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Craftsmanship, colour and illumination.

Artist sculptor and designer Margit Wittig invited a select group of design professionals to hear interior designer Charlotte Stuart talk about their joint love of craftsmanship, colour and light.

Charlotte Stuart began her design career as a costume designer at the National Youth Theatre, moving on to create her own fashion label and eventually finding her vocation as an interior designer, working with the legendary Imogen Taylor of Colefax and Fowler. Taking a leap of faith, Charlotte went on to set up her design studio; Charlotte Stuart Interiors, which is growing in reputation with projects in the UK and Europe.

The sculptural lamps and candlesticks created by Margit Wittig for Kit Kemp’s Whitby and Berkley Square Hotels caught Charlotte’s attention and when they met and a design friendship began.

Margit Wittig trained in the traditions of fine art and sculpture, she has combined the disciplines of bronze casting and resin casting to build a reputation for elegantly colourful statement pieces of lighting and decorative features. She says about the fine line between artist and crafts person “I feel like an artist but I am willing to let my clients decide”

Margit’s lamps are totally bespoke, using composite elements of her resin and bronze forms, making each piece individual. The influence of Modigliani is evident in her sculpted bronze heads which are combined with geometric forms to create elegant totems of colour and form.

Clients can choose to omit the heads and Margit will painstakingly colour her geometric resin forms to ensure a complete colour match for her clients.

The colours of these pieces are informed by the strength of colour in Margit’s paintings, an aspect of her work that shows her talent for combining texture and form.

Moving her work forward, Margit is developing a collection of furniture and hardware accessories, cast from bronze and resin to add a creative touch to doors and furniture. These pieces have a monumental feel, reminiscent of the columnar forms of Brancusi.

The creative synchronicity between Charlotte Stuart’s vibrant interior colour schemes and Margit Wittig’s artwork is certainly something to watch out for in future projects.

Meeting the Batemans

The trustees of the Mrs and Mr Bateman estate have once again curated a stunning experience showcasing a collection of artists, craftspeople and designers. Set to become an annual landmark in the world of design, the “I am Bateman” show on Blenheim Crescent, just off the Portobello Road in London runs until May 11th.

 

Mr Bateman's house of cards

Mr Bateman’s House of Cards

This year the show celebrates The Batemans and their relations. The installation journeys through the fantastical world of Mrs & Mr Bateman; comprised of seven vignettes depicting the individual stories and peculiarities of various relations. As the visitor travels through the installation, they are given insight into each persona through literal & abstract intimations; their interpretation allowing them to personally create the story that unfolds. The visitor becomes the voyeur. A concept dreamed up by the creative team of Natalie Tredgett, Clemmie Myers and Selena Baudry.

Painting by Selena Baudry

Dreamscape: ” Mrs Bateman discovered she had a love of space. She contemplated it by creating miniature paper rooms. Painting by Selena Baudry

Interior designer Natalie Tredgett, is renowned for her striking interiors, full of colour and light, she says “Living in colour! Both through my work and in my day to day life, I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Natalie has styled the interior of the Batemans imaginary world using signature colours created by Vanessa Konig especially for the event, beautifully crafted chairs using vintage fabrics, contemporary textiles and embroidery from amongst others Minnie Kemp and Pink House by Rebecca Cole. Each of the chairs represents a period in the Bateman family story.

Chairs by Natalie Tredgett

Mrs Bateman’s slipper chairs. “Whilst on her travels in Istanbul Mrs Bateman Stumbled upon this Pink House by Rebecca Cole Design.. she felt compelled to immortalise it in the form of her chair. Twinned with embroidered scenes by Minnie Kemp depicting the life of Mrs Bateman’s bull-fighting Great Grandmother, Conchita Limone.

The things they left behind

The things they left behind… “In a furious rage, Vincent ripped up her beloved clothing…. later he had his interior designer re-upholster a chair out of the remnants”

A new addition to the Bateman cast is The Groomsman. Enigmatically beautiful, his persona idolises Mr Bateman, and a fraction of his secret life is displayed as a room set in the show. fantastic wallpapers designed by Otteline Devries surround The Groomsman’s personal effects; art by Ian Vail, rugs by Emmy Elle Design and embellished garments from Nathalie Ballout

The Groomsman

“He saw himself in two parts: there was the side he showed to the world, and the side he hid from it…”

Mrs Bateman’s wardrobe has informed many of the style choices in the Batemans world, stunning vintage couture garments sourced by Lime Green Bow, who also have a boutique on the Portobello Road add a touch of glamour to the scene, enhanced by Sarah Hendler’s beautiful jewellery and millinery created by Jess Collett.

Mrs Bateman's jewels

Mrs Bateman’s jewels

Mrs Batemans fascinator

Mrs Bateman’s Fascinator. Jess Collett Millinery

Featured creatives:

Jenny Baines
Nathalie Ballout
Selena Beaudry
Dara Caponigro for Shumacher
Pink House byRebecca Cole
Jess Collett
Emmy Ellison
William Ellyard
Nannette de Gaspé
James Graham-Stewart
Paola Gratsos
Iva Gueorguieva
Sarah Hendler
Patrick Hughes
Zoe Jordan
Minnie Kemp
Karina Kochejeva
Vanessa Konig
Lily Lewis
Clemmie Myers
Nicole Myers
Lisa Penny
Clio Peppiatt
John-Paul Pietrus
Phoebe Rolls
Nathalie Seiller Dejean
Birgit Tabbarah
Barbara Campbell Thomas
Brad Thomas
Natalie Tredgett
Ian Vail
Frederike Von Cranach
Ottoline de Vries
Alice Walton
Margit Wittig

 

Baroque opulence at the London Design Shows

Every September, by force of habit, I find myself searching for that key trend in the new collections in the London design shows. This year it almost pounced up and bit me – Chiaroscuro is the order of the season. Be it in the stunning grouping of dark green foliage tones, as in the Forest design from Cole & Son wallpaper on display at Focus in Chelsea Harbour or the strong contrasts of colour in the beautiful Wildwood collection by Parker & Jules, showing at Decorex this year for the first time. The contrast of light and shade dominates across both the  home furnishing and fashion collections this season.

Cole & Son wallpaper

Cole & Son Wallpaper

Parker & Jules.

Parker & Jules

The continuing trend for dark wall tones, from petrol blues through to rich jade greens makes perfect backdrops for dramatic lighting as seen in the moody stand by Ochre at Design Junction and at Vaughn’s stunning Decorex display. Farrow and Ball have released new colours including Paean black , a red-toned black and De Nimes, a deep washed denim colour, both of which give a rich backdrop to their warmer colours in the new palette. Little Greene, also have deep forest colours in their new ‘Green’  range which showcased at Decorex, with a display of rich foliage and their new wallpaper collection based on historical designs.

Ochre lighting

Ochre Lighting

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Vaughn

Little Greene Paints

Little Greene paint colours

Rembrandt and Caravaggio would have been delighted to witness their influence in the interior design industry with deep shades contrasted with flashes of bright colour highlighting the drama that colour can create in a room. The House of Hackney exemplified this in their Pop-up in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre for Focus 2018. A baroque display of their papers and textiles gave a much needed touch of drama to the show. The stunning display of passementerie from Watts of Westminster was a show stopper at Decorex, as well as Focus, the sumptuous hand crafted braids and tassels carry their rich colours with the elegance and confidence of an experienced courtier .

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House of Hackney

 

Watts of Westminster

Watts of Westminster

With the focus on rich greens, of course the jungle plays it’s part and several design companies featured exotic foliage and fauna. Charlotte Jade presented textiles and wallpaper drawing upon the influences of the tropics and echoed the foliage trend seen at many companies.

Charlotte Jade

Charlotte Jade

 

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House of Hackney

Immersed  in all the deep, rich foliage I couldn’t help wondering what will come next? It struck me that to every action there will be a reaction, and that the hot colours which are currently only seen as highlights in these deep colour schemes must soon come to the fore, and then I visited the London Design Festival at the Truman Brewery, a very different tropical animal indeed. Those hot pinks and golden yellows that were just peeking through the darker forests in West London came out with a burst of joy and here we go – what comes next might well be a tropical paradise, of a very different sort.

 

 

Heritage Crafts – an inspired future

The annual conference of the Heritage Crafts Association was held in London this week and I was one of the privileged guests for a day of fascinating insights into the world of heritage crafts and their future.

Coming from a family driven by artisanal making, I have long been interested in the future of traditional crafts and the risk of their disappearance. The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) is the leading light in the battle for protecting, promoting and expanding knowledge of traditional craft skills in the UK. The HCA/Radcliffe “Red List” of Endangered Crafts was published in 2017 highlighting the need for safeguarding crafts such as bell founding and clock making in the UK. We have already lost the craft of Gold Beating and cricket ball making. Other crafts such as clay pipe making, parchment and Vellum making, fan making and metal thread making are listed as “critically Endangered”, meaning that there may only be one remaining practitioner or that there is no mechanism for these skills to be passed on to new generations of makers.

parchment-300x300

The painstaking process of scraping a skin to make Vellum.

The HCA was instrumental in the House of Commons unanimous vote to retain the use of Vellum for the recording of Acts of Parliament. Devastatingly for the craft, three votes in the House of Lords (bastion of ancient traditions!) overturned the decision in the mistaken belief that archival paper would do the job equally well and more cost effectively. Ironically Wim Visscher, one of the last descendants of the only Vellum and Parchment making company in the UK, William Cowley, was awarded an MBE in the New Years Honours List this year in recognition of his commitment to the ancient craft. Wim has valiantly carried on his family business, founded in 1870 by his great-great grandfather. The business has six staff, all specialists in their field and invaluable to the craft’s continuation. Wim explained that despite recent dips in business they would continue to employ these craftspeople as to do otherwise would lead to the death of the craft. 75% of the skins offered at market are rejected for parchment and vellum making. Every tiny blemish will show in a finished piece of vellum and the lengthy process of liming, hair removal, tensioning, scraping, cleaning and drying leaves no room for imperfections in a highly valuable end product destined to last for over a thousand years!

“Crafts for the future” was the theme for invited speakers. Emma Bridgewater, gave a fascinating insight into the development and production process of her ceramics.

 

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Emma Bridgewater – “The future is better if we are reconciled to our past”

 

She was very clear that she does not regard herself as a craftsperson, but more a facilitator with an immense appreciation of the traditional skills of The Potteries and Stoke on Trent’s indigenous skilled workforce. Her initial concept of re-creating the lost craft of spongeware decoration inspired by collected shards of pottery, led Emma on a journey of discovery and experimentation.

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sponge decoration on Emma Bridgewater ceramics.

Although she has based her successful business in the heartland of traditional ceramics production, Emma found it difficult to engage local young people to take on apprenticeships. She says that there is still a sense of bitterness in families that were affected by the decline of the industry and production being transferred overseas. The success of the Emma Bridgewater brand is largely due to the intrinsic traditional craft of her products. She says “it is the ‘craftness’ and the ‘hand-madeness’ that people want to buy” and left us with her opinion that “being analogue in a digital world is tremendously appealing”.

 

One of the critically endangered crafts on the “Red List” is fan making. Jacob Moss curator at The fan Museum in Greenwich explained a little about the heritage and craft of fan making which dates back to the 16th century. The wardrobe inventory of Queen Elizabeth I at one point listed no fewer than 27 fans. Intricately decorated and carved sticks combined with painted or textile fan materials became an art form in the 17th and 18th centuries, but again production moved overseas and the artisan fan makers have gradually died out. In an effort to re-vitalise the craft, the Fan museum staged the Street fans extravaganza in 2017, working with street artists and renowned fan makers to create a series of artists fans.

Fan Museum Greenwich

Pull of gravity  Fan by  Philippe Herard/ Sylvain Le Guen. from the Street Fans project

Workshops were held in Greenwich market for the public to try  their hand at creating their own fans. The museum used crowd funding to finance the project as an important educational outreach to highlight this very nearly lost craft. One of the few exponents of the craft is based in France, Sylvain le Guen creates incredible structures and worked closely with the fan museum on the Street Fan project to help the artists create their fans. Unfortunately my online search for a fan maker in the UK only came up with one site, that of John and Pippa Brooker , who have now retired, but thanks to a search on the HCA site I discovered that Caroline Allington at the Fan Museum, is teaching Victoria Adjoku the craft after she joined the museum especially to learn fan making.

The little known, Red-listed craft of Fore-Edge painting was explained by the UK’s only remaining artist in the field. The gasps of admiration and surprise in the auditorium were audible as many of us suddenly understood what Fore-Edge painting actually is. Martin Frost showed images of his work and explained how he paints along the finest edges of book pages in a manner that the image only becomes visible when the pages are carefully fanned open.

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Fore-edge painting by Martin Frost.

The outer edges of the pages are gilded so that when the book is closed the picture is invisible. It is like something out of a Dan Green novel; antique Bibles and historic books with hidden works of art only visible to those in the know. But it is not only antique books that are being treated to this art form. Collectors of limited edition books commission paintings to be added to their prized books, sometimes the images are related to the books contents, more often a stunning watercolour landscape, and occasionally a little titillating piece of erotica! Martin spoke eloquently about his art and is teaching the craft in an attempt to avoid it’s demise. and was awarded the HCA Maker of the Year Award.

 

One of the most ardent topics of conversation during the day was the concern about the lack of hands-on craft teaching in today’s education system. People explained that they have encountered sixteen year olds that want to take up an apprenticeship in a craft based industry, they have never before had the opportunity to use hand tools, or physically make things at school. This is putting the UK at a disadvantage in terms of innovation in craft and other areas. For example, the Royal College of Surgeons has expressed concern that because students do not have the opportunity to learn traditional craft techniques or how to handle tools, the manual dexterity of aspiring surgeons is of a much lower level than in the past and dedicated courses are needed in how to physically manipulate needles, thread and scalpels. The focus on academia and STEM subjects has, in the opinion of many craftspeople, caused potentially successful makers to be discouraged in the education system and therefore not been inspired to follow an artisanal career. Emma Bridgewater suggested that the link from art schools to industry should be supported by business mentorship, putting craftspeople in touch with schools and art colleges to explain how to effectively create a viable business. Paul Martin of BBC TV’s “Flog it!” also pointed out that although all too often the BBC programmes that he works with would like to involve children in hands-on experiences of crafts, they are unable to do so because of the prohibitive Health and safety restrictions involved. but he says “I do see a renaissance of 10 year olds wanting to have a go”.

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Paul Martin “My job is to get more of you onto TV”

The HCA Chair, calligrapher Patricia Lovett took this opportunity to announce that the organisation has set up a Parliamentary all-party group for Craft which is a fantastic piece of news.

 

I could probably write another six pieces from all the fantastic makers that were featured during the day, from the bespoke artisan saws of Skelton Saws  to the stunning rush weaving of HCA Award winner Felicity Irons of Rushmatters where in addition to creating natural rush products courses are also available to learn these traditional skills.

The Heritage Crafts association is run entirely by volunteers and exemplifies all that is best in the world of Heritage Crafts. Membership gives an on-line newsletter, listing for craftspeople on the Makers Directory and the vital knowledge that you are playing an important part in the protection of Craft Heritage. But for just £20 what more could you ask for!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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