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Monday, 22 March 2010

Hanging out with London’s emerging new craft talent

One school night last week I blissed out at ‘Craft London: the exhibition of emerging new talent’ in Clerkenwell. I headed over to the cosy gallery space of Craft Central for wine and chat with some of London’s most talented makers. Having been challenged to rediscover their city and represent this visually, the exhibition was as varied as the capital’s 32 boroughs, and reflective of the city’s incredible cultural diversity.

French-born illustrator Julie Vermeille translated her love of fairytales into 3D characters living in her installation, creating a fantasy world of fabric pigeons, lace clouds and stringy stuffed people based on children’s book Arthur’s Seat. Quirky and cute.

Ruth Babajide celebrated her West African heritage with a range of loud, colourful ceramic storage units, in stark contrast to the delicate and peaceful collection of hand thrown porcelain whispers created by Hannah James (below).

Jessica Light is a woman on a mission to revitalise the dying craft of tassel-making. Jessica was responsible for the ornate embroidery on Buckingham Palace’s balcony hangings, and now works with designers such as Vivienne Westwood to find a new life for a centuries-old skill.

But my favourite of all was the set of magical cobwebs created by Katie Barton. ‘Spun’ from metallic embroidery thread and fixed into jewellery cases, they took two days to install and will be destroyed after the exhibition. Katie, who describes herself as having an obsession with making repulsive things beautiful, said she loved the ethereal nature of piece. I felt simultaneously privileged to have seen these gorgeous creations, and sad to know that they will soon be swished away to nothing, as if they were never there.

We entered into the age-old ‘what is art, what is craft?’ debate, swiftly followed by a lively discussion on the pros and cons of being university trained vs being a self-taught artist.

These are topics I shall return to, as I ponder them often.  What are your thoughts?

The exhibition also featured fabric craft, ceramics and jewellery from Anna Johnson, Laura Felicity, Jo Davies, Ana Meneses, Daniele Geargeoura, Yuki Sasakura Assiter and Alexandra Simpson.


  1. that exhibit looks amazing! such beautiful cobwebs!! and to think they will be destroyed when the exhibit is over...

    yes, the debate is an interesting one, especially for me since i am straddling both worlds! i have some training in fine arts, but never transferred for further training and a degree. Also, i have extensive training in sewing and pattern drafting (for a 2year degree in Fashion Design), which is usually looked at as a 'domestic art'.

    i'm not sure what i think of this debate since i believe it's possible to make a great life in the arts, degree or not...many of the greats were not "professionally trained", after all =-) i look forward to reading more about this debate as i ponder on it...

  2. thank you for sharing all of these fabulous artists. so inspiring. happy to have found your blog and look forward to reading more. best wishes! xoxo, juliette

  3. I can only speak for myself. As much as I wish I could turn back the clock and go to ART school instead of becoming a school teacher, I know that all of my experiences have shaped me and therefore shaped my ART. I don't pay any attention to rules and I know I would have made a TERRIBLE ART student because of that. I think every ARTIST has their own specific path, which is why so many of us have a hard time calling ourselves ARTISTS.

    Thanks Beth. How I wish I could walk the streets of London with you! xo

  4. I adore spider webs. You've given me an idea for and new piece and now I just want to race home from work and get the canvas and paints out.

    I also really love the idea of work that is created and then destroyed. Particularly a spider web, it's so fitting. From a viewers perspective it makes me feel like I have been lucky to have viewed it while it existed.

    I'm interested in the trained artist v self taught discussion as it's something I'm trying to work through for myself at the moment. But I haven't got much to say on it just now. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.


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