COLLECT makers are experimental and clever folk, often fluidly traversing craft, design and fine art practices.
The Crafts Council Collect is one of my favourite shows, a special moment to stare in wonder at some of the finest contemporary craft works and hear voices and stories of new makers. This year Collect presented 400 artists, over 4O galleries and Collect Open 12 artists and collectives. Quite a show. It’s also about renewal as pieces have to have been made in the last five years.
In its new home at Somerset House, ceramics ruled and I missed the textiles of former years. But if you began your journey in the VIP lounge then visceral and flocculent textures abounded in the new body of work by Cox London. The Dada sofa was inspired by deconstructing traditional upholstery to expose raw materials: jute, beech, webbing and wool. And what wool. Sofas and chairs topped with the most tactile soft curly lamb’s fleece. It is wild. These handmade pieces an organic and free form, breaking the handsome symmetry and classical lines of Somerset House.
Above, off centre and suspended by three rig-like branches is the Magnolia chandelier. This monumental forged Iron chandelier is a profusion of tree foliage and is illuminated with grand scale moulded cotton Magnolia blooms.
Christopher and Nicola Cox invited interior design Rachel Chudley to curate the space. Visiting Cox London’s bronze foundry, Rachel was fascinated by the relationship between the manual process of making and the exhibition of the finished object.
‘When thinking about how to explore this duality in the Collect setting, I looked into the history of Somerset House, with its many reincarnations and maritime past. The result is a room of rough and smooth textures, sculptural pieces created specially by Cox London and pulled together with a deep bespoke colour by Donald Kaufman. Some of these new designs feel like rare heirlooms, some full of foundry character, while others threaten to buck you off!’ Rachel Chudley
Dada sofa and chairs with Magnolia Chandelier, Cox London
It was the first major outing of Studio Pottery London (SPL) into a wider arena - a significant international fair of craft and design. Studio’s Pottery Director Lucy Attwood and Artistic Director Gregory Tingay said it was something of a coup to be accepted by the Crafts Council to be a part of COLLECT. Gregory was aware that he was having to be the primary face for this fair, with the work of Michel Francois as secondary, with the addition of Jason Wason.
Studio Pottery London at COLLECT
Since visiting SPL and meeting Michel I have desired a Moonjar. What a word and what a round and gentle shape. Round like the moon and a jar loved by many for the comforting nature of its curves.
The Moonjars of Gregory and Michel are linked by a common form and philosophy broadly rooted in a shared link to the legacy of Bernard Leach, that pillar of 20th Century studio pottery revival.
Lucy says that ‘Michel’s three large moonjars with their generous proportions and ravishing simplicity of surface achieved through reduction-fired specific ash glazes with copper-red blush effects raised the bar for moonjars within the overall fair. Both he and Gregory make their moonjars according to the traditional Korean way of joining thrown bowls lip to lip to create the classic moon sphere. - opalescent moonjars with their blushes of pink and lilac.’
Gregory’s moonjar forms coloured in a variety of dark blues, white and brown are strongly individual art pieces, each telling their own story by sgraffito patterning through slip exterior surfaces. For COLLECT he made two new moonjars, one entitled ‘Marginalia’ in free-flowing organic decoration.
Michel Francois Moonjar
Gregory Tingay Moonjars on the left is Matamorphosis
My textile quest was sated by textile artist Margo Selby who was this year's Collect Open award-winner with Vexillum, a grand-scale series of handwoven artworks exploring ideas inherent to weave: mathematical pattern, the binary system and simultaneous contrast of colour.
Margo Selby explains:
‘Vexillum – the Latin word for banner or flag – seemed a fitting name for this project. It presents my art as a sort of abstract heraldry. It explores colour relationships and patterns created by the mathematical and digital systems intrinsic to weaving. The threads which create the piece are concealed or revealed to create visually striking yet harmonious compositions.
Each artwork is a development of weave structures blown up and abstracted. I’m fascinated by the way juxtaposed colours enhance or subdue each other and create secondary hues. It’s an exploration of the way colours mix in the eye when placed next to each other and incorporates mathematical stripe graduations that change and challenge the viewers’ perception of colour across the work.”
Vexillum II framed by Margo Selby
Vexillum, an art-textile installation , by Margo Selby
This new scale of work is well suited to large gallery spaces, inviting a new audience to see Margo Selby’s work that celebrates the crossover of art, craft and design. That is the essence of COLLECT.