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  • Crochetdermy┬« Warthog, Shauna Richardson

Heading east with the Design Days Dubai makers

The makers heading out to Design Days Dubai talk to us about their hopes for the fair

How would you describe contemporary British craft?

Contemporary British craft can be restrained and less showy, often based on narratives and ideas, not afraid to be provocative with what might not be considered the territory of craft practice. Stefano Santilli

Makers crafting materials in exquisite ways, combining tradition with innovation. Rebecca Gouldson

British Craft is currently in transformation. Many of the artists working right now are looking for ways to challenge the concept of craft for both themselves and their audience, whilst embracing the traditions that drew them in initially. Simone Brewster


What do you like about the commissioning process?

Commissions often turn out to be a joint venture, and the process of collaboration can be liberating. The Very Very Unofficial Royal Portrait commission I undertook for the Guardian Weekend magazine was to depict a living member of the Royal family and I created a ginger baboon trophy based on Prince Harry. This was the first time I used Crochetdermy to create portraiture. Shauna Richardson

The commissioning process is always interesting, simply because each of your clients see your work in a personal way and asks you to respond not only to yourself but to their requirements. I am currently working on a very unusual commission to design a mobile museum, to be housed inside a cabinet. The client and I are both excited about how these two constraints can create something beautiful. Simone Brewster 

Commissioning brings unexpected projects, challenges and can therefore lead to fresh opportunities. Working on some lighting solutions for an interior designer quickly led to advising a new client in Dublin about architectural interventions on a grand scale. Stefano Santilli

Very simply, I love the challenge. Commissions lead me to research things about the world I’d never never normally have the opportunity to discover. My most unusual recent commission involved designing seven individual utility covers for Denbigh town centre. After a proud moment installing the last cover, a pigeon promptly ‘christened’ it.  Rebecca Gouldson


Who, what and where inspires you?

Inspiration can come from anywhere, more than anything it’s a state of mind; the state of looking and being open to reinterpretation or surprise from the everyday experience. I am very aware of the subjects that usually get me going, which are architecture, sculpture and jewellery from both Western and non-Western countries. Simone Brewster

Materials, processes, fashion, serendipity, students. Stefano Santilli

Artist-wise, I am a big fan of John Baldessari. Inspiration can come from anywhere – film, books, music, things misheard or half seen from a train window. Too many sources to keep up with. I suspect life will prove to be just that little bit too short. Shauna Richardson

I’m fascinated by industrial fabrication and cities have always been an inspiration to me; feeling dwarfed by towering skyscrapers, but at the same time fascinated by less salubrious areas, where decaying architectural surfaces reveal layers of history. Also, the idea of a city as a system captivates me. Rebecca Gouldson

Body Parts Series, Rebecca Gouldson. Photo: Sam Rhodes

What processes and materials do you use in your work?

I use acid-etching to make marks, textures and patterns in metal. Chemical patinas allow me to colour the different metals I use to create rich metallic surfaces. Rebecca Gouldson

I am very inquisitive about materials and processes, so my palette is very broad as a maker – everything from traditional gold leaf to CNC machining. Stefano Santilli

My work is entirely hands-on. I use the traditional craft of crochet in a not so traditional way and have developed my own freestyle technique which I use to respond to, and highlight, the anatomy of each piece as I go along. No two pieces are ever the same. It is meticulous work, typically using mohair yarn and a 3mm hook. Shauna Richardson


What could you not live without in your practice?

Within my practice I could not live without my books, or the other practioners, artists and designers I communicate with. Having a personal library to return to means that I can read and become knowledgeable about what touches me. I intend never to stop learning from those who have something to teach me about my practice. Simone Brewster

My studio – I’m so happy when I’m there. It’s not just the work it facilitates, but the people it puts me in contact with. I’m really lucky to be part of the co-operatively run Centrespace studios in Bristol, a talented and friendly bunch of professional creatives. Rebecca Gouldson

Music, battery drill. Stefano Santilli

I would struggle without radio 4. For a short time after working on a piece, as I walk around it I can hear a replay of whatever I was listening to at the time when I was making it. Daylight, I do love a window. And tea. Shauna Richardson


What are your hopes for going out to Dubai?

I hope to gain interest in my work from dealers and collectors to make valuable contacts. I hope to have opportunities to discuss the contemporary issues of making and of disseminating ideas around craft practice amongst colleagues from the British contingent and among the fellow exhibitors. Stefano Santilli

My hopes are to meet new people, and clients, to expand ways of working and areas of the world to work in. I haven’t taken part in anything like Design Days Dubai before, it will be a new experience, I like those. Shauna Richardson

I’m really looking forward to being absorbed in a culture I’ve never experienced before. I’m looking forward to seeing the show; absorbing the high quality work. From a business point of view, I’m hoping to meet art consultants, interior designers and potential clients at the show with a view to doing some exciting projects in the UAE. I’m currently growing the scale of what I’m making and some of the new buildings in Dubai may provide an ideal space to place these larger pieces. Rebecca Gouldson

It will be my first time in the UAE after teaching many design students from that region. Primarily I hope to enjoy the experience of visiting somewhere new. It would be ideal to make contact with galleries or individuals who might be inspired or interested in commissioning me or working with me in the future on new projects. However I imagine that the experience will live with me just as long as any of the pieces I go on to make. Simone Brewster