Issue Number: 95
From ceramics to silver, contemporary craft stars in two special shows, writes Emma Crichton-Miller
Edmund de Waal is perhaps the finest British potter of his generation. More importantly, through his pots and writings, he asks us to reassess the place of ceramics in the arts. Far from the humble, anonymous vessel that was the ideal of the modernist potter Bernard Leach and his followers, de Waal’s recognisable pots reach for the artistic high ground. Elegant, in their dove grey, celadon glazes, these pots are often composed in groups or even entire installations, creating meanings as a whole that exceed the individual parts.
Sidsel Dorph-Jensen, fingerbowl in Brittania silver with gilded interior, 2006 Photo Andra Nelki
This summer, Kettle’s Yard, in Cambridge, celebrates its half centenary by inviting de Waal to create an installation throughout the building. As a student at Trinity Hall, de Waal was a frequent visitor to Kettle’s Yard, his own sensibility in tune with the modernist aesthetic of its founder, Jim Ede. Since then, de Waal has transformed his work from pots designed for the home to pots displayed in art galleries.
However, he has remained true to the intimacy of ceramic vessels and their affinity with domestic spaces. Following his installations for the Blackwell Arts and Crafts House and the Ede-inspired Artist’s House at Roche Court, his current installation at Kettle’s Yard unites the house and the gallery, blurring distinctions.
Another champion of craft, Janice Blackburn, is curating a special show, ‘Rising Stars’, for The Goldsmiths’ Company, one of the rare medieval guilds in the City with a strong attachment to the skilled craftspeople who give it its name. Blackburn, whose pioneering applied arts’ shows at Sotheby’s have been crucial in transforming attitudes to craft, has a keen eye for the marriage of traditional skill with flair and imagination.
For this show, she has selected the work of nineteen up-and-coming jewellers and silversmiths, from the geometric jewellery of David Goodwin to Sidsel Dorph-Jensen’s sinuous silver bowl (pictured). These pieces are to be displayed like celestial stars, against a black backdrop inside Goldsmiths’ Hall, transforming this august and historic City institution into a glamorous, contemporary exhibition space.
Edmund de Waal, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (01223 352124), 26 May–22 July;
Rising Stars: A blazing trail of new talent, The Goldsmiths’ Company, London (020 7606 7010), 1 June–14 July
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