Jump to navigation

Crafts Council

Home // News & Features // Then and Now
  • Pyramid II, Pauline Burbidge, 1980. Crafts Council Collection (T47) Photo: John Hammond

Then and Now

First Decade shows forty-five years of Crafts Council activity

As our Heritage Lottery funded First Decade project goes live today we had a look through the previously unseen gems from our archive.

One thing that struck us was the clear links between what we were doing in the first decade of our existence (1972-1982) and what we still do today. From ambitious exhibitions and creative collaborations to creating a platform for makers and introducing young people to the idea of a career in craft. 

The Craftsman's Art exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1975 featured 507 objects and the catalogue grew into a book with a historical view of craft in Britain. The exhibition itself was a huge success, attracting about 26,000 visitors in its first three weeks (including Prince Philip).

Thirty-six years later our partnership exhibition Power of Making attracted 360,000 visitors making it the second most visited free exhibition at the V&A. 

Image courtesy of the V&A

A list of venues for another early exhibition Colouring Metals includes many venues we still have strong connections with. 


Most notably Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and Shipley Art Gallery who were both collaborators on last year’s Acts of Making, but also Pallant House Gallery, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. 

Photo: Sophie Mutevelian

The 1980 exhibition Furniture Projects featured work by Erik de Graaff, Floris van de Broecke and David Colwell. All three feature in our current exhibition Inside Out.

And in 1979 an exhibition of work by Michael Brennand-Wood and Caroline Broadhead. 

Caroline’s Blue Rainbow bangle visible in the poster now features in our current exhibition I AM HERE.

Here the arched windows of the old Crafts Council Gallery in Waterloo Place provide the backdrop to a bold exhibition design.

Our collaborations with designers to create exciting ways to present exhibitions continues today and most recently we have worked with Mentsen, Abäke and BCMH. 

Crafting Narratives exhibition design by Abäke


A note from Paul Caton to Miranda Neave (former Curators of Crafts Council Collections) says “Now I’m on the Crafts Index I’m headed for stardom”. The Crafts Index featured a physical index housed in bespoke cabinets with information on makers selected by the Crafts Council.

Its 21st century successor is our new Directory which shows the work of makers to a global audience. 

A Crafts Council press office notice from October 1982 starts 'What kind of people does your child meet at school?'. The Meet the Makers tours took place from 1982 onwards and gave schoolchildren the chance to meet makers like Howard Raybould and Julia Manheim. At events across the UK (this notice for events in Clywd in Wales) the makers demonstrated their crafts, discussed their techniques and career structures. 


Over 40 years craft in education remains an ever more important area of our work in the face of the de-valuing of arts subjects on the curriculum. Following the launch of Our Future is in the Making: An Education Manifesto for Craft and Making in 2014 we started a new partnership with Inspiring the Future which gets makers into schools to inspire young people to consider craft as a future career. 


All of these archive items and more will be available online from the 23 February 2016

Read Next