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15 of the best craft books to buy for Christmas

A selection of some of our favourite tomes this year

New Wave Clay: Ceramic Design, Art and Architecture

Design-led works by 55 ceramists from around the globe are marshalled into
four sections – Joy, Simplicity, Structure and Nostalgia – in this new publication on the clay revival. Interspersed are contributions by Sarah Griffin, Hella Jongerius, Edmund de Waal and Grayson Perry, on topics including craft and industry and the decorative pot.

By Tom Morris. Published by Frame, €39 hardback

I Thought About It in My Head and I Felt It in My Heart but I Made It with My Hands

Perhaps surprisingly, given his popularity, this is the first monograph devoted to the work of papercut artist Rob Ryan. Beautifully produced, and edited by the artist himself, it includes hundreds of artworks from his 30-year career, as well as short texts penned by Ryan to shed light on his creative approach.

By Rob Ryan. Published by Rizzoli, £35 hardback

Encountering Things

How and why should we think about the objects we live with? Leading design scholars aim to make ‘thing theory’ accessible and relevant to design practitioners and educators via a range of case studies, from an Eames chair to the broken needles celebrated each year by professional needleworkers in Japan. 

Edited by Leslie Atzmon. Published by Bloomsbury, £22.99 paperback

The Shape of Craft

A wide-ranging discussion of the questions that shape our understanding of craft by Ezra Shales, who eschews the usual discourse and theorising and examines afresh craft’s tactile and material qualities. Includes the author’s impassioned defence of basketry, salvaged ‘from the basement of Western civilization where it has been... tossed’.

By Ezra Shales. Published by Reaktion Books, £20 hardback

Making Things Right

The story of a loft conversion in an Oslo suburb told through the eyes of a master carpenter turned author. Ole Thorstensen has three decades’ experience working with his hands, and readers are supplied with his minute attention to detail, plus reflections on the value of manual skill.

By Ole Thorstensen, translated by Sean Kinsella. Published by MacLehose Press, £16.99 hardback

Designed in the USSR 1950–1989

Drawing from Moscow Design Museum, this survey of objects from behind the Iron Curtain explores a period in design’s history that has been largely overlooked. But, as Justin McGuirk points out in his introduction, there are ample lessons – about sustainability and responsible design – available from a civilisation that ‘placed less stock on material things’.

Published by Phaidon, £24.95 hardback


Published to coincide with Garry Fabian Miller’s tapestry project with Dovecot Studios (see Crafts no. 270, Jan/Feb 2018), this exquisitely produced book plots the evolution of his camera-less photography practice, with an essay by Tanya Harrod tracing the intricacies of the tapestry’s development and creation.

By Garry Fabian Miller. Published by HackelBury Fine Art, £20 paperback

Craft Economies

A collection of essays taking a scholarly look at contemporary craft production around the world, placing professional and amateur practice within the broader creative economy. Look out for contributions by Ezra Shales and the Crafts Council’s head of research and policy Julia Bennett.

Edited by Susan Luckman and Nicola Thomas. Published by Bloomsbury, £91.80 hardback

Making is Connecting

For its revised second edition, David Gauntlett continues his exploration of the ways the internet and digital technologies help to promote a valuable ‘making and doing’ culture, and argues why these examples of everyday, even trivial acts of creativity might signal a ‘real political shift in how we deal with the world’.

By David Gauntlett. Published by Polity Books, £15.99 paperback

Enid Marx: The Pleasures of Pattern

Following Andy Friend’s recent consideration of Eric Ravilious and the ‘outbreak of talent’ at the RCA in the 1920s, Alan Powers considers one associated figure – Enid Marx – in depth, drawing from her extensive archive of hand-blocked fabrics and illustrations to give a comprehensive overview of her achievements in print and pattern.

By Alan Powers. Published by Lund Humphries, £40 hardback

Max Lamb: Exercises in Seating

Presenting over a decade of Max Lamb’s experimental practice, foregrounding the designer’s interest in materials and the making process. Originally published to accompany a solo show at the Art Institute of Chicago, it includes
a conversation between Lamb and the artist Ryan Gander.

By Zoë Ryan. Published by AIC/Yale University Press, $30 paperback

Design as an Attitude

Design historian and curator Alice Rawsthorn examines ways in which designers are responding to changes of unprecedented scale and speed, from the staggering ambition of engineering student Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup project to Talking Hands, a migrant-run design workshop in Treviso, Italy.

By Alice Rawsthorn. Published by JRP Ringier, £16 paperback

When Artists Curate: Contemporary Art and the Exhibition as Medium

Art historian and curator Alison Green takes a closer look at the growing appetite for shows curated by artists, moving exhibition-making away from the management of collections and into the realm of artistic medium. In-depth examples include textile artist Rosemarie Trockel’s 2012 touring show, A Cosmos.

By Alison Green. Published by Reaktion Books, £17.95 paperback

Verner Panton

A new monograph dedicated to one of Denmark’s most prominent post-war designers, famed for his experiments using synthetic materials, including his instantly recognisable S chair made from a single piece of moulded plastic. Includes sketches, archival material and insight into his playful use of pattern and colour.

By Ida Engholm and Anders Michelsen. Published by Phaidon, £69.95 hardback

The Erotic Cloth: Seduction & Fetishism in Textiles

Billed as ‘the first critical examination of the erotically charged relationship between the surface of the skin and the touch of cloth’, this is an eclectic mix of essays, from a treatment of fetish and punk to the role of soft surfaces in the blockbuster Blade Runner.

Edited by Alice Kettle and Lesley Millar. Published by Bloomsbury, £27 flexibound

Why Materials Matter

An anthology of projects criss-crossing art, design and science that point to the possibility of a new dawn for our material world. Seetal Solanki, author and founder of the pioneering agency Ma-tt-er, offers insight into everything from microalgae to the material properties of light.

By Seetal Solanki. Published by Prestel Publishing, £39.99 hardback