The primary Collection was initiated in 1972 to document trends and innovation in the materials, processes, skills and technologies of contemporary craft and is now the UK’s foremost collection of contemporary craft. With over 1,600 objects, the primary Collection provides a distinctive, authoritative view of contemporary craft in its widest sense, from its interface with cutting-edge design to its crossover with visual art.
Objects in the collections date from 1972 to present day and cover all craft disciplines including: ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, metalwork, jewellery, lettering and bookbinding.
Some of the first purchases for the collections in the early 1970s were from studio potters such as Bernard Leach, Hans Coper and Lucie Rie. As the Collection has evolved it has embraced new technologies and digital developments in making, seen in the work of Michael Eden, Drummond Masterton and Geoffrey Mann. It also includes conceptual craft such as works by Barnaby Barford, Naomi Filmer and Paul Scott. Recent acquisitions have included works by textile artist Esna Su, ceramic sculptor Lawson Oyekan and jewellery artist Lin Cheung.
The handling Collection was started in 1979 to support the gallery education programme in place at the time. Many of the objects in this collection are accompanied by samples, sketches, books and background material.
The current collecting policy prioritises original work that embodies rich learning potential, especially in its physical and tactile qualities for handling, as well as makers’ conceptual or narrative approaches. There has always been an emphasis on acquiring works by makers who have been involved in key Crafts Council projects, programmes and specific exhibitions, and whose work is relevant to Crafts Council goals and research interests.
Recent acquisitions to the Handling Collection include works by textile artist Yemi Awosile and artist Jasleen Kaur.