The second London Craft Week ran from 3-7 May, 2016 and, in its own words, aimed to help people “experience craft not just as static objects or as brand-led ‘fashion’, ‘design’ or ‘art’ but to understand the full context in which they were made, why they are special, meet the creators and see their remarkable skills up close.”
Like our coverage from last year’s festival, The Kindcraft’s 2016 report from London focuses on a selection of the show’s 130 events, including glass blowing, embroidery and textiles, psaligraphy, and a thought-provoking discussion among designers Hussein Chalayan and Alice Temperley about the role of craft and industry.
Alice Archer at The Place
Alice Archer shared her new collection of elaborately embroidered womenswear during a May 3rd event, hosted by Simon Burstein at The Place boutique concept store.
The Royal College of Art graduate shared her process and the technical details of creating complex embroideries. As Archer gestured to her layered mood board, she talked about being inspired by 19th Century paintings and her walks through London’s Kew Gardens. Once she’s set on a concept for the season, she programs her digital embroidery machine that can stitch up to 12 threads at a time. These textural floral embroideries are then digitally printed with a rich palette of color and later hand-finished. Her sculptural embroideries decorate each gingham, denim, silk, leather, or lace shape in her collection.
Georgina Goodman at Blacks
For the last two years, artist Georgina Goodman has been working on A Shoe Story, a tale of love, lust, and loss told through shoe sculptures. The first exhibition of these works was hosted by Blacks, a private members-only club in Soho, who opened to the public for London Craft Week.
One conceptual pair of high-heels featured feathers, tufting, and faux blood-splatters, while wearable leather slip-ons were also on offer. Georgina Goodman has been nominated Accessory Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council twice, and has a created shoes for Alexander McQueen’s runway, for film, and for exhibitions such as the Killer Heels at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
Hole & Corner presents Marvelous Mechanica
Hole & Corner magazine sponsored an active maker space in The Chapel of St Barnabas during London Craft Week 2016. Artists Martin Smith, Nik Ramage, and Jim Bond led a group of emerging makers from the Art, Design, and Architecture departments of Plymouth University to build a site-specific kinetic installation using available supplies. Also on display were examples of automata and mechanised works from the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre collection.
Indigo Blue by Selvedge
Polly Leonard and the team at Selvedge Magazine organized an indigo day at London Craft Week held May 5th at the beautiful Chelsea Physic Gardens.
The day began – just as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds –with an inspiring and informative talk by Jenny Balfour Paul. A writer, traveller, and textile artist, Paul spoke about her new book Deeper Than Indigo: Tracing Thomas Machell, Forgotten Explorer. She has been studying indigo since the 1980’s and shared her most recent journey retracing Thomas Machell’s steps through India and around the globe – at one point, even travelling on a container ship for several weeks. Just as Machell had, Paul made the most of her time on the water by sketching colorful illustrations along her journey.
Jane Callender spoke about creating blue dye from indigo plants and demonstrated Japanese shibori tie dye techniques. Each participant was provided with a cotton tote bag to tie, wrap, stitch and dip into Jane’s indigo vat creating a shibori tote to take home. The day also included a tour of the dye garden by a member of the Physic Garden staff to look at plants which can be used to create dyes. To wrap up the event, there was a screening of Blue Alchemy, the documentary film by Mary Lance.
Karen Bit Vejle at Skandium
Psaligraphy is the art of paper cutting, or drawing with scissors. Karen Bit Vejle is a Danish-Norwegian artist who started with paper cut snowflakes at age 5. Karen told magical stories about her work during London Craft Week at Skandium retail store, pointing out each bird and mouse which she named and created a story for. This 23.7 carat gold blocked paper installation – which took her 9 months to complete – was also displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
As Peter Layton and his team celebrated the 40th anniversary of London Glassblowing, they created new works for an anniversary show called Recollections. Layton has been at the forefront of British studio glass since the 1970s, and has nurtured many young artists in the craft of glassblowing. The studio continues to offer courses onsite and London Craft Week visitors got to see glassblowing in action. Each stage of the labor-intensive process was illustrated in a fiery show that was mesmerizing to watch.
Visitors were also shown finished works in the adjacent gallery: Collaborative works by RCA graduates Hanne Enemark and Louis Thompson, who completed a residency at the prestigious Museum of Glass in Tacoma near Seattle, were on view. For the duration of London Craft Week, the gallery also featured work by Anthony Scala, James Alexander, Bruce Marks, Laura McKinley, Jochen Ott, Cathryn Shilling, Layne Rowe, Tim Rawlinson and Elliot Walker.
Lin: The Art of Taiwanese Rush Weaving at Native & Co
Native & Co shop hosted an exhibition and workshop about Taiwanese rush weaving. Designer Chia-En from Taiwan shared contemporary works created in collaboration with the Taiwan Yuan-Li Handiwork Association and by master weaver Xue-Yun.
Rush weaving is created with wild rush grass, or lin, which comes from the paddy fields of Yuanli in western Taiwan. These wild grasses have been used to make everyday objects like baskets by hand for over 300 years in a way that can’t be duplicated by machine. Contemporary designs, like those with copper details featured at Native and Co., signal a rebirth for this traditional technique.
Social Fabric at The William Morris Gallery
The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, London provided a tour of their latest exhibition Social Fabric: African Textiles Today, exploring the printed textile traditions of South and East Africa. Visitors were also given the chance to go behind the scenes to view the Gallery’s collection of historic block printed textiles, handle the original woodblocks used to print Morris’s iconic designs, and take part in a hands-on block printing workshop.
The Making Behind Fashion at Selfridges
In the intimate setting of The Corner Restaurant at Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, two of Britain’s biggest names in fashion spoke about their work, craft, and industry on May 5th. Alice Temperley is a womenswear designer well-known for dresses made with luxurious fabrics and hand-finishes. She spoke about her processes and sourcing embroideries from India and silks and laces from France. Legendary designer Hussein Chalayan also talked about his 20+ years in the business, describing a process from “an idea, the cut and shape, to fabrication, storytelling, cultural experience” – and time spent sketching and draping his narrative pieces. The designer stressed that, even though work is often referred to as ‘conceptual’, his work is as wearable as it is experimental.
When asked if today’s fashion calendar is too fast, both designers said that they would like to produce fewer collections per year – but must take part in the wholesale business of fashion. Temperley and Chalayan each talked about the importance of skilled makers, hand-crafted materials and details which allow designers to create truly special pieces.