Do you need a stunning centrepiece for the coffee table? Or a trio of pots for the console, or a stunning piece of art glass for a spot-lit plinth? This weekend the Collect fair at the Saatchi Gallery, the “Frieze” of the craft world, brings 37 galleries together from across the globe in a selling exhibition of exuberant texture and form.
Presented by the Crafts Council over all three floors, Collect 2017, is even bigger and bolder in its 13th year. Interest in UK craft is soaring and already worth £3.4bn. Artists from the UK are joined by those from France, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Japan, Korea and the USA.
Plus, there’s a curated showcase on the top floor, Collect Open, presenting installations created for the show by 14 experimental makers who are pushing the boundaries between craft and fine art. Venture upstairs and they will happily chat to you about their inspiration and techniques.
Downstairs, wander the white rooms filled with organic-looking sea creatures, glass that acts as prisms into curious worlds, myriad vessels (of course) with curves, delicacy, transparency, reflection, solidity, fractures; discover wall art, pottery with folds, and wood that looks like ceramics. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave of investment pieces, costing anything from £200 to £150,000, although a budget of £3,500 to £4,500 will serve you well.
In Collect Open, I was fascinated to talk to Italian maker Domitilla Biondi about her hanging circular paper cuts. Dangling delicately from wooden pegs, each piece is handcarved by Biondi from ordinary watercolour board – she uses a scalpel to cut into the surface and lift it a fraction to create patterns. Each is inspired by her thoughts in that moment, a meditation, a “prayer of gratitude”.
Also on the top floor hang a pair of vibrant contemporary tapestries by Grayson Perry, which have been bought for the National Collection for Contemporary Craft. Entitled The Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope (2015), they tell the story of an Essex everywoman in scenes of modern life.
The Essex House Tapestries took months to sketch, between four and six weeks to draw on a computer, three months to adapt and prepare for weaving, four days to thread onto the loom, but just five hours to weave. They follow in the tradition of the great European storytelling tapestries, such as the one at Bayeux.
Only here it is not a great historical moment that is recorded but the life of a woman from Essex who gets run over by a delivery moped – we wouldn’t have expected anything less from Grayson Perry.
With The Great Pottery Throw Down back on our screens this week, the appeal of craft is only going to get stronger. Whereas the contemporary art scene might feel a bit cold and uncompromising at times, craft appeals to our senses and our shared enjoyment of, simply, making things.
Collect runs until Monday at the Saatchi Gallery. City A.M. readers can book a ticket for £14 (standard price £18) and receive 50 per cent off the show catalogue at collect17.org.uk with the code City17