London Galleries Feature Unusual, Upscale Crafts

Contemporary Applied Arts is the ultimate London gallery for unusual and exceptional hand crafted items. It flourishes through presenting cutting-edge themed exhibitions of every possible facet of crafts.

Contemporary Arts' spring 2010 crafts show was devoted exclusively to an apian theme, which was chosen very deliberately, given the enormous ecological importance of bees. Twenty-seven craftspeople were invited to contribute to the show, with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to the British Beekeepers’ Association.

Themes included:

• The physical structure and persona of bees

• The bees' environment: the hive and the comb

• Bee-havior: pollination

• Threats to the bee environment and continued existence

The intricate makeup of the honeycomb was an important theme. Curator Wendy Ramshaw made a table of steel, incorporating a pattern of honeycombs. In an allusion to Colony Collapse Disorder, one crafter constructed an elaborate basket that casts the shadow of a comb.

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Artisan Zoe Arnold crafted a large floor display of porcelain bees. A mosaicist created a conceptual display, in which man is interfering with the natural order of bee development. On a lighter note, fabric artists created apian tapestries

In addition to the ingenious exhibit, attendees were educated about bees and the pastime of beekeeping. Perhaps the most important item sold were seeds of plants that attract bees. “Bees are vital to humans and inspirational to the artist,” Ramshaw concluded.

Britain’s Crafts Council recently proved that the modern crafts marketplace is as dynamic as ever, despite the global recession. They sponsored an international fair called Collect at the Saatchi Gallery, which is known for its one-of-a-kind contemporary crafts. Saatchi’s items are sought after by renowned museums, as well as private acquisitors. Museums acquiring items at this event are subsidized by two British organizations, to the tune of 75,000 pounds.

Collect proved to be a venue for countries and cultures to exchange pieces. Italian jewel smiths sold to the Scottish and the Swiss. In addition to jewelry, he objets included oversized ceramic vases and gourds. Sculptures of steel and glass were purchased for a craft gallery and Wales museum, respectively.

The Victoria & Albert Museum purchased a lyrical glass piece called Free Essence-6, by Niyoko Ikuta. This artist “employs harshness of material and severity of process to achieve a remarkable sense of fluidity and sensuality.” The piece, made of laminated and sliced plate glass, displays swooping geometric shapes.

Ikuta stated that she derives her inspiration from such contrasting sources as emotions, music, civil unrest and the kinetic energy of space. She is fascinated by light reflecting on glass.

Britain’s Crafts Council’s mission is to nurture and develop contemporary handicrafts. England is keen to be perceived as the premiere location for creating, observing and collecting such crafts.

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