Skip to content

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.

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!

Written in glass

Over the past few years I have been gently growing my collection of traditional West African Yoruba glass beads. (There seems to be a theme for repetition and multiples growing through my posts, and I offer no apologies; this is what catches my interest at the moment!)

 

The Yoruba tribal land crosses the straight, ruled-line national boundaries that were imposed on Africa’s tribal regions, and spreads across Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Benin. Coral beads are well known as a traditional Nigerian decoration and sometime currency, used for trading, dowries, chieftancy ceremonies etc. The Glass beads that I have been given come from a more recent, early 20th century evolution, in the craft of fused-glass bead making.

green:orange beads

The technique originated with the use of ground up glass bottles, which were then formed into beads by filling clay molds with the finely ground glass that is built up in layers known as the “vertical-mold dry powder glass technique”. This could be seen as a version of ‘sand painting’ when different colours of glass are used. The hole through the bead traditionally comes from the use of a cassava leaf stem, which burns away during the firing to leave the threading hole. Nowadays, the hole is often made by piercing the still hot and pliable glass with a metal tool. My bead collection is mostly made up from what are known as “Mue ne Angma” or “Writing Beads”, conventional powder glass beads made from finely ground glass, with glass slurry decorations that are being “written” on and fused in a second firing.

red:white beads

 

It is becoming increasingly rare to find these lovely handmade beads in the markets of Southern Nigeria, and they are fiercely protected by the stallholders.bead shop 4.jpg

As always, I am full of admiration for the craftspeople who continue these traditions, the ‘writing’ on these beads is brilliantly naïve and fine, and obviously comes from hours of painstaking work. The colours are limited by the available glass, and in the past, fragments of imported Venetian beads and coloured glass were ground to make the slurry decoration. Traditionally, yellow was the most common glass colour, with black and blue occurring very rarely. I am sure that with the proliferation of modern glass across the African continent colours are more varied now, but still there is a dominance of the earthy yellows, greens and browns picked out with vibrant colour highlights; truly a delight to my eye.

I love the idea that although each bead is an individual, each group of strung beads follow the same pattern.

Hidden Treasures

As you wander through the glass galleries of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum it’s easy to be dazzled by the shelves of finely wrought goblets and wine glasses, so many of which I long to have in my meagre collection of antique wine glasses. But, take a moment to pull open the draws of the unprepossessing cabinets and you will find, as I did, a little haven of hidden treasure. No cataloguing, no labels, no dates; thundreds of tiny fragments of glass seem to be there purely for our visual delight. Astounding feats of minute craftsmanship have been captured and presented to those who take the time to look (and you really do have to get down on your knees for some of them). Most of these pieces of sixteenth to eighteenth century glass measure less than a couple of centimetres in size. Some are tiny fragments of millefiore, creating delicate stippled patterns, others beautiful sections of ancient vessels or intricate gold leafed patterns.

It is the sheer infinitesimal detail in these shards that fascinate me, and I wonder what incredibly steady 16th century hands could have created these treasures?

%d bloggers like this: