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Guest Blog: The Power of Making

Felt Animal hats by Barbara Keal

On Saturday I visited The Power of Making Exhibition at The V&A Museum.

Crochetdermy Bear, Shauna Richardson

At first glance, the exhibition is a collection of objects seemingly random in nature; shoes, machinery, jewellery, bicycles, even a large brown bear, which would not look out of place in any natural history museum. The ‘taxidermy’ bear is actually a crocheted sculpture, and once I had noticed the distinctive woollen rings of the crocheted pattern, I found it difficult to stop thinking about the time and skill that went into creating the beast.

In fact, each and every one of the objects in the room could be defined by the processes that made them. Almost as if the processes themselves were more important than the end result. Traditional skills from dry stone walling to shoe making were showcased alongside 3D printers and incredible animations made using the ipad as a tool for drawing with light.

iPad Light Painting

The V&A set the context for their exhibition;

“Power of Making comes at a time when the loss of skill is threatening cultural practice and impacting on commercial industries. However, there is also a resurgence of making currently taking place as a means of self expression, social participation and cultural definition.”

The resurgence mentioned above is seeing thousands of craft practitioners embracing their skill to turn making into a business, and I have personally seen a rise in the number of people wanting to sell their work, through my own craft fairs. Is this a trend? …is it easier to make a business out of craft with the internet as a market place, and social media for promotion? .. is it a reaction to the commercially mass produced and demise of independent businesses on our high streets?

“What we have here is a post-industrial nostalgia for the pre-industrial…as we lust after craftsmanship we can’t afford and disdain the industrial products we can.” Justin McGuirk,Guardian

In recent weeks I have been following and participating in some excellent online #craftdebate. Hosted by The British Museum, and the Craft Council, the debates were held entirely on Twitter and covered topics such as ‘The role and value of Craft today’, ‘Can Craft Change the World’ and ‘Craft in the Information Age’. …Big topics for only 140 chararcter responses!

With another big emphasis on making, “Made not Manufactured” was the tagline for this year’s Origin – The Craft Council’s Contemporary Craft Fair. I popped by on Sunday to have a look and have picked out a few of my favourites from the show for your viewing pleasure:

Birds Upcycled Vintage Suitcase by UoldBag

Bird necklace by Julia Parry-Jones

Swimmer Ring by Helen Noakes

Knitted fox scarf by Nina Fuhrer

Cut Paper illustration Claire Brewster Curiosity Haus

Cut Paper illustration by Claire Brewster

Felt Animal hats by Barbara Keal

Animals everywhere!

I will leave this post with a great story about the power of making in a group of Chilean women, who created tapestries (or Arpillera). This was seen as a traditionally feminine and politically passive activity, however, these particular tapestries depicted the atrocities taking place under the dictatorship of Pinochet during the 70’s and 80’s and the groups that made them started to become involved in social protest. Eventually they reached an international audience by communicating the horrors they were involved in through this apparently ‘benign’ medium!

Thanks for reading… now time for a shameless plug: if you liked the animal themed highlights from Origin, Curiosity Haus has a page full of handmade animal-themed crafts available to buy on our Online Shop too!

Written by Guest Blogger, Laura Morgan of Curiosity Haus: A house for Contemporary Craft and Design. Curiosity Haus has an ‘online craft fair‘ and runs regular indie-markets in Nottingham, showcasing and promoting independent designers and quality handmade goods. You can follow Curiosity Haus on facebook or twitter.