Scotland the Finest at Collect 2022

Craft Scotland at Collect 2022. Image Claudia Rocha
Craft Scotland at Collect 2022. Image Claudia Rocha

Collect 22

From: 25 Feb 2022

To: 27 Feb 2022

Somerset House
44a Pentonville Road
N1 9BY

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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. 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). 

Craft Scotland Collect 22. Image Claudia Rocha
Craft Scotland Collect 2022. Image Claudia Rocha

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. 

Ffion and Steven Blench, 'Pennard Hill' and 'Auld Reekie', Scagliola, image Steven Khan, stmcstudio
Ffion and Steven Blench, ‘Pennard Hill’ and ‘Auld Reekie’, Scagliola. Image Steven Khan, stmcstudio
CHALK, 'Wemyss' table, Image Reuben Paris
Ffion and Steven Blench, ‘Wemyss’ table. Image Reuben Paris

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.

Ffion and Steven Blench, 'Auld Reekie', Scagliola, image Steven Khan (stmcstudio)
Ffion and Steven Blench, ‘Auld Reekie’, Scagliola. Image Steven Khan (stmcstudio)

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.

Ffion and Steven Blench, 'Pennard Hill' and 'Auld Reekie', Scagliola, image Steven Khan, stmcstudio
Ffion and Steven Blench, ‘Pennard Hill’, Scagliola. Image Steven Khan, stmcstudio

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.

Duke Christie, 'Speyside' wall cabinet. Image Jim Dunn
Duke Christie, ‘Speyside’ wall cabinet. Image Jim Dunn
Duke Christie, 'Circles'. Image Jim Dunn
Duke Christie, ‘Circles’ side table. Image Jim Dunn

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.

Duke Christie, 'Limpets', woodwork, Image Hannah Laycock
Duke Christie, ‘Pale and Scorched Limpets’, woodwork. Image Hannah Laycock

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. 

Duke Christie, 'Limpet Tri-Colour', woodwork. Image Jim Dunn
Duke Christie, ‘Tri-coloured Limpet’, woodwork. Image Jim Dunn

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. 

Duke Christie, 'Artifact or Relic', woodwork. Image: the artist
Duke Christie, ‘Artifact or Relic’, woodwork. Image: the artist

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.

Jasmine Linington, 'Seaweed Ripple detail1', textile. Image Jasmine Linington
Jasmine Linington, ‘Seaweed Ripple no.3’, textile. Image Jasmine Linington

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. 

Jasmine Linington, 'Seaweed Ripple detail 1', textile. Image Jasmine Linington
Jasmine Linington, ‘Seaweed Ripple no.1’, textile. Image Jasmine Linington

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. 

Jasmine Linington, 'Seaweed Ripple' (detail), textile. Image Jasmine Linington
Jasmine Linington, ‘Seaweed Ripple no.4 (Triptych)’, textile. Image Jasmine Linington

Honourable mention goes to Daniel Freyne, whose work I selected for my 5 Top Picks piece in design blog The Design Edit.

Craft Scotland at Collect 2022. Image Claudia Rocha
Craft Scotland at Collect 2022. Image Claudia Rocha

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’.

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