Style | Need To Now

A designer-maker display in suitably attractive premises

Unapologetically ornate crafts that provide a decorative antidote to minimalism

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A designer-maker display in suitably attractive premises

May 17 2011
Dominic Lutyens

Anyone drawn to owning a highly individual or one-off piece made by a designer-maker will naturally gravitate to open-studios events. But these shows have added charm if the buildings they’re held in are atmospheric and historically interesting – as is the case with Made in Clerkenwell, mounted by Craft Central, an organisation that supports British designer-makers by, for example, providing affordable studio spaces. This selling exhibition will take place in studios housed in two handsome 19th-century buildings in Clerkenwell, London, from May 19 to 22.

The 33-35 St John’s Square premises, for example, were built mainly to provide “comfortable rooms for artisans”, as a periodical reported in 1880. “Visitors are free to roam around these two historic buildings,” says Sarah Hewett, Craft Central’s events manager.

The show will display homewares, ceramics, jewellery, fashion and traditional crafts (such as contemporary basket-weaving, the focus of a sideshow), produced by more than 90 designer-makers.

Aptly, given this setting’s Dickensian vibe, these designs veer towards the unapologetically decorative, even old-world. Take Ali Miller’s delicate bone-china tableware, which features neo-Victorian motifs with a surreal twist reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s animation for Monty Python: one of her bowls pictures a Victorian dame lying upside down on a horse (£30), while her Fun Ride sugar bowl (second picture, £40) depicts a woman riding a lizard.

Hetty Rose’s idiosyncratic shoes are wrapped in vintage Japanese kimono fabrics in unashamedly pretty tones such as lilac and apricot (£205). Then there are Abigail Brown’s overtly ornamental birds created with handmade textiles: her regal-looking peacock (first picture) costs £1,242. (She also makes smaller birds, from £90.) And Laura Felicity makes cards with stencil-like flowers and butterfly designs (£2.50 each).

Who knows – perhaps the studios’ magnificently Victorian architecture shapes these designer-makers’ ornate aesthetic? It might explain why minimalism seems firmly off their agenda.