I had a lovely time at Collect again this year. Held at the Saatchi Gallery, and organised by the Crafts Council, it calls itself ‘The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects’. 40 galleries from 4 continents display the latest work by their ‘makers’. I really like this fair as there are all sorts of works, ranging from beautiful yet simple ceramics to entirely bizarre metalwork, handmade by contemporary makers.
High end craft is quite a thing at the moment, we seem to be hankering after unique (often unattainably expensive) handmade works, in a rejection of the mass produced and machine-made, often cheaper stuff.
There is also a very blurry line between what is ‘craft’ and what is ‘art’. Some people define it by the materials used – textiles, ceramics and glass, versus pencil and paint; or the use of the object – craft often has a more practical use, art is to be displayed and admired. Possibly it is the way a maker or artist has learnt their skill, or maybe it is merely their intention when making a work, art is usually obliged to express something, craft is free of this prerequisite.
But perhaps the rise of craft to a higher level – no longer is the skilled craftsman just replicating the templates of the designer, the craftsman is now also the designer – means that there does not need to be a distinction.
Craft or art, or both, I very much like the objects on display at Collect. This year I went straight upstairs to see the exhibits in Collect Open, ‘exploratory and risk’ taking work by both established and emerging designers, chosen this year by Jay Osgerby, and was delighted with what I found.
I will admit I was on a bit of a ceramics hunt, I have such a love for handmade ceramics, and this year I flitted through the rooms at a quicker pace, recognising some favourites from last year (ceramics by Valeria Nascimento and Domitilla Biondi‘s bas-reliefs carved into paper).
However my absolute favourite display was Jilly Edwards’ hand-woven tapestry. In a array of beautiful colours, she had chosen to display it on a plinth rather than the wall, to allow the viewer to engage with and explore the work further. Perhaps it was partly meeting Jilly that made this work even more special, but it really was captivating, I had to come back upstairs a second time to see it again.
Below I are my 5 top works by British makers at Collect, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
It was so lovely to meet Jilly, and speak with her about her work. The way she weaves the different colours to create a painterly effect is absolutely amazing, and I love the arrangement of this work, with bright reds and yellows placed next to creamy whites and strong blacks. She draws and paints her designs first, and then hand-weaves them. She also keeps every thread she uses, with the off-cuts being turned into incredibly satisfying small scale square tapestries. I loved this piece so much, the detail and the colour combinations, and it made me think about weaving in a completely new light.
Amy Douglas’ works are super fun. She produces and re-configures 19th Century Staffordshire ceramics under the name ‘The Art of Salmagundi’. Salmagundi is an old French and middle English word relating to a ‘hodgepodge’ of things – a mixture or variety of ingredients. Each of the Staffordshire figures she works with has a unique break or loss in the body, and Amy restores them with a twist, often using old folk tales and modern mythologies as inspiration. I love this work, and I love it’s Title possibly even more.
I love the beautiful colours of this book cover. In Henry Holland’s original drawings for the ‘Hunting of the Snark’, the ocean chart used by the ‘sailors’ was famously blank. Inspired by this, Sue Doggett has represented each of these 10 ‘sailors’ by a directionless compass. The book is leather bound, using a three part construction. Natural goatskin has been dyed and painted with acrylic, and the boards and spine have been machine embroidered. The paper doublures are hand-painted, and the end-papers are both painted and machine embroidered.
This tea set by Lucy Rie is part of the ‘Masters of British Studio Pottery’ display – co-created with the Fitzwilliam Museum – the aim of which is to recognise and celebrate the rise of collectable modern and contemporary ceramics. I absolutely love Lucie Rie’s work, she was primarily concerned with producing practical and functional wares, and her works feature ‘s’graffito’ – inlaid lines – and thick textures applied with a course brush, coating very delicate pieces. This tea set is wonderful with it’s washed finish in a white glaze and l love the curved shape to each piece and darker coloured edges. So beautiful!
I love this so much, a stack of incredibly real looking sweet treats made from earthenware and porcelain – the detail is amazing. Anna Barlow combines different materials and techniques to create ‘visual edibility’ – capturing the way certain foods melt and ooze – with high-fired porcelain for the wafers and ice cream cones; and opaque earthenware glaze for dripping ice cream.