2003 Essay | Contemporary Crafts in Britain

2003 Essay | Contemporary Crafts in Britain

Contemporary Crafts in Britain

By Dr. Louise Taylor


Edmund de Waal
Untitled, 2003
white stoneware
5.5 x 9
represented by the British Crafts Council Gallery

There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in the world of contemporary crafts in Britain. There is a wider engagement with craft and applied arts as a whole, there are more artists emerging and more galleries dedicated to showing their work. In addition, galleries who traditionally specialized in fine art or antiques are now introducing their clients to the work of contemporary artists and showing this work within their galleries and at art fairs. This year for the first time, a major name from the applied arts, Grayson Perry, has been nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize for fine art.

The British Crafts Council has recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. The Council’s key role as the lead body for the crafts in Britain was recognized by a Royal Charter in 1982 which sets out our mission ‘to advance and encourage the creation…of works of fine craftsmanship and to foster, promote and increase the interest of the public in the works of craftspeople and the accessibility of those works to the public.’ The Royal Charter document was presented to the Council by the Queen and is a valued object in our National Collection of Crafts.

In my first year as Director of the British Crafts Council, I have been working with my colleagues to refocus and reposition the organization in order to ensure that we continue to serve the needs of our sector and, thereby, continue to fulfill our mission. Our first task has been to develop a new strategic plan, which will help us to raise the profile of the sector and to position craft in the public consciousness as a dynamic art form that demonstrates British creativity on the world stage.

Hiroshi Suzuki
Aqua Posey, VII
fine silver
represented by Clare Beck
at Adrian Sassoon

Now we are poised to extend our range of influence in furthering the development of the sector within national and international arenas. We are only too aware of the need to foster international partnerships and value the continued support of our friends across the continents.

Having helped to build the current surge of public interest, we will be maximizing support from our Government, which recognises the part craft can play in economic and social regeneration programmes.

Ensuring the development of the best new work through the support of individual makers remains one of our top priorities. We will continue the substantial work we have been doing to nurture new artists through schemes such as the Crafts Council Development Award (formerly known as the Setting Up Scheme) and Next Move, a new graduate residency programme run in conjunction with a network of regional agencies, universities and colleges across the UK.

It is, however, also important for us to celebrate the pioneers of the studio craft movement as we know it today. To this end we have been involved in a remarkable new project—Show5—which brings together five regional English galleries and five major names from the world of the applied arts into one exhibition seriess, opening this autumn. The artists featured will be well known to international collectors and have been selected to represent a cross section of the amazing work being created by British craftspeople today. The exhibitions will be 70 per cent retrospective and 30 per cent newly-created works, with a series of five commemorative books to be published by Lund Humphries.

The five shows are:


Sally Fawkes
Eternally Here III 2003
glass; cast, cut and polished
19 x 13.5 x 5.25
represented by Contemporary Applied Arts

Carol McNicoll’s Contemporary ceramics— domestic treasures, which will be launched at the City Gallery, Manchester from 6 September – 1 November 2003.

Jim Partridge’s Woodwork—a view from the bridge, which will be launched at Manchester Art Gallery from 6 September – 12 October 2003.

Michael Rowe’s Meticulous metalwork, which will be launched at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery from 18 October 2003 – 18 January 2004.

Richard Slee’s Tempting ceramics, which will be launched at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent from 13 September – 2 November 2003.

Anne Sutton’s Weaving, wit and logic which will be launched at The British Crafts Council Gallery in London from 23 October 2003 – 18 January 2004.

Following the launch shows, all five will go on to tour within the UK and internationally. Information about these and all of the other key British artists can be obtained from the Council’s Photostore® pictorial database, which will be accessible on the Internet from early 2004, and on our web site at www.craftscouncil.org.uk.

The British Crafts Council’s ultimate aim is to support the growth and strengthening of the crafts sector, and we have a leading role to play in coordinating the efforts of all of the artists, galleries, curators, educators, academics and so forth, who are all working towards this common goal. Our involvement in SOFA CHICAGO has made us aware of the importance of focusing public attention and providing a meeting place for those within the sector.

The British Crafts Council will once again be presenting an important group of British galleries at SOFA CHICAGO 2003. Between them, they will be showing some of the finest work from new and established artists.

SOFA CHICAGO has been extremely important to us as it has given us the opportunity to introduce the work of contemporary British artists to the international collectors market. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the British Crafts Council and the British crafts sector to congratulate SOFA CHICAGO on this its 10th Anniversary. I know I speak for my colleagues, as well as myself, when I say that I am looking forward to renewing old acquaintances and making new friends.

Dr. Louise Taylor
Director, British Crafts Council

Published in conjunction with the British Crafts Council and participating galleries from the UK: Clare Beck at Adrian Sassoon, Barrett Marsden Gallery, British Crafts Council Gallery, Contemporary Applied Arts, Galerie Besson, The Gallery at Ruthin Craft Centre, Joanna Bird Pottery and The Scottish Gallery.

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