Updates from Rosy Greenlees
1 June 2012
The Wedgwood Collection: fears continue for historic collection
In 1774, the first Josiah Wedgwood wrote: ‘I have often wish’d I had saved a single specimen of all the new articles I have made, & would now give twenty times the original value for such a collection. For ten years past I have omitted doing this, because I did not begin it ten years sooner. I am now, from thinking, and talking a little more upon this subject … resolv’d to make a beginning.’
It was a comment that sowed the seeds of a collection that is now on UNESCO’s list of the top 20 items representing the outstanding heritage of the UK, including 10,000 pieces and over 100,000 documents and manuscripts. Officially dating from 1906, it was packed away after the outbreak of World War II until 1952. A new visitor centre was introduced in 1975 and, in 2008, the present Wedgwood Museum was opened, winning the Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries in 2009.
I mention all this because, as I am sure you will know, the collection is threatened with being broken up and sold in the light of an £134 million shortfall in the Waterford Wedgwood Potteries pension fund. It appears that legislation introduced with the best intentions of protecting pensioners could cause the downfall of a significant part of our national heritage and, indeed, have dire consequences for collections elsewhere.
Speaking to Reuters, Wedgwood Museum’s director Gaye Blake Roberts said she was ‘determined to do absolutely anything’ to save the collection; Tristram Hunt, historian and MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘For Stoke, the dispersal of the Wedgwood collection would be an act of cultural vandalism. Its demise would be to strike at the very meaning of the Potteries.’ However, the Attorney General has said there will be no appeal against the Court’s decision that the collection can be sold.
It is our fervent hope that a solution can be found to keep the collection intact and on public display. As Blake-Roberts pointed out when we spoke recently, this is more than a wonderful collection of ceramics. Josiah Wedgwood successfully combined craft, science, innovation and business, showing that craft can spill over into other sectors and that the combination of creativity and material expertise can bring huge value to industry.
The debate continues. To show your support, sign up to the Save Wedgwood Twitter campaign @SaveWedgwood or go to www.savewedgwood.org
COLLECT 2012 demonstrates the strength of contemporary craft
On a happier note, neither torrential rain, hail nor the “Euro-crisis” had any impact on COLLECT at the Saatchi Gallery with over 9,000 visitors over four days in May, and sales at close-of-show estimated conservatively at £1.5m.
Exhibitors included 31 galleries from 11 countries with many reporting record sales figures, including UK based Joanna Bird, whose sale of two large-scale installations by Pippin Drysdale totalled almost £80,000, and Japan’s Yufuku Gallery which sold the majority of its works in the first two days.
Art Fund Collect, our partnership with the Art Fund enabled five UK public collections to purchase outstanding contemporary craft worth £75,000 in total while several other museums purchased objects for their own collections. Read more here.
COLLECT also provided the venue for the London launch of our latest touring exhibition Raw Craft: fine thinking in contemporary furniture alongside an opportunity to present new Crafts Council Collection acquisitions and, in the Project Space, ten large-scale installations by individual artists with a focus on textiles and furniture. With a packed programme of panel discussions, screenings, tours and booth talks, the Saatchi’s immaculate spaces were buzzing throughout.
Online, we celebrated COLLECT with a special Object of the Day feature which saw pieces selected by 20 organisations (including DCMS, ACE, Design Museum, and Design Week) on Pinterest and Facebook.
The catalogue featured some exceptional articles by contributors including Charles Leadbetter, Tanya Harrod, Glenn Adamson and Emma Crichton-Miller touching on definitions of luxury in the 21st century, the current public re-enchantment with making, the political resonance of the “hand-made” and the secondary market for craft.
If that’s whetted your appetite for the real thing, you can still buy it here!
Our Crafts Council patrons enjoyed an exclusive tour by Beatriz Chadour, renowned author of many books on jewellery, curator of the V&A’s William and Judy Bollinger Jewellery Gallery and visiting tutor at the Royal College of Art who was on the selection panel for COLLECT 2012 and the trustees and I were delighted to have the chance to meet up with them afterwards for drinks during the “early access” private view.
British Business Embassy spotlights contemporary craft
Following several months as a member of the Creative Panel for the British Business Embassy, I am delighted that this exciting project has now been formally unveiled.
Developed by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the British Business Embassy is the centrepiece of the Government’s international business legacy programme for the Olympics and Paralympics and will see over 3,000 UK and international business leaders come together for a series of summits with speakers including Christine Lagarde, Eric Schmidt, Sir Jonathan Ive, Howard Stringer and Daniel Ek.
The 19th century Lancaster House will be transformed to showcase art and design from new and established designers, photographers, furniture makers, and sculptors alongside sound art and visual installations in eighteen rooms highlighting the talents of British or British-trained designers and manufacturers. An art re-hang will be overseen by the Government Art Collection and Whitechapel Gallery and the Crafts Council will present a selection of pieces including objects from the Collection, highlighting the innovative contemporary craft currently being produced across the UK.
Read more here.
Craft in an Age of Change workshops
We have now held the first two of our workshops around the country in association with the CraftNet network presenting highlights from Craft in an Age of Change, discussing the findings and sharing ideas about their implications for the future development of contemporary craft. Read more here and book for one of the dates in June or July.
Our professional development activity takes many forms. Recently, we launched a new strand, Injection, providing tailored support, guidance, networking and mentoring to mid-career makers alongside the opportunity to apply to Arts Council England’s newly launched Creative Industry Finance, while Place-Making, our Test Case in partnership with Kent Architecture Centre brought makers, architects and students together for an intense few days in March at Chatham’s Historic Dockyard hosted by University of Kent School of Arts.
Injection is initially launched in the London region alongside Creative Industry Finance. See more here and here.
Crafts Magazine was given “privileged access” to the Place-Making Test Case.
Craft Club Cinema Knit-Alongs
With just one of our four Craft Club’s Cinema Knit-alongs to go, our Craft Club film is now online. Watch, enjoy and Pass it On – inspire a young person you know to get involved in craft… The final Cinema Knit-along, supported by Arts Council England takes place in Norwich in September.
Out and About
There was still time to get out and about in the run-up to COLLECT. Events included the World Crafts Council board meeting in Brussels, the CHEAD conference which focussed this year on the socio-economic impact of art and design and the Museum of Skills conference where Maker Development Manager Beatrice Mayfield and I led break-out groups that produced lively discussions on apprenticeships.
Read From Cell to System – Making Innovation Work our CHEAD “touchpaper” here.
I attended the first meeting of the Skills Commission Enquiry into specialisation in public and private further education, co-chaired by Dame Ruth Silver and Barry Sheerman MP, the Schools to Work Commission, also chaired by Barry Sheerman and the first meeting of the Craft Skills Award advisory panel organised by Creative & Cultural Skills. With our Chair, Joanna Foster, I also met Baroness Whitaker, Chair of the Design Commission to discuss shared concerns over the future of design and craft education.
Issues emerging from these meetings included startling estimates of future unemployment amongst 16 – 19 year olds, less because of slow economic growth than because of changes in the jobs market, and highlighting the difference in some European countries (Germany, the Netherlands) where the focus on practical learning and vocational courses produces a far better transition from school to employment, contributing to lower unemployment. This reinforces our firmly-held view that craft and making have huge learning benefits, combining practical and academic to demonstrable effect. I look forward to further sessions of all three, particularly the Craft Skills Award which could provide an extraordinary opportunity to profile the application of craft skills across a spectrum of activity from traditional craft to the use of technology, and from studio craft to the skills of makers working in other sectors.
I had useful meetings with representatives of V&A at Dundee, Crafts Council of Ireland, Craft Northern Ireland and Design Flanders and continued our regular liaison with Creative & Cultural Skills, UK Trade & Industry and the British Council; colleagues attended the Cultural Industries Development Agency conference, the Design Council’s forum on Measuring the Impact of Design and the AHRC’s workshop on the same subject.. It is always a pleasure to see exhibitions where great contemporary craft is the focus, including Wendy Ramshaw’s Room of Dreams, the V&A’s British Design 1948 – 2012, and Inspired by India curated by Janice Blackburn, and in a different vein, the relaunch of the National Trust’s Octavia Hill Awards, marking the centenary of her death with a new collection of essays, The Enduring Relevance of Octavia Hill, including our reflections on the power of making.
Download the collection here.
Looking ahead, I am particularly looking forward to Making Places: branding a craft town which we are co-hosting on 14 June as part of our regular series with Craftnet and to welcoming delegates of WCC Europe which will be holding its annual General Assembly in London and electing a new Board and President.