The Largest Art Convention in Britain
Think of crafts and perhaps corn dollies and threaded baskets come to mind. But now the annual COLLECT craft fair has opened at London's Victoria and Albert Museum and it's a very classy affair. On offer are, ceramics, glass, textiles, silverware that can cost thousands. While the applied art is gaining culture cachet, the Crafts Council, the organization which is paid to promot it, is hitting more turbulent times. Our arts correspondent Nicholas Glass has this.
A vaccine and never-harder thing to define, the “C” word craft, and compared with Damine, Tracy and Dinos, its practitioners are relatively ignored. Things are hand-made, decorative sometimes, but not always functional, and of course unique. When is it craft, and when is it art? Lines have been blurring for a long while.
I suppose my interest in craft is that the very best people who work within craft or seem to be doing really quite divergent things. There's no/ sort of the whole merchant's definition any more about crafts, not a life style thing. It's not an antique, fine art thing, um. It's not a discipline that defines itself in terms of the home; it's none of these things. It includes some of those things but none of those things in its entirety. (But its meaning has changed.) Its meaning has changed. Its meaning has changed and it's changing.
These are stimulating and confusing times for makers, sellers and promotors of these objects of desire. Here we have COLLECT--The third year run in a selling fair within the wards of the V&A(Victoria and Albert Museum) in the sector of craft work version of freeze. And yet the Crafts Council which organizes the fair and is supposed to give a lead is in restructuring limbo. It's between directors. Its exhibition space and shop in Northern London are to close, and it won't be handing out its annual Jerwood Prize this year.
Is there an institutional support, Crafts Council, Arts Council support for crafts?
There's some. It's not focused. It's not well delivered, but there is some, some, um, support, yes. Interestingly enough, things like COLLECT actually show you just how good things are and how much more support needs to be, supports need to be in the sector. The problem is that Crafts Council in particular has been out of focus and off message for a very long time and hasn't really lived up to it's briefing to actually support the very best of craft.
Like Edmund de Waal, Julian Stair-one of our leading potters, he made these porcelain teapot and cups. He is currently interim chairman of the Crafts Council.
So this precise moment is kind of like a vacuum of leadership.
Um, I wouldn't say that's a vacuum of leadership because we have a new chairman coming in and that would be very shortly announced. And the director's search is under way and we also have, you know, a good new series of partnerships which are, which have started to really define our our new strategy.
Will hearing this instill confidence? We shall see. At least COLLECT gives crafts a higher profile for a few days. There are 42 galleries form Europe, Japan and Australia. From Denmark for example, a sovereign interpretation in miniature of the Contiki Expedition. According to a new and somewhat impenetrable arts council report, more of us like crafts than contemporary art.
If, if you have a collecting bug, it's an excuse to go on and collect more, and also there is a whole fabulous market out there which if you've only really ooked at the pictures, um, you know it's waiting to be discovered.
We apparently acquire some five million craft objects every year, one or two will be picked up over the next few days of COLLECT, including Darkness, the odd teapot.