What does craft mean to me?
The dialogue about what is craft, what is art and what is design, resurfaces every few years.
BY JO leGLEUD
I studied design and all its permutations and focused on Fashion Embroidery and it was, in some ways, the best two years of my life, the freedom to explore without title or unachievable deadline.
Being open to whatever material or manipulation I wanted to experiment with. I worked for many years as an embroiderer in the fashion industry. I loved the variety of skills I learned and used during this time, hand tailoring, hand beading, manipulating fabric to form the body. I did my time, can call myself a craftsperson and enjoy my role interacting with my counterparts in many different fields.
As such, the question of what is ‘craft’ isn’t new to me. I have always felt a strong sense of injustice when the work of crafts people is denigrated when compared with the work of ‘artists’ and ‘designers.’ More recently the craft coming to the fore is elevated beyond the dusty village hall projects to a loftier realm, aligning and associating itself with fine art and high design. What is has emerged and been realised is that creativity is a common language that unites, and craft plays a huge part of that dialogue. and importantly, clients are now open to the concept, due in part to initiatives such as the Loewe prize.
British glass and ceramic artist, Chris Day, creates highly personal works in glass and mixed media and his intention is to discuss and investigate the treatment of black people in Britain & the USA, with much of his research focussing on the history of the slave trade in the Eighteenth Century and the events leading to up & during the Civil Rights Movement.
British Tapestry artist, Chrissie Freeth creates large scale works which take months to weave. She uses hand-dyed wool and a palette heavily influenced by the muted colours of the Yorkshire landscape. Her work is narrative, bold, unfussy and studded with personal symbolism. It is inspired by academic research of pre-Renaissance tapestries but reimagined for contemporary relevance.
Cotton warp, hand-dyed woollen weft
2.22m x 1.76m
Joyfully, the craft scene is appreciated now by younger creative individuals. Younger people want to be personally involved with things, and we cannot underestimate that.
What is craft? Some would say it is an evocative word, however, somehow a single, concise, all-purpose definition of “craft” eludes me however what I do know is craft is a celebration of amazingly creative and inspirational people who are not confined to a particular material or technique, and it is a world in which I feel very privileged to be a part.
“Craft is the art of making things with your hands... It’s ability to be truly accessible marks its value and importance as objects and as a celebration of design, making and realisation”
As Daniella Wells, a dear friend and craft expert described “Craft is about traditions and culture and it continues to plays an integral role in our lives today. It’s ability to be truly accessible marks its value and importance as objects and as a celebration of design, making and realisation. We all have the potential to be craftspeople, given the term embraces different techniques and materials.” It is this democratic nature of craft that also excites me and I feel needs to be celebrated.
Following my visit to Shell Grotto in Margate, Antoine Vignault at OAK, and I began discussing Folk Art. The value and beauty is in the time and ingeniousness to compensate for often the lack of precious materials available to the makers; a respect for nature, the celebration of form and imbuing this with function. Pieces have an intrinsic value which is not governed by market prices and the concept to completion is led by the faith of the artist.
Ultimately, craft is about human warmth in an increasing mechanical world.
This list is by no means exhaustive, however it offers a start for places to view and learn about crafts from established to emerging and new makers:
The Michelangelo foundation founded by Franco Cologni in 1995, is doing a sterling job organising Homo Faber, an exhibition of craftmanship which runs concurrently with the Biennale circuit in Venice.
The Crafts Council - Founded in 1972 The Craft Councill is the UK’s national charity to keep craft artists and the community connected, inspired, and thriving. They have an annual fair, The Collect Art Fair which is the leading international fair for contemporary craft and design focusing on contemporary art and design made in the last five years by living artists at Somerset House.
The New Craftsmen curates, commissions and sells unique contemporary objects that are rooted in craftsmanship. Spanning furniture, lighting, textiles, gifts, ceramics and decorative accessories. The collection is made by a network of over 100 makers across the British Isles. They collaborate with their makers to refine and redefine the value of craft.
Artefact - the contemporary craft fair at Chelsea Design Harbour brings the joy of the handmade to an audience of designers, architects, collectors and enthusiasts, illustrating the increasing importance of craft to the interior design industry. They have an accompanying programme of specialist talks and demonstrations to bring contemporary craft to life.
London Craft Week
Celebrating outstanding British and international creativity, London Craft Week brings together over 250 established and emerging makers, designers, brands and galleries from around the world.
– londoncraftweek.com #thefutureofcraft
Garde in LA was conceived and founded in 2012 by Scotti Sitz, and partner John Davidson.
A desire to introduce unique and talented artists and designers from around the world helped evolve GARDE from gifts to exquisite furnishings by known and emerging designers.
St Vincents in Antwerp curates a careful edit of furniture, art and design from niche and established creatives, designers, artists and artisans.
Eye of the Collector
Founded by Nazy Vassegh, Eye of the Collector is a relatively new platform comprising of a boutique London art fair, an accompanying online/social platform and a network of collectors spanning the globe. Juxtaposing contemporary and modern with ancient and traditional to create new dialogues, works are showcased as if in a collector's home encouraging new creative dialogues. A spirit of discovery and rediscovery really lay at the fair's heart.
Rossana Orlandi opened an art and design gallery in 2002 and it remains today a veritable mecca for Design.
Nilufar Gallery in Milan was founded by Nina Yashar and is a contemporary showroom & exhibit space for designer & vintage furniture, lighting & home decor.
Founded by Nathalie Assi SEEDS is an experimental design gallery based in Kensington, London. The space is used for exhibitions, special projects and a design shop. SEEDS is all about seasonality; moving between art and design with no clear distinction. Since its opening in 2016, it has become a conduit for promoting cross-disciplinary conversations and showcasing how traditional techniques can be revived in a contemporary manner. Represented artists and designers embody their vision of bridging matter, people and space in an open way.
PAD Paris and London – an annual fair which I never miss. Founded in 1998 it brings together international galleries of historical, modern and contemporary decorative arts and design.
Loewe Foundation founded in 1988 to promote creativity and educational programmes. Jonathan Anderson joined as creative director in 2013, and the ‘Loewe Foundation Craft Prize’ began in 2016. This has helped carry the appreciation of craft to a new audience.