"From a bespoke bicycle to a dissolving fountain, the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize exhibition provides an important snapshot of how contemporary British craft practice reflects on, and engages with, the world today."Installation image of the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Craft Prize display in collaboration with the V&A and the Crafts Council, 2017 © Victoria and Albert Museum
The work of the 12 finalists was incredibly varied and I do not envy the judges having to compare the merits of such incomparable pieces.
This is a shot I took of a glass and jesmonite humanoid by Emma Woffenden. The photo does not convey they eerie and sensual presence these creatures had in the room. Somewhere between Hans Bellmer's puppets and the caring robots from Ghibli's Castle in the Sky. Her faceless figures reflect observed human behaviour, with traits of humour, aggression and the absurd. She says her pieces “look quite alien but quite classical at the same time”, and that glass as a “material signals modernity and has a futuristic quality”.
(Left) ‘Triumph of the Immortal’ Phoebe Cummings for the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize (Right) Factory’ by Neil Brownsword for the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Ceramics are not something I am usually drawn to but I found the two pieces above very powerful. Both explored themes of creation and destruction. Phoebe Cummings' sculpture is a temporary fountain formed from raw clay. When the exhibition opens and the water starts to flow, the fountain will dissolve and the clay will trickle to the base, ready to be reused. Neil Brownsword has created an installation piece where artisan Rita Floyd creates handmade china flower but as soon as each flower is completed it is chucked onto a pile where gravity distorts the individual petals into a disordered mass.Snuff boxes by Romilly Saumarez Smith for the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize © Victoria and Albert Museum, LondonOf course another favourite was a jeweller or, more precisely, a set of jewellers. Romilly Saumarez Smith is unable to use her own hands and so she works with Lucie Gledhill, Laura Ngyou and Anna Wales who she refers to as "my translators". I loved this description of the makers as it is so true. As a designer, but not a maker, I know that whichever maker I work with for a particular piece will have a hint of their own interpretation in the piece just as the translator of a novel or book of poetry. The choice of snuff boxes (also used by Silvia Weindenbach) already give a sense of archaic society before you look closer and see the Tudor, Roman and Anglo Saxon found objects incorporated into the work.
The exhibition runs 7 September 2017 – 5 February 2018 and I would recommend going asap as some of the pieces are designed to dissolve or be destroyed as time passes...
That's all for now!