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12 craft books for beating isolation boredom

What to read when stuck at home

To help you through a period of self-imposed isolation during the Coronavirus outbreak, Crafts magazine has put together a reading list covering all things arts, craft and design. For more, pick up a copy of our current issue, or explore our searchable online archive – that's 283 issues, spanning all the way back to 1973.

Contemporary Ceramic Art. Published by Thames & Hudson

Contemporary Ceramic Art

The latest coffee table book to join the medium-specific, craftmeets-art publishing bandwagon, this offering distinguishes itself by its internationalism. Alongside more familiar names such as Carolein Smit, Claire Partington, Barnaby Barford and Beth Cavener, many of its 80-odd ceramic artists will likely be new to a UK audience, with a particular preponderance of French makers and figurative sculptors.

By Charlotte Vannier and Véronique Pettit Laforet. Published by Thames & Hudson, £35 pb

Cloth that Changed the World: The Art and Fashion of Indian Chintz. Published by Yale UP

Cloth that Changed the World: The Art and Fashion of Indian Chintz

This scholarly yet sumptuous book covers over a thousand years of the history of printed and painted cotton in its 300-plus pages, which are lightened by lavish illustrations. Published to coincide with a show at the Royal Ontario Museum (4 April – 27 September), essays range from sacred wall hangings in Indonesia and luxury dress in 18th-century Europe, to blockprinting in high fashion today.

Edited by Sarah Fee. Published by Yale UP, £35 hb

Bernard Leach: Life and Work. Published by Paul Mellon Centre/Yale UP

Bernard Leach: Life and Work

First published in 2003, Emmanuel Cooper’s classic biography of the man often dubbed ‘the father of British studio pottery’ has been republished in time for the centenary of the Leach Pottery, which Leach co-founded with the Japanese potter Shoji Hamada in St Ives. Coming in at over 400 dense pages, sprinkled liberally with footnotes, this is a deep dive into the man and the myth, exploring both his pioneering role and continuing legacy.

By Emmanuel Cooper. Published by Paul Mellon Centre/Yale UP, £30 pb

Our Isles: Poems celebrating the art of rural trades and traditions. Published by Published by Pavilion

Our Isles: Poems celebrating the art of rural trades and traditions

This unusual project explores countryside crafts in two ways: poetry and printmaking. Each of Angus Birditt’s 30 poems focuses on a single occupation – from blacksmith to farrier, thatcher to drystone waller – and are accompanied by Lilly Hedley’s characterful monochrome linocuts. The pair run a foraged food business in North Wales, which helps give a personal flavour to this celebration of all things rural.

By Angus D. Birditt and Lilly Hedley. Published by Pavilion, £9.99 hb

Flowering Desert: Textiles from Sindh. Published by Paul Holberton Publishing

Flowering Desert: Textiles from Sindh

A treat for the eyes, this book showcases the textiles of south-eastern Pakistan, presenting dyeing, printing, weaving, mirror-work and embroidery in the context of individual items worn in everyday life. It draws on a private collection, parts of which have been shown at the V&A and National Museum of Scotland. Alongside the images are essays on the history of the region, its tribes and their differing styles, shedding light on a textile tradition that is among the oldest in South Asia.

By Nasreen and Hasan Askari. Published by Paul Holberton Publishing, £30 hb

Satyendra Pakhalé: Culture of Creation. Published by Nai010 Publishers

Satyendra Pakhalé: Culture of Creation

This monograph charts the oeuvre of the Indian designer, who has worked in Amsterdam for the past 20 years. Pakhalé’s work marries industrial production and traditional crafts, striving to evoke the tactile qualities of the latter that have been eroded through mass consumerism. Essays on the culture of making, poetic analogy, perception, sensorial design, atmosphere, social modernity, craftsmanship, technology and more shed light on his world view.

Published by Nai010 Publishers, £48 hb

Ernest Gimson: Arts & Crafts Designer and Architect. Published by Yale University Press

Ernest Gimson: Arts & Crafts Designer and Architect

Furniture designer John Makepeace said that Gimson’s work was ‘rooted in the social values espoused by [William] Morris, while anticipating the aesthetics of Modernism’. The text-heavy book runs through the designer-maker’s interest in architecture, furniture, metalwork, plaster decoration, embroidery and more, contextualising it against the Arts and Crafts movement and Morris himself.

By Annette Carruthers, Mary Greensted and Barley Roscoe. Published by Yale University Press, £50 hb

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years. Published by Thames & Hudson

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years

Perry and his two editors look back at the artist’s early years, at the work that made his name between 1982 and 1994 and the emergence of his distinctive identity as ‘the transvestite potter’. Particular focus is on the plates, pots and sculptures that laid the foundations of his career and the influences that fed into his work. The book accompanies a show at Bath’s Holburne Museum that opened in January, before touring to York and Norwich.

Edited by Catrin Jones and Chris Stephens. Published by Thames & Hudson, £19.85 laminated

Hannah Ryggen: Threads of Defiance. Published by Thames & Hudson

Hannah Ryggen: Threads of Defiance

The Swedish-Norwegian modern artist, who died in 1970, was best known for her monumental, politically charged tapestries, which reflected her feminist views, her communist sympathies and her opposition to fascism even before the Second World War. Marit Paasche’s detailed analysis explores the artist’s move from painting to textiles, her participation in the Venice Art Biennale in 1964, as well as her influences and personal hardships, shining light on this often neglected practitioner.

By Marit Paasche. Published by Thames & Hudson, £24.95, hardback


Hat: Origins, Language, Style. Published by Reaktion Books

Hat: Origins, Language, Style

From crowns, turbans and bonnets, the hat is given a turning over in this thorough text, with chapters examining its history, its ties with fashion, the making process and its public image. The hat differs from most items of clothing because it has only a tenuous relationship with the human body, which leaves ample room for examining its sculptural and performative qualities, as well as its links to power, status and tradition – all of which are explored here.

By Drake Stutesman. Published by Reaktion Books, £18, hardback

Mrinalini Mukherjee. Published by The Shoestring Publisher

Mrinalini Mukherjee

Accompanying Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee, the first US retrospective of the Indian artist, this series of essays explores her use of materials and the craft-based educational experiences that laid the foundations of her practice. A series of images trace the evolution of her fibre-based work in the 1970s through to her experiments with ceramics and bronze from the 1990s, explaining a body of work that fuses craft traditions, modern design and sculpture.

Edited by Shanay Jhaveri. Published by The Shoestring Publisher, $60, hardback

Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry. Published by Rizzoli

Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry

Following the popularity of the 2006 film Blood Diamond, growing awareness of the connection between conflict and the diamond trade has brought the ethics of jewellery into ever-sharper relief. Written by the founding editor of the website BIJOUXreview, this is the first title to offer an overview of the topic, and profiles 15 international designers who are refashioning jewellery through more conscientious approaches.

By Kyle Roderick. Published by Rizzoli, $65 hardback

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