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Tuesday 4 October 2011

Origin Contemporary Craft Fair 2011

Lindsay Taylor
Origin is one of the most prestigious contemporary craft shows in the UK. Supported by The Crafts Council, it used to be known as the Chelsea Craft Fair, then travelled around before last year finding a new home as part of the London Design Festival held inside Old Spitalfields Market. This used to be a space where on Sunday mornings you could browse handmade arts and crafts (my sister had a stall here many years back) but these days Spitalfields is much more built up with a smaller market and plenty of chain eateries. Yet right in the middle there's a huge expanse that was converted into a craft event with over 200 of the UK's finest designers showcasing their talents.
Getting a stall here is the hard bit. It's the show everyone wants to be at but most don't make the grade...if you like handmade couture craft, it's the place to visit and shop at.
Katty Janneh Millinery
This year I was extremely happy to see that my old hat making tutor Katty Janneh made the grade and was showcasing her beautiful collection of handmade wedding fascinators and headwear. I attended Katty's class at Lewisham Community College back in 2006. We worked inside a tiny hut, but despite it being a cheap course, held at a local centre, the facilities were fantastic and I made two magnificent felt creations for winter and a bright pink fascinator.
Inside the show
The space was pretty impressive and I'm told it's the largest Origin there's been so far. I could certainly detect a difference. When I visited the Chelsea Fair some years ago, exhibitors had small stands and the type of craft on show was extremely 'professional looking' reflecting traditional disciplines like glass and ceramics. I returned to its new name of Origin in 2009 when it was held at Somerset House, along with the camera crew of the BBC show I took part in called Mastercrafts. We were shown around by my weaving tutor Margo Selby who is a regular exhibitor, to get an idea of what weaving and other professional crafts are like in the real world. At the time it was overwhelming (I also had a diva fit because I was extremely tired and hungry.....it was 5pm and I needed tea and chocolate having had a stupidly early start, long journey and lunch hours ago...so I refused to speak on camera until they got me a Mars bar!)
Anyway back to Origin...some of the same exhibitors were still here two years on but what struck me was the fair is no longer anything like its old Chelsea guise. The focus and meaning of craft has changed in contemporary culture and also at the event. Alongside the classical disciplines of metalwork, woodwork and textiles were 'handmade' crafts using more contemporary materials like paper and plastic. Birds seemed to be an (overly) popular theme and there was so much jewellery; precious and non-precious. 
A small part of me felt that the standards had dropped. It's no longer the finest example of 'craft' but a showcase of handmade things. At the same time it's good that the show is no longer as 'snobbish' that newer designers and disciplines are welcomed. But it has got me thinking alot about a project I'm working on called The Shape of Things where we are trying to answer the question 'What Is Craft?' It's certainly something that is fluid and constantly changing.
Every exhibitor had a uniqueness but some I liked more than others and so I've selected my favourites to showcase here. First up I was amazed that knitting books Best in Show (the dog and cat versions) had a whole display. I reviewed the dog book and while back and the cat one was recently featured in the Guardian. Pictured is one of the authors.
The books were on sale alongside the stars that feature inside.
Dogs Are Everywhere!
I wanted them all!
Abigail Brown
Keeping on an animal tip, as I mentioned there were many birds on display but the ones that stood out the most where the incredibly beautiful, colourful fabric birds made by Abigail Brown. They were all stunning and made from cotton fabrics. If I had lots and lots of money I would commission her to make me a whole avery.
Danielle Gori-Montanelli

Danielle's collection of felt jewellery and accessories had my name all over it but strangely this hat doesn't represent it as it's best - I find this a bit hideous, it's too much...but her necklaces and scarves were stunning.

Nawab Gebree
On a scarf tip, this one by Nawab Gebree was made for me. I have the world's most sensitive neck...I didn't used to, it happened after I suffered from a case of pneumonia a few years back. And now the slightest most gentle breeze on my neck gives me the shivers, this is why I am often found wearing scarves. This wrap is gorgeous, it doesn't look particularly comfortable but I'm sure I would look good in it!
Glass Cathedrals
Another image that doesn't do justice to the craftwork. Glass Cathedral made incredible  boxes filled with miniature people and poignant words. If I could buy just one thing from the whole exhibition it would have been one of her works, though the one I liked the most was already sold.
Adam Hussain
I have an appreciation for fused glass after I studied it at Brent Adult Education college and of all the glass designs on display Adam Hussain's work caught my eye the most. Owning a piece of art or craft should be mood enhancing and with one of these bowls around you would always feel in a good mood.

All in all it was an interesting morning, not at all what I was expecting but it's given me lots of crafty food for thought. Craft now is very different to what it was a mere 12 months ago let alone, centuries ago and I'm keen to see how it continues to develop. I still haven't had a chance to see The Power of Making at the V&A which is a major new craft exhibition (it was closed for a private function the day I was there and it's quite a trek from my flat!) but I'm sure that too will change my perception again of what British craft is all about.

1 comment:

  1. Looks really interesting, so many different things to see. I love the look of the hat stall, I {heart} hats! And the fabric peacock looks awesome. X