Championing London's contemporary craft
Recently featuring in GQ Magazine, the minister’s office, and the London Design Festival, the profile of contemporary craft is high. But its portfolio workers have a challenging time balancing their dual roles as artists and entrepreneurs.
Designer-makers like ceramist Hannah James, whose studio is seen above, have to be tough and business-minded but still creative and passionate. Hannah’s work is elegant, beautiful, and exquisitely crafted, but even for a successful ceramist, turning down commercial offers is difficult. For example, she recently rejected a commission to produce a ceramic iPhone case for a web designer.
That the sector is on the up is thanks to its effective advocates. It is led by the Crafts Council, a dynamic publicly-funded charity who have brought together Crafts Champions like artist Grayson Perry, designer Terence Conran, and architect Norman Foster. Ed Vaizey, our Minister for Culture, has items from their collection on display in his office and has written on the subject in GQ Magazine. Selfridge’s, London’s high-profile department store, has launched some new commissions for makers.
But despite contemporary craft’s profile, 70% of makers have to create careers by taking on ‘portfolio working’, mixing different income streams and approaches. The impact of public sector cuts will be difficult for many - around ⅓ of makers make money teaching on the side, but this income will be increasingly hard to come by.
More difficult still, balancing these roles requires different skills, and these aren’t the ones taught at art school. Crafts Council research, Making Value, emphasises the need for portfolio workers to be resourceful and resilient, keen to collaborate, and entrepreneurial. So as well as producing her own work, Hannah also assists Edmund de Waal, the established ceramist and author.
Increasingly, events such as Open Studios, run by organisations like Craft Central and Cockpit Arts, are helping designer-makers show off their work. Others are turning to new approaches to make new products and to stand out - and often to technology, as demonstrated by the Crafts Council’s Lab Craft exhibition.
But the sector will have to get even more entrepreneurial in future, even if this means making compromises, finding new income streams and perhaps, accepting an increased separation between the commercial and the artistic. Perhaps that iPhone case isn’t such a bad idea?
- David Chipperfield – great art doesn´t need government subsidies
- Strangerfestival – Mobile Foreigners
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