Beyond doubt the best thing about working on a commission is the moment when the client sees the finished piece. That is when you know if you got it right or not. So it was with my most recent commission which I had the pleasure of sending on its way this week.
I was delighted with her reaction to her vessel. It is a special birthday present for a member of her family and includes material from the woods on their land and details of the location and architects drawings for the house.
The colours which have come out in the patterns on the vessel apparently match those of the house, which is not surprising given the origins of the material but it is still gratifying to know.
I am particularly pleased with the idea to put the drawing of the house on the base. It is as if everywhere you look there is another surprise waiting for you, even when you turn it over there is something else to see.
But without doubt, it is the reaction of the client which gives me the best feeling. She was really happy with it and it clearly meant so much to her – considerably more than it did to me as I have never been to that part of the UK. Up until that point it felt like a job well done but as I handed it over it became so much more than that.
I felt as if I was launching a ship or something. I find that these vessels, which are so personal to the person who orders them, are so much more than any of the other work I am doing and I love the warm fuzzy feeling that the hand over gives me deep inside.
Well that is an enormous subject to take on so I am only going to scratch the surface here. I had the privilege to be at the private show for an exhibition called Twelve Tall Tales this week. It is a collaboration between the Crafts Council and a group called Women in The City, about which I knew nothing and feel that I need to make it my business to investigate.
Aside from the fact that the gallery space is fantastic and the curation was intriguing and had a definitely ‘crafty’ feel to it – all the works were exhibited on beautifully woven soft blue/grey fabric – it was an extremely interesting idea. One of the works carried the question ‘Can clay carry stories?’ Well, yes! That is what I am trying to do all the time with my work! The story of a building, a mine, an incident for example.
Another asked ‘Can craft be contaminated?’ and it was accompanied by a series of food vessels made by soil taken from the rice fields of the last farmer to leave the area after the disaster at the Fukishima Power Plant. It was a really moving work – for its simplicity and for its story – but it was alone in the exhibition for not demonstrating a particularly high level of skilled craftsmanship. So was it craft or art? A third work showed 7 beautiful lacquered bowls and posed the question ‘does the making make the object?’ In Wajima, Japanese they still continue to make bowls using a particular lacquering technique called Urushi which involves seven stages, each done in a particular workshop.
The bowls are moved around from one workshop to the next in order to complete the process which has to be carried out by skilled craftsmen and this installation tells their story. They are beautiful and their rich red interiors positively glow with energy.
The exhibition contained brooms ‘with attitude’, a space suit made from fabric woven in the last mill in Wales and an amazing jacket, shirt and trousers using the styles and logos of many of the most well known fashion houses. In most of the exhibits the high level of skill involved was very evident; there was clear evidence of craft. Yet the ways in which the various crafts had been interpreted altered them and somehow pushed them towards becoming art: they were no longer functional objects, they were installations which told of humour; disaster; process. And therein lies the rub – why do we insist on talking of craft and art? Why do we still consider them as almost separate? Granted the barriers have come down a bit but, in my mind at least, it is a continuum which is demonstrated particularly well in ceramics, and which is very evident in this exhibition. If you find yourself anywhere near Covent Garden I comment this exhibition at the Hospital Club until 29th August to you.