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What to see at London Craft Week 2024

London Craft Week (LCW), which showcases all areas of craft, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. In the past decade, this citywide event has expanded considerably, notes Naomi Davenport, LCW’s managing director. “The first edition of the festival featured 70 events. We now host more than 500 events and more than 1,000 independent makers are taking part.”

LCW is designed to garner the craft sector greater visibility, says Davenport: “LCW gives craft in our great creative capital its own moment in time, just as fashion, art and design in London have their own high-profile events.” This need to raise craft’s profile must have been more keenly felt when LCW was founded since it was perceived then as a ‘poor relation’ to art, fashion or design”, according to Guy Salter, LCW’s chairman.

In fact, we’ve witnessed a growing appreciation of crafts in the past decade. LCW, as a rapidly expanding event, can take some credit for this, but national public museums and art galleries have further raised craft’s profile by mounting crowd-pulling craft-based exhibitions, encouraged no doubt by a blurring of boundaries between fine art and craft. “Blue-chip galleries are showing more and more artists working in ceramics, glass and textiles,” says Davenport, though she adds: “Prices for craft pieces lag behind the fine art and collectible design markets though, so there’s still work to be done to give craft practitioners their full due.”

London Craft Week gives craft in our great creative capital its own moment in time.

Naomi Davenport, MD of London Craft Week

LCW’s growing prestige is evidenced too by major institutions now acquiring pieces showcased by the event. “Prestigious public museums, such as the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, are collecting work shown during the festival,” says Davenport. “Hauser & Wirth on Savile Row has a dedicated space, called Make Hauser & Wirth, that showcases artists embracing craft practices.” Its exhibition, Objects of Contemplation, timed to coincide with LCW (it runs until June 2), features work made of ceramic, glass and stone by 19 artist-makers.

Although London Craft Week’s name roots it in the capital, it’s an international event. “This year artist-makers from more than 30 countries are participating,” says Davenport. “Our international programme stems partly from our curiosity about skills we might not otherwise see in the UK.” Several venues this year are drawing attention to ancient Japanese crafts reinterpreted by contemporary makers. Tom Faulkner’s Pimlico Road showroom is spotlighting Japanese artist Sakuho Ito’s vessels made of traditional Japanese washi paper, to which she applies copper and iron that oxidise, resulting in rich textures. Craft committed to sustainability and the circular economy is another strong theme at LCW this year.

Since it was founded, LCW has become far more interactive, with a growing number of workshops teaching specialist craft techniques. “Workshops are increasingly popular,” says Davenport. “There’s been a surge of enthusiasm among visitors for learning skills, partly prompted by the rise of a more discerning consumer interested in buying unique pieces and wanting a better understanding of how things are made.”

Here is our pick of five unmissable highlights at LCW this year:

Craftworks, Shoreditch Town Hall

Mathilde Wittock creates furniture from old tennis balls collected from tennis clubs. Presented by Green Grads at Craftworks, London Craft Week 2024

This is the inaugural show of new East London LCW destination Craftworks, held in the splendidly Victorian Shoreditch Town Hall. Spread over three floors, it showcases work by 100 British makers. “Our vision is to establish an East London destination for LCW, which celebrates the depth and diversity of the area’s craft community,” says show director Michael Dynan.

Participants include local furniture retailer SCP, the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), which supports British craftsmanship, and Green Grads, which promotes graduates from UK universities whose work combats pollution and climate change and encourages biodiversity, among other environmentalist issues.

“The graduates at Craftworks are established makers, albeit ones still honing and expanding their skills,” says Barbara Chandler, Green Grads’ founder and curator. “London-based Mathilde Wittock, for one, addresses the fact that tennis is the world’s fifth most polluting sport.” She collects old tennis balls from local tennis clubs, halves them, colours them with natural dyes, then slots them into plywood fashioned into acoustic screens and furniture with an appealingly soft surface. Green Grads is also showing lighting and furniture by willow-weaver Simon Redstone. “Willow-growing and harvesting are low-carbon activities,” says Chandler.

The show also will host talks whose speakers, including Timorous Beasties and Soane Britain, will discuss such subjects as endangered crafts and craft activism.

Future Icons Selects, Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf

Designer Kamea Devons and glass artist and ceramicist Adam Salvi from Israel have developed a collection of vessels combining glass and metal, presented by Future Icons Selects at London Craft Week 2024

Founded in 2017 by Louisa Pacifico, Future Icons represents a slew of design and craft-led businesses on a day-to-day basis. Future Icons Selects is an offshoot of this, with a larger number of designers involved in occasional or one-off exhibitions. It takes place at Oxo Tower Wharf for the second year running in a 3,000-sq-ft space distributed over five floors. In a bid to avoid the uncomfortable, formal impression made by closely packed stands, she has opted this year for a looser, more free-flowing exhibition layout: “I strive to curate the show as a large gallery space rather than pigeonhole artists into small stands crammed next to each other,” she explains. “This year, we’ve got more installation-led features.”

Future Icons Selects showcases craft from countries all over the world. “I’m showing work by ceramicists from Romania and Italy, lighting from India, furniture from Austria and textiles from Portugal,” elaborates Pacifico. “Designer Kamea Devons and glass artist and ceramicist Adam Salvi from Israel have developed a new colourful collection of vessels combining glass and metal. And I’m excited to see a textile and furniture installation by Christopher Kelly. Social media helps me to reach audiences far and wide.” One notable exhibitor, Design East, is presenting (Un)common Threads, a display of hand-woven textiles made using natural dyes from Morocco, Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Spain and the UK.

Secret Ceramics, SoShiro, Marylebone

Secret Ceramics at SoShiro for London Craft Week 2024 (Photo: Dan Weill)

Devised to mark LCW’s 10th anniversary, Secret Ceramics is a selling exhibition of 105 initially unnamed, single-stem ceramic vessels by leading artists and relatively unknown graduates. “We came up with the idea as a fun, accessible way to approach collecting,” says Davenport. “People can spot established artists’ signature styles or appreciate the work of talented newcomers, attracted to its beauty alone – or both.” She continues: “Our brief to artists was to create a single-stem vessel, which resulted in a wide range of styles, forms and scales.” Each piece bears the same, egalitarian price tag of £300. Ceramics novices could well luck out, fortuitously snaffling work by sought-after names such as Kate Malone, Hitomi Hosono or Frances Priest that ceramics connoisseurs are more likely to spot. 

On show at gallery SoShiro until May 19, the work is for sale there or via LCW’s website on a first-come-first-served basis. The artists’ names are revealed when the pieces are acquired. The sale is also a charitable initiative to raise funds for a new ceramic studio for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in White City, West London, a project instigated by FiredUp4.

Vessel Gallery, Cromwell Place

Elixir Series by Enemark & Thompson, presented by Vessel Gallery at London Craft Week 2024 (Photo: Agata Pec)

Ceramics and glassware gallery Vessel was hugely instrumental in making craft hip and covetable when it was founded in the 1990s. At LCW this year it’s presenting Ethereal Nature, an immersive exhibition evoking nature that occupies three floors at Cromwell Place, the upscale complex of galleries in South Kensington. Hanne Enemark and Louis Thompson of duo Enemark & Thompson are showing their organic glass sculptures, Maarten Vrolijk his blossom-inspired glass pieces and oil paintings and duo Hsiao-Chi Tsai and Kimiya Yoshikawa their metal sculptures, lighting and mixed-media works inspired by flora and fauna.

Mint, Mayfair

Long-established gallery Mint has been as influential as Vessel in popularising craft. Much of the work it shows is baroque, ornate, romantic and otherworldly – and, no, this is not adjectival overkill. Its show at LCW, called Trace, mixes work by Christophe Delcourt, Max Lipsey, Remy van Zandbergen, Simone Post and Ralf Gloudemans, among others. Lipsey’s soft-contoured metal lighting and shades feature iridescent finishes in muted shades, such as airforce-blue and rust. Van Zandbergen is exhibiting his idiosyncratic Alien collection of ceramic pieces with fragmented surfaces reminiscent of Italian Futurist or Cubist paintings. Gloudemans’ vases are reminiscent of curvy Classical amphora with wildly wobbly forms. Dispensing with subtle glazes in favour of unashamedly artificial surface decoration in the form of mottled spray paint, the latter appear to question notions of good and bad taste in a playful way.

London Craft Week runs from 13–19 May 2024

Read more:  Design Fairs | Design  | Art | Craft | CeramicsInterior Designers I Interiors