Present and Collect

I was up in London last week and went to the Saatchi gallery to see one of the highlights in the contemporary craft calendar: Collect, the Crafts Council presented international art fair of ‘contemporary objects.’  The show took a break last year so I was more excited than usual to see what had changed and the new galleries that were taking part.  A few key UK galleries were missing, notably Adrian Sassoon, but it was great to see Petronilla Silver (petronillasilver.co.uk) up from very west Cornwall, with some ver beautiful work, (gorgeous Nicola Tassie ceramics) and I enjoyed French gallery Maison Parisienne who were making their Collect debut.

I love seeing work presented by overseas galleries – especially when there is really stylish or inventive curation – but on this occasion it was the Brits that I was most impressed by.

I loved the elegant flow of the curation by the (very apt!) Flow Gallery, www.flowgallery.co.uk, from Notting Hill in London.

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Flow Gallery, London

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Flow gallery, London including ceramics by Akiko Hirai

And at Sarah Myerscough, (www.sarahmyerscough.com) I loved the contrast of the colourful wool and wood ‘Jib Series’ stools by Peter Marigold against the black wall featuring Joseph Walsh’s Enignum shelf; gorgeous.

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Sarah Myerscough gallery, London

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Sarah Myerscough gallery

One of the most arresting pieces in any of the galleries, was this stunning Cabinet of Curiosities by Steffen Dam, shown by Joanna Bird Contemporary Collections.  This blown glass spectacle gives the impression of ‘specimens’ seemingly floating in glass jars and is quite breathtaking.

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Cabinet of Curiosities, 2017 by Steffen Dam

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Cabinet of Curiosities, 2017 by Steffen Dam

Undoubtedly one of my favourite parts was Collect Open which is a space for designer makers rather than galleries and which features, as the catalogue describes, ‘more daring and conceptual pieces’ of craft.  I like to think it’s also the area of the event where you can see work which crosses the boundaries between craft and design; and where makers have the space to indulge in creativity.

I’ve always admired Tanya Gomez’s (tgceramics.co.uk) vibrantly coloured ceramic vessels but I thought the impact she created with a painterly background took her perfectly positioned pieces to a new level; fantastic.

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Tanya Gomez, ceramic vessels, part of Collect Open

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Tanya Gomez, ceramic vessels, part of Collect Open

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Tanya Gomez, ceramic vessels, part of Collect Open

I think you get a much better understanding of a piece if you can talk to the maker about his or her inspiration for the work and get a sense of how they achieved their techniques.  Without the eloquent explanation of Curved Twist by one of it’s creators, Fay McCaul, I may have passed it by without proper examination which would have been such a shame.

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Fay McCaul, with Curved Twist, her collaborative work with Kia Utzon-Frank

Textile designer Fay McCaul (faymccaul.com) got together with product designer, goldsmith and fellow RCA graduate Kia Utzon-Frank to create this highly innovative piece. The colour changing slats are hand knitted by Fay using her unique knitting technique and work with Kia’s modular KUFtwist screen system – created from recycled yogurt pots – to create a screen that can be opened in parts to allow light through.  The result blends art installation with functionality – it could be used for partitions or window coverings – to great effect.

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Fay McCaul, with Curved Twist, her collaborative work with Kia Utzon-Frank

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Curved Twist by Fay McCaul and Kia Utzon-Frank

Having just spoken to textile designer, Fay McCaul I thought I was heading across the gallery space to look at another textile piece.  From even a slight distance Julie Massie’s Oval Edges (juliemassie.co.uk) looks like a series of delicate fabric hangings created by small overlapping pieces of silk, but get up close and the silk is revealed to be porcelain!

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Oval Edges, by Julie Massie

Julie’s inspiration for her work came from the fragile edges of waves breaking onto the coastline near her home in Bournemouth. The changing colours of the waves throughout the year are reflected in her choice of glazes, the overall effect beautifully suggesting the rise and fall of the sea as it meets the shore, and the rough edges of the ceramics capture the erosion to the landscape caused by the sea.  A really inspiring piece.

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Oval Edges by Julie Massie

With Ceramic Art London only two months away I’m very much looking forward to seeing what other innovations in ceramics the year may have in store. But before that, The Byre’s spring exhibition opens on 1st April (www.thebyregallery.co.uk) with some fantastic ceramics from Ali Tomlin, Lucy Burley, Remon Jephcott and Jill Holland – together with work in wood, textiles and jewellery; until 4th June.  More on that soon!