Craft is the new cool. How many craft beers are tickling the taste buds of trendies from New York to New Zealand right now? From craft beer to modern-rustic homes to country-casual hotels, across the globe we have fallen for all things home-made, upcycled, and – the holy grail – bespoke from the maker.
And so it is that London Craft Week returns to the capital for its second outing. Post-crash there was the well-documented ‘flight to quality’, where the provenance and craftsmanship of things counted for more than the label. This quickly filtered down into the public’s consciousness with the success of Bake-Off, Sewing Bee and Pottery Throw Down, along with BBC4’s Handmade. But the scope, scale and sheer fabulousness on display at London Craft Week demonstrates this is more than a reactionary fad.
“There is a new romance and interest in how things are created,” says its chairman Guy Salter. “The well-informed and well-travelled consumers are increasingly saying they are tired of seeing the same brands and shopping the same streets, and have a growing interest in the local, independent and non-branded.”
Any single page of the events catalogue is packed with curosities. There’s Weaving at the Ace Hotel; Wood, Fire & Food at CRAFT restaurant and bar (by uber-designer Tom Dixon) with hipster chef Stevie Parle, and Sebastian Tarek Open Studio. I confess I don’t know Sebastian Tarek’s work, but it says he is a specialist shoemaker with a workshop in E2, demonstrating the complete process of commissioning a pair of shoes. It’s the craft equivalent of browsing the treatments list of a luxury spa: a tingly pleasure in itself.
The handy printed directory is sectioned by North, South, East, West and Central, but it’s also indexed by type – demonstration, dinner, exhibition, film, talk, tour and workshop – and by discipline. The festival showcases how diverse these skills are, from mixing a scent, to gunmaking to calligraphy (with Professor Wang Dongling, no less), but also shows the scope of brands: Swiss watchmaker Vacheron Constantin is a founding partner (demonstrations Wed to Sat), and participants range from individual designer-makers to the grandes marques of Mulberry, Eres, Asprey, Chanel, David Mellor, Wedgwood, Linley … It’s a “carefully curated choice of the best of international craftsmanship and creativity, mixing the famous with the unknown,” Salter says.
And who knew that Roger Law, co-creator of Spitting Image, is now a ceramicist, working in China, and exhibiting this year at Five Ceramicists at Sladmore Contemporary in Mayfair? “I still draw all the time,” he tells me. “I find the ability of the carvers in Jingdezhen to help me to capture the verve and spirit of my drawings on the gorgeous celadon glazed pots nothing less than miraculous.” From Law’s hilariously ugly puppets to finding beauty and refinement in porcelain, the breadth and depth of craft is clear for all to see.
London Craft Week runs May 3-7, londoncraftweek.com. Follow us on Pinterest here.