Room decors and fireplaces, natural light and beautiful windows all play wonderfully into how galleries can organize their rooms,” says Isobel Dennis, Collect craft fair director, as the event returns. at Somerset House, London, February 25-27. Although last year’s online presentation reached a larger-than-ever global audience of 22,000 people, “people are so hungry to see contemporary craftsmanship in real life,” says Dennis. “It’s about experimenting with color, texture, scale; to be able to have a real visceral connection with work.
For exhibitor Yvonna Demczynska, owner of Flow Gallery in Notting Hill, keeping objects in an informal setting is key to this connection. In 2015, she moved into her gallery and remodeled it to make it feel like home, working with London-based furniture maker and interior designer Fred Rigby. “Oddly enough, we had half the space, but no more sales,” says Demczynska, whose “At Home” installation at Somerset House will be based around Rigby’s sinuous Pebble table in ebonized oak, as well as two new circular tables in steel and oak. shelf designs.
“The furniture inherently creates the backdrop,” Rigby says of their collaboration. “We create baseboards and frames. The frame highlights the objects in the whole philosophy of craftsmanship. The aesthetics of these objects are made of organic shapes, earthy materials and soft hues. A tapestry by Scottish weaver Jo Barker – an abstract composition of dusky pinks, greens and grays – accompanies the curvaceous moon jars and Giorgio Morandi-inspired bottles by Japanese artist Akiko Hirai. There are sturdy clay pieces by Bath potter Paul Philp, while shapely off-white pique-fleur vases by French ceramicist Cécile Daladier are featured with arrangements by florist Frida Kim. “Flow creates a very subtle experience,” says Daniela Wells, market consultant for Collect. “These are quiet rooms. It’s not a big ‘pow’.
For some exhibitors, however, the furniture is the main event. At the Sarah Myerscough Gallery, British designer John Makepeace’s ‘Trine Cloud’ three-legged burnt oak chairs are as much a sculpture as an object to sit on. Korean artist Park Hong-gu’s stools are also abstract in shape, finished in traditional ottchil lacquer. They are featured with Lee Sora’s Oksa translucent raw silk wall hangings that reimagine the art of patchwork from Jogakbo, with the Korea-focused Lloyd Choi Gallery.
For Simon Stewart, founder of the London-based Charles Burnand Gallery, the centerpiece of his exhibition is an extravagant table: New York interior designer Mia Jung’s Cloud Console, hand-cast in Murano glass with a curved pillar-shaped base and mottled with precious metals. “I’ve always been drawn to shiny, reflective objects,” says Stewart. “But Jung’s designs are perfectly functional and transcend any period or style.” There are also plenty of “pow” moments throughout the fair. From Milanese gallery Officine Saffi is a striking wall piece by Helsinki-based Marianne Huotari (finalist for this year’s Loewe Craft Prize). Although she refers to her designs as “carpets,” referring to traditional Finnish ryijy tapestries, they are actually ceramic, with thousands of brightly colored, individually glazed and fired elements sewn into overlapping designs. Equally striking are the textiles of Christian Ovonlen, a member of Intoart, a collective of artists and designers with learning disabilities based in Peckham, whose energetic works on paper have been hand-printed on silk. Ovonlen (who has autism) was announced on Thursday as the winner of this year’s Brookfield Properties Craft Award, worth £60,000, while shortlisted Cecilia Charlton shows off bold hand-sewn geometric Candida embroideries Stevens Gallery.
All of the Somerset House exhibitions will also be viewable – and buyable – on artsy.net from February 23 to March 6. On the program are talks — including one with textile artist Alice Kettle; another with four artists working in glass – can be reached via Zoom. Nine galleries will also be exhibiting exclusively online, where highlights range from large painterly tapestries in primary tones by Françoise Paressant (of Galerie Chevalier in Paris); a selection of glass pieces from the Sklo gallery in Seoul, as well as one of the multicolored horse sculptures inspired by African art by Korean ceramist Shin Sang Ho; and, from London Glassblowing, Tim Rawlinson’s colourful, psychedelic new works.
“Glass is obviously a big thing right now,” says Dennis, pointing out that 2022 is the United Nations International Year of Glass. Several glass-focused galleries are exhibiting, including Bullseye Projects, from Portland, Oregon, and an installation by Dawn Bendick with the Joanna Bird Gallery, made of dichroic glass, which changes color under certain lights. It’s a good reason to visit in person. Like the origami-inspired paper installation by duo Fung + Bedford (members of the Design Nation collective), which will bridge a 10-meter drop in the shaft of one of the five floors of period stairs at Somerset House, Dennis adds. “It’s going to be really dramatic.
craftscouncil.org.uk/collect-art-fair; February 25-27
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