London’s Somerset House hosted this year’s Collect design fair the weekend of 25th – 27th February, and all manner of artist-designer-makers specialising in a variety of disciplines and crafts were represented by galleries and collectives from across the world. Artmag.co.uk contributor Louis Barnard takes a look at some that impressed him.
Craft Scotland were tasked with flag-bearing for their country at the Fair and did so exceedingly well, with a number of standout pieces from the likes of Duke Christie, Daniel Freyne, Jasmine Linington, and Ffion and Steven Blench (together, CHALK).
Other Scottish craftspeople, particularly jewellers, were well-represented at the fair but I have chosen to highlight the impressive sculptural works by the aforementioned makers that were on display – and at the time of writing are still available for purchase.
In no particular order, here are some of the finest Scottish craft, from some of Scotland’s finest craftspeople.
Ffion and Steven Blench, working together under the moniker CHALK, presented a number of equally grand pieces strung together by a common materiality. Common, not only in the sense of a shared materiality, but the plaster that forms the bulk of each piece is an unremarkable material, by all accounts.
The pieces themselves, however, are anything but unremarkable. Named after the respective locales from which the materials were gathered, each object is imbued with the history and the materiality of that site, which is reflected in their colour and finish, such as Wemyss Side Table is a short, ecclesiastical plinth that would look equally at home in a 16th-century chapel as it would a modern Glaswegian living room. This is in large part because of the specific methodology that CHALK adopted for these pieces called Scagliola, a 16th-century plastering technique for imitating marble and semi-precious stones.
It comes as no surprise therefore that CHALK employed plastering techniques from this period to produce the works. Pennard Hill Vase and Auld Reekie Vessel are similarly archaic in their appearance, which somewhat ironically offers a sense of agelessness to the works. Both are defined by their bold form and an air of calm and balance and stood out amongst CHALK’s works. CHALK have struck upon a winning formula with the methodology and materiality that lend a pious dignity to their objects, and I look forward to seeing where their practice takes them next.
His recent shift away from traditional woodworking and toward a more abstract and sculptural way of working has proven fruitful for Duke Christie, who presented six expertly-crafted pieces at Somerset House.
His Speyside Wall Cabinet and Circles: Side Table are both impressively-sculpted pieces in their own right, but both, for me, were overshadowed by the beautifully-textured Limpets and the soft curves and rippling surface of Artifact or Relic.
The former comprises three pieces – Pale, Scorched and Tri-coloured Limpet, available to purchase individually. The shellfish after which the pieces are named also inspired their form and the combination of that mesmerising pattern with their unique colouration means each piece provides a different yet connected experience to the others. The meditative sense of calm that Pale Limpet induces is well-complemented by the quiet brooding of its Scorched counterpart and rounded off well by Tri-coloured Limpet’s more complex but no less engaging pigmentation.
The piece that really captured my attention, however, was Christie’s vessel, Artifact or Relic, whose soft mouth and imperceptible interior are almost as entrancing as the intricate, organically-patterned surface. The detail of the perfectly-proportioned handles that wing the piece should not be ignored, offering an important sense of scale and symmetry to the vessel that is otherwise irregular and unimposing. But, as I keep referring to, it really is the naturalistic earthy colouration and the swirling, fluid patterns that are a theme throughout Christie’s work, and which define this piece.
The engagement with our environment and the natural world was a theme throughout, not only the Scottish contingent, but Collect 2022 as a whole, and Jasmine Linington’s exploration into seaweed’s potential as an alternative material produced some fascinating embroidery.
Linington’s frequent trips to the beach to hand-gather the materials she would use in this piece have ultimately brought the organic and alien world of the ocean that inspired the work ‘to the surface’ for audiences to admire. These pieces are a true celebration of the Scottish coastline, of its beaches, of its flora, of the life that thrives there and of the awe-inspiring beauty that exists in these environments that surround us, which we rarely appreciate as we should.
The artist’s inquisitive and experimental approach to her work is evident in the final product, for which she employed a textural design, appropriately named Meandering Ripples. The formation and arrangement of the kelp sequins along the Seacell embroidered fabric evoke a sense of the life that finds a way.
More about the exhibition and pieces can be found on Craft Scotland‘s website.
With grateful thanks to Louis Barnard for this review. Louis is a regular contributor at ‘The Design Edit’.