniques that she has used in her work for shows such as War Horse. Sarah is currently working with the National Theatre.

Ellen Hanceri

Ellen Hanceri 

Printmaker Ellen Hanceri has translated her block printed designs onto textiles, ceramics and homeware. Simple printed images tessellate in a style reminiscent of the woodcut designs of the 1940’s. Ellen is showing her work alongside ceramicist Ben Swift who has recently been developing a body of work that explores the torus form. I, however was instantly captivated by a display of his mini ceramic animals and a mantlepiece crammed with small cylindrical vessels before looking around the front room with the beautiful collection of suspended torus’ (or should that be torii?) along the walls!

Staying with the Liliputian theme, my next visit was to the front room of Stephane Godec who works under the label NoBookEnds. Stephan creates fantastical worlds from cut and folded paper using vintage books. He transports us from the city to the seaside with his little row of beach huts emerging from an old book, and his meticulous paper cuts are also shown as framed pieces of multi layered collages.

No Book Ends

No Book Ends. Intricate paper cuts from vintage books by Stephane Godec 

My final visit this weekend was to the workshop of Richard Wood who makes bespoke furniture. Richard’s pieces are refined, simple and elegant with a lightness of touch that is truly contemporary, the aroma of wood shavings permeates the workshop, and instantly transported me to my childhood, watching my grandfather turning wooden bowls on his lathe in the garage – happy days!!

If you happen to have the opportunity of wandering the streets of Dulwich next weekend, I would thoroughly recommend it, you never know what treasures you might find behind those front doors!

Impressions of Manhattan

It is all too easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of central Manhattan. Skyscraping buildings, blinding electronic billboards and towering piles of food are what we assosciate with New York City. So on my recent visit I decided to concentrate on the details, and this brought a whole new dimension to a city that I have known and loved for many years.

It is funny how, once you decide to focus on one thing, examples pop up everywhere, and so it was that I started noticing the textures in stonework, and architectural details reflected in the products on offer in shops and art exhibitions too. I think it must have looked very strange to the locals seeing this strange person taking close-up pictures in Grand central station or at the Metropolitan Museum, rather than photographing the vast architectural expanses of New york!

The simplicity of embossing, and imprinted texture needs little embellishment through colour, and perfectly fits the New York fashion week’s neutral colour trend of muted candy pink and pale smokey blue which is already in evidence in the cities home decoration collections.

 

Of course I was spoilt for choice, but have grouped together some of my favourite images here; mixing up the art, architecture and design of Manhattan to show the emerging trend for embossed details and pattern in my world of decoration and design.

 

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