Blog: Crafted, Makers of The Exceptional, Somerset House
A showcase from the 4th-6th April presenting all who are brilliant in the world of craft making. From glass blowers to jewellers, wood workers & printmakers. Bringing together those who have been supported by the Walpole brand. A business who nurture & assist artists, designers & makers to further their brands & businesses via mentoring programs & workshops. This yearly showcase has been sponsored by Vacheron Constantin, one of the most well respected Swiss timepiece brands. The exhibition also provided a glimpse into the inner workings of their business, with watch makers & enamel experts working at the exhibition showing us the labour intensive craftsmanship that goes into each piece.
Somerset House is the perfect location to present a collection such as this. A neo-classical building in the heart of London, perhaps more well known to house the Courtauld Institute or the ice-rink during the winter months. The West Wing is made up of inter-connecting rooms where you wander through each room discovering the makers, some who have set up mini travelling workshops so that you can watch them at their craft. The focus is still very much on the people not just the product here. Walpole set out four different themes: A Craft Perfected; A Tradition Preserved; A Life Devoted; and A Business Nurtured.
Tradition & craftsmanship is often forgotten in todays mass-market world. These crafts need to be protected, otherwise these historical crystal companies will be forced to close, digital design will completely destroy the niche printmakers and letter press businesses. Industries have been built on the craft of their materials and this must be actively promoted in order to keep these skills alive today. Crafted: Makers of the Exceptional was created by Walpole to do just this. Each year Walpole will select a small amount of craftmakers for a mentoring program. Nurturing these brilliant people who believe in their brands and don’t give in to working for the corporate equivalent brands. I read that previous mentors have been some inspiring business people that I am lucky to know, Chris Sharp of the Rug Company, Lulu Lytle of Soane to name just two. I can imagine their passion to inspire these people. Walpole, with the support of 180 or so luxury brands such as Alice Temperley, Hackett, Anya Hindmarch, Tiffany&Co & Miller Harris Walpole is doing great things of the world of British Luxury. Below are some images & a few words on some of the chosen brands that really caught my eye….
Rothschild & Bickers, both graduates of the Royal College of Art have over 20 years of working with & designing glass. They are one of the remaining glassworks in the UK where glass is still hand blown & cut. Their lighting can be seen worldwide (once you recognise their style) in restaurants and bars in Europe, Asia & the US. They also supplied the lighting to the much hyped Dabbous restaurant in London.
Below, Mark Bickers of Rothschild & Bickers
An exhibition by Natasha Daintry really caught my eye. A graduate of both Cambridge University & The Royal College of Art, she combines the cool, transparent qualities of old Chinese glazes with modern industrial staining techniques. She stacks ceramic drenched in multi hues & creates little vessels that look their most striking when presented in multiples. Her table of ceramics shown here are reminiscent of a wave building up steam before it crashes, with the colour intensity shifting along the way. “I’m aiming for the taut energy and fluid complexity of a clear, brief open.”
Below, Natasha Daintry
Cumbria Crystal, with only 17 employees is a perfect example of a brand being nurtured by Walpole. Companies such as Cumbria Crystal are one of the few remaining manufacturers of luxury hand-blown, hand-cut full lead crystal. Founded in 1976 this small factory in the Lake District is led by Katy Holford, who acts as both designer & MD for the company. An interesting fact that I read about Cumbria Crystal is that they supplied the crystal, one of their Georgian designs, Gasmere, for the Downton Abbey Series. You can find their collections at Thomas Goode, Liberty and Fortnum & Mason. Their commitment to craftsmanship, refusing to use overseas or automated manufacturing processes are all the reason for them to be featured in this exhibition.
Textile designer Ptolemy Mann collaborated with fashion designer Eloise Grey on her 2012 summer collection of day & evening dresses as exhibited here. Eloise sourced certified organic Swiss silk satin onto which she digitally printed Mann’s ikat prints. Grey works with undyed & organic certified Scottish tweeds from the Isle of Mull weavers, she also sources unique textiles, materials that can be tailored and pleated into garments that can be worn for years to come. The dresses shown feature hand-pleating by one of the few pleaters in the country. A craft again, which needs to be highlighted in order to keep the workshop open.
Above, Ptolemy Mann
An example of Ptolemy’s hand dyed and woven fabric. Ptolemy has been running her own textile studio since she graduated from the Royal College of Art. With her unique approach to weaving & hand-dying her designs have developed into quite the career. Her collaborations have included designing for Christopher Farr, Ercol Furniture & Studio Levien. Ptolemy regularly exhibits & lectures throughout the UK & abroad, she has also received two grants from the Arts Council. We’ll be viewing Ptolemy’s designs in museums for years to come…
Images – LWSY