Issue Number: 93
Arts and crafts
Emma Crichton-Miller on craft beyond function
Arts And Crafts Floris Chair, 1967, by Gunter Beltzig at FORM. Floris Chair, 1967, by Gunter Beltzig at FORM.Next February sees the opening of the fourth Collect at the V&A, Europe’s only art fair dedicated to contemporary applied and decorative arts. One of Collect’s major successes has been in bolstering the confidence of the crafts in Britain. Consequently, many leading makers now aim for the high ground – asserting the fine art aspirations of their work and, leaving behind the constraints of function, exploring their chosen material’s potential for self-expression.
Besides the 41 galleries exhibiting at Collect, special shows of glass (‘Four Decades of Glass: Graduates from The Royal College of Art’, selected by glass expert Dan Klein in association with Adrian Sassoon) and tapestries (‘Scottish Tapestry in the 21st Century’, presented by The Scottish Gallery and Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh) demonstrate the creative vigour of traditional craft techniques for both artistic and functional purposes.
Art galleries and museums are also looking at craft with fresh eyes. This year, Tate St Ives is giving a full retrospective to modernist potter Janet Leach, wife of the potter Bernard Leach. Meanwhile potter Edmund de Waal and sculptor Cecile Johnson Soliz are showing work made of clay in a group exhibition, ‘Still Life’, at the New Art Centre Sculpture Park & Gallery, Salisbury.
The Adrian Sassoon gallery, which specialises in decorative art,
is mounting a solo show, ‘Dreams in Glass’, of Rachel Woodman’s blown glass at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, before taking a selection of gallery artists in all media to the London Art Fair. At Barrett Marsden Gallery, a show of Emma Woffenden’s powerful glass pieces is followed by a display of gallery artists (including Gordon Baldwin, Alison Britton, Richard Slee and Martin Smith), exploring the expressive potential of glass and clay.
As a counterweight, however, the Crafts Council’s touring shows, ‘Table Manners: Contemporary International Ceramics’ and
‘Well Fashioned: Eco Style in the UK’, remind us of craft’s origins in meeting our daily needs for food and clothing. At Flow Gallery, Jerwood prize winner Simone ten Hompel curates ‘The Everyday’. Here, the finest contemporary craft thrives on the tension between use and beauty.
- Collect V&A, London (8–12 Feb; Elegant Variation: The Architecture of H. T. Cadbury-Brown RA
- Tate St Ives ‘Janet Leach’, Cornwall (until 21 Jan; 01736 796226)
- New Art Centre Sculpture Park & Gallery ‘Still Life’, Salisbury
(until 4 Feb; 01980 862244)
- Adrian Sassoon ‘Dreams in Glass’, Victoria Art Gallery, Bath (until 1 April; 01225 477233)
- London Art Fair (17–21 Jan; 0870 129 5031; Click here to buy tickets for this exhibition
- Barrett Marsden Gallery Emma Woffenden, London (until 6 Jan; 020 7336 6396)
- Craft Council ‘Table Manners: Contemporary International Ceramics’, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales (until 27 Jan;
Elegant Variation: The Architecture of H. T. Cadbury-Brown RA
- ‘Well Fashioned: Eco Style in the UK’, City Museum, Portsmouth (until 7 Jan; Elegant Variation: The Architecture of H. T. Cadbury-Brown RA
- Bilston Craft Centre, Wolverhampton (20 Jan–3 March; 01902 552507)
Flow Gallery ‘The Everyday’, London (until 13 Jan; 020 7243 0782)
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