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  • Banksia Vessels, Darren Appiagyei (In the Grainn). Photo: Renjoe Film

Darren Appiagyei

Darren Appiagyei completed the Crafts Council's Hothouse programme in 2019

Can you tell us a bit about your work?

My work is very much underpinned by a deep love and fascination with wood in its rawest form. With every vessel I make, it’s about embracing the intrinsic beauty of the wood; be it a crack, texture, knots or lack of symmetry. As a wood turner it’s about allowing the wood to speak for itself and enabling the inner beauty of the wood to shine.

Darren Appiagyei (In the Grainn)  making in his studio. Photo: Renjoe Film

Who or what got you into making?

I studied 3D design at UAL Camberwell College of the arts, which opened my eyes to many craft disciplines. I came across woodturning almost accidently. I had a unit in my second year where I had to develop a skill and the opportunist that I am, I saw that the lathe was free a lot of the time. The aim was to get my work done as soon as possible, so I could pursue that which is now my second passion: table tennis.

I learnt to woodturn through the help of YouTube and the technicians at UAL who observed my every movement, terrified that I would injure myself. I found the process very therapeutic and calming. It was amazing to see the wood from scratch turn into something functional at the time, considering my limited skill. It was the unraveling of the grains as I carved into the wood, the textures and learning the different densities of a variety of woods as I developed my woodturning skills. 

Darren Appiagyei (In the Grainn)  making in his studio. Photo: Renjoe Film

What are your inspirations?

It’s the little things we grow accustomed to, the intricate grain on your door house, the bark on a tree and the variation in textures on pavement. Inspiration is all around us it’s about being open to it. I believe nature has a way of vandalizing what has been manufactured, it’s like a flower that grows through concrete pavement, it shouldn’t be there, but it is with it’s overpowering beauty which shines so bright, a juxtaposition almost.  

Why did you apply to Hothouse in 2019?

I first heard about Hothouse through Majeda Clarke who is a woven textile artist and was at New designers one year in, which we both took part in. Majeda had taken part in hothouse and suggested I should apply. I felt very much encouraged when doing research to see the alumni of the previous hothouse members and the heights they have reached since taking part.   

I had been doing a lot of making and I had a build up of stock in my studio. And I just came to the realisation that I had been doing a lot of making but I wasn’t marketing effectively nor did I have a plan. I was just making towards exhibitions, hoping that I would make sales and I just felt Hothouse would give me direction and vision for the next stage of my business.

What was the most valuable thing you took from the Hothouse programme?

I learned to be open, to ask questions and more importantly to consistently learn and challenge myself. Throughout Hothouse we constantly had to do presentations, talks and group activities; it was just wonderful to hear about other craft makers practices and see how they navigate through problems in their business.  Hothouse ultimately is a community, a space to distress and communicate struggles and grow collectively as a group, not to mention having an abundance of knowledge and advice by the development Coordinator.

More importantly Hothouse provided me with various methods of structuring my business and also provided me the right tools to constantly assess my practice, as it grows further. I had gotten into the habit of making and not focusing on other aspects in my craft practice. Ultimately I gained clarity through the Hothouse sessions, even to the point where I now have a 2 and 5 year plan. I would have never thought a year ago, clammed up in my studio, with only my fleeting thoughts giving me a sense of direction, that I would have a strategic plan.  The Hothouse program is structured in a way to cater to the needs of a craft maker, which is few and far between with Cockpit Arts being an exception, in which I am part of.

Darren Appiagyei (In the Grainn). Photo: Jamie Trounce

Describe Hothouse in three words?

Practical, intense and enlightening

Who should apply to Hothouse and what would your top tip to them be?

Craft makers that are in their early stages of their business and are looking to take their business to the next level. Ideally the craft maker has set up their business for a year. The main character trait you need for hothouse is an open mind to be willing to learn and be challenged. I came to hothouse with an open mind and I soaked everything in whether it applied to me or not. With speakers within the Craft sector every scenario or issue you may be going through currently or in the future is addressed, no stone is left unchecked. 

Oak Burr Vessel, Darren Appiagyei (In the Grainn). Photo: Jamie Trounce

What are you doing next?

2019 has been a great year of exposure for me and it’s about capitalising on all the connection from the curators to galleries, building a rapport and sustaining it. More importantly it’s about spending time digesting everything that I have learnt during hothouse and building, in order to open new doors and also to get out of my comfort zone.

I am currently in a transition period, where I am planning to develop my signature piece, the banksia vessel through scaling up and explore further with textures and grains, which will be deputised during Cockpit Arts open studio at Christmas.

Find out more about Darren.