Great Northern shhhhh craft
It sticks in my mind that famous moment the Turner prize winner Grayson Perry claimed it
was harder to be accepted by art critics as a “potter” than as a transvestite, that says something about craft! Why is it that there seems to be an insider crowd for the craft scene? At the opening of a new London art gallery you can guarantee a grasp full of models, an odd savvy footballer, a famous daughter-cum-socialite of some description and every journalist worth their salt. Head up north on a crisp autumnal Thursday evening and you’d be hard pushed to get a soap star at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, but you know what? Who gives a shit? Rocking up on Quay street in my tweed jacket and being greeted by a Tom Dixon lighting display (courtesy of sponsor Ferrious) in the windows of Quay House I was wowed at how great the entrance looked and ran inside (ok I ran because I needed a wee, I prefer more subtle and glamorous entrances normally). The Craft fair was mostly on the first floor and as you climbed the stairs you could feel the heat rising, literally as well as metaphorically. There is always a buzz at a craft fair that you get nowhere else, craft is personal and blood sweat and tears are the main ingredients of the most perfectly crafted items so at exhibition times its wind down and show it off.
Sooooo…. HIGHLIGHTS?? well, it has to be said that the standard across the board was very high and I was definitely impressed. I felt that the jewellery may have been a bit more prevalent than in previous years but I’m not complaining. In fact my standout favourite was a very peculiar jewellery set, Lucy Elsie Harvey creates wearable pieces of sinister beauty. The work does not conform to the traditional boundaries of ‘jewellery’ as they are much more conceptual but they take ephemera of the familiar life and project them into being subtle yet powerfully poised prized possessions.
I was rather taken by the work of Piret Eve Kandler who creates ceramics which draw on multiple sources of inspiration, the collections look rather schizophrenic but when isolated individual pieces ooze charm. I bought myself an espresso cup with a fun dinosaur print on the side. Appealing to my sense of simplicity in creation, the work of Stephen Farnan was arresting in its display, the collection of ‘kinder’ bowls with evident makers marks and cute pastel colours worked their magic in multiples as a collection.
I am obviously drawn to the textiles in the show and it was good to see a few craftswomen drawing on elements of modernity. There was an overkill of ‘vintage’ inspired textile and mixed media work so to see work like that of Angharad McLaren who uses traditional patterns but woven with hints of fluorescent thread was a true pleasure! I was also buoyed by the work of Grace Du Prez who creates flat embroidered textile jewellery, again its good to see modernity and future rather than harking back to the past for subject matter.
Overall a very good show and it was with pride that so many of the gallery owners, retailers and makers from the great town of Hebden Bridge were present. Maybe if people were more open to the concept of the handcrafted they would be rewarded with treasures beyond mere materiality, don’t “shhhh” lets shout… “CRAFT!”