Crafts' pick of the best titles out this year
We've unwrapped our edit of 2019's best craft books covering everything from how-to titles to stunning photobooks.
Islamic Art: Architecture, Painting, Calligraphy, Ceramics, Glass, Carpets
The subheading of this weighty volume gives a sense of the sheer breadth it covers in its survey of three continents across 14 centuries. Thematic essays contextualising metalwork and miniatures, carpets and ceramics are accompanied by over 400 photographs.
Women in Design From Aino Aalto to Eva Zeisel
One hundred female designers, artists and makers working across the last century form the focus of this celebratory A-Z. Figures who enjoy global fame are placed alongside forgotten pioneers that the authors believe are deserving of greater recognition.
Vitamin T: Threads and Textiles in Contemporary Art
A survey of 100 contemporary fine artists working with textiles, this addition to Phaidon’s Vitamin series aims to ‘unravel’ categories, ‘unpick’ divisions, and ‘weave together new patterns of thinking about art’. Critics and curators each nominated one artist, whom they were then tasked to encapsulate in only 500 words.
A Celebration of British Craftsmanship
Not many books bear the royal seal of approval, but this title published by the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust is an exception. Photographic portraits and potted biographies of 100 craftspeople supported by QEST over the last 30-odd years give a characterful flavour of the rich diversity of craft in the UK.
Crafting Dissent Handicraft as Protest from the American Revolution to the Pussyhats
The famous hand-knitted ‘pussyhats’ that greeted Donald Trump after his election were just one example in a long history of craft being used for political subversion. A diverse range of contributors offer a global perspective on the topic.
Among a swathe of books published to mark the radical German design school’s centenary year, this title lays claim to being the definitive work. First published in 1990, the updated edition has more than 550 illustrations and offers a deep dive into the extraordinarily influential – but short-lived – creative community.
This beautifully produced photo-book on stonemasonry would grace any coffee table (particularly if it so happened to be marble or granite). Ranging far and wide across time and space – from Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, to cutting edge contemporary architecture – Stone acts as a visual love letter to its titular material.
A compendium of crafts: new, old, and forgotten ‘Making is thinking’, Richard Sennett once declared. With this quote as the book’s epigraph, you would be forgiven for expecting an intellectual thesis. Instead, Crafted is a joyful romp across craft in all its glorious variety, illustrated with bold graphics in a colourful retro style.
The Beauty of Everyday Things
These new translations of essays by the influential Japanese poet, art historian and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi are a defence of the humble handmade object. Written between 1920-60, they speak of a time when the Mingei movement was busy changing public perceptions of folk craft, from the mundane to the magical.
By Soetsu Yanagi. Published by Penguin Classics, £7.99 pb
The Story of Tools
Twenty-five implements, each chosen by a craftsperson, are profiled in a series of what are, in effect, odes penned by the maker to their favourite tool. Grouped into three sections – Wood and Stone; Earth, Metal and Glass; Material, Cloth and Decoration – it celebrates the oftenoverlooked beauty of the humble tool.
Gifts for fledgling crafters
This introduction to basketry combines the origins of the craft with practical projects. The author explores the history of basket-making via her Senegalese background, alongside 15 how-to guides to create contemporary homeware.
Contemporary Paper Marbling Design and Technique
Paper marbling is an ‘endangered craft’ at risk of being forgotten. Author Lucy McGrath, founder of marbling brand Marmor Paperie, describes this beautifully illustrated and comprehensive practical guide as being part of her ‘mission’ to teach its techniques to a new generation.
From Clay to Kiln: A beginner’s guide to the potter’s wheel
Stuart Carey, ceramist and founder of open-access studios The Kiln Rooms, offers this step-by-step guide to each part of the pottery process. From wedging clay and throwing to mixing glazes and firing, every stage is lavishly illustrated with photos and clear, concise captions.
Dorodango. The Japanese Art of Making Mud Balls
In Japan, hikaru dorodango is a childhood pastime. Soil is mixed with water and, through a meditative, multi-stage process, shining spheres are conjured from the lowliest of materials. This how-to book introduces the practice, and offers some wholesome family entertainment.
Mark-Making Through the Seasons: Textile Art Inspiration and Techniques
Quilter and artist Helen Parrott encourages aspiring makers to observe their local environment in order to create artworks reflective of seasonal changes across the year. She covers hand- and machine-stitch techniques, appliqué, blackwork, dyeing and piecing.