Highlights from the Crafts Council's annual show of the very best contemporary makers
The Crafts Council’s Collect fair put modern design and craft in the spotlight in a new venue for 2020, London’s Somerset House. With the case now well and truly made for craft’s recognition as both a desirable commodity and a dynamic creative force, all that remained was to enjoy the international offering of talent presented by more than 40 galleries – a quarter of them showing for the first time. These collections were supplemented by the Craft Open initiative, which is open to individuals rather than those represented by galleries; and an opulent VIP room by interior designer Rachel Chudley and Cox London.
A new addition to the SEEDS stable, ceramicist Onka Allmayer-Beck makes wonky ceramics in bright colours. “The started out as centrepieces – for flowers, fruit or candles – but they have become little creatures on their own,” she says. There’s definitely something animal-like or anthropomorphic about her works, which nonetheless have retained a germ of their practical purpose, just presented in a more idiosyncratic way; they look particularly good when grouped together, stalking their way across a table, as they did at Collect.
Israeli designer Tal Batit was exhibiting in Collect Open, the section of the show dedicated to non gallery-affiliated artists. His Ethnic: Synthetic series is a reinterpretation of a classic carpet pattern, rendered in slip-cast sections of multi-coloured ceramics instead of looped threads. Here as in his wider work, Batit plays around with the imagery of traditional decorative arts to come up with something new, with playful colour a recurring motif.
Derek Wilson’s geometric porcelain pieces looked captivatingly simple and sculptural in the raking light penetrating Somerset House’s Georgian windows. The Belfast-based ceramicist describes himself as “a 21st-century hybridisation of studio potter and conceptual artist,” with work that demonstrates a compelling restraint. Flow Gallery showed his abstract wall sculptures alongside objects from his Constructed Vessels series.
With a dazzling surface of stripes, checks and pixellated grids, Manuel Coltri’s Hacker vases breathe new life into the use of semi-precious stone. Shown by Mint gallery, the vases are made from Carrara marble, rainbow onyx, basalt and green onyx – all repurposed from production waste. Manuel Coltri is a natural stone company based in Verona; it worked with Milan’s DWA Design Studio on the project, seeking to find a meaningful and artistic use for the offcuts.
Asian craft was well represented at Collect, especially from South Korea: Gallery SP, Gallery Sklo and Lloyd Choi Gallery were all first-timers at the show. Gallery LVS has a more established footing here, and was one of the first galleries to represent Korean contemporary craft artists. Among others it showed Jeongwon Lee’s cast porcelain vessesls, which feature geometric shapes protruding from their trunks, as if trying to escape.
Portland-based glass maker Bullseye Projects showed just how versatile its medium is, including a collaboration with wood-carver Zeinab Harding, who carved a piece inspired by the the swags of fruit and flowers on a marble fireplace within the gallery’s exhibition space at Somerset House, which was then cast in glass. British glassmaker Joshua Kerley showed his textural lidded jars (pictured), made from pâte de verre and foaming cast glass; unexpected colour contrasts between pale grey, peach and lavender, and punchier shades of teal and sulphur yellow, add to their appeal.
Winner of the Collect Open Award 2020, Margo Selby’s large woven triptych, Vexillum, is immersive in its scale, with op-art-inspired graphic lines that appear to advance and recede. The work was entirely hand-threaded and made in sections, as dictated by the dimensions of the loom: the central panel uses 27,000 strands of thread, and its two square side panels 18,000 strands each.
Rachel Chudley / Cox London
Collect’s VIP Room was designed by interior designer Rachel Chudley in collaboration with Cox London, with the latter’s furniture and lighting, specially created for the show, forming the backbone of Chudley’s design. The room was dominated by a large scale Magnolia chandelier made from forged iron and moulded jute, with ladder-like structures leading the eye to its summit, giving it a surreal, fairytale-like quality. Seating such as the Dada sofa was similarly organic in its shape, covered in lamb’s fleece but with some of the traditionally hidden elements of upholstery – a beech frame, covered in jute – peeking out. Chudley also pulled in her pick of objects represented by galleries at the show, including smoke-fired ceramics by Mella Shaw (represented by Craft Scotland) and David Huycke’s silver New Moon wall panel (from Galerie Marzee).