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Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters

'Undercover XIII' detail, cast glass with polished detail

We are surrounded by the word ‘craft’. What is it and why does it matter to us today?

The exhibition, Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters, aims to challenge preconceptions, spark interest and inspire debate around the role craft can play in culture, identity and society. The works are from some of the most exciting and diverse contemporary British-based makers, across fashion, textiles, woodwork, glass, ceramics, metalwork, furniture and paper. Useful/Beautiful is a multi-generational overview of excellence in craft today, demonstrating artistry in a unique way. Each room of the 18th century Treasure House will host a different exhibitor whose work responds in some way to their site, for example Andy Singleton’s paper sculptures will hang in the Main Library and Jenny King’s Irish embroidery will be shown alongside one of Erdem’s dresses in Princess Mary’s Dressing Room.

Across the stunning rooms of Harewood’s majestic country home, you’ll discover 26 of the finest individuals, workshops and brands that practice craft. From jeans to pocket knives, to reclaimed furniture to glass sculptures, every exhibitor has a story to tell. Useful/Beautiful will feature three commissioned, site specific works from renowned craft pioneers Anthony Burrill, Faye Toogood and Max Lamb.

Graphic artist Anthony Burrill will install a four-sided, six-metre high scaffold tower in front of the façade at Harewood, entitled: “WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN”. Burrill will cut and traditionally hand-print a sequence of statements on the four sides to encourage visitors to think about what craft represents beyond the physical object. More than just a spectacle, his tower sets the scene and pitches the tone for the exhibition.

Designer Faye Toogood will bring together the archives of her Toogood fashion label with the furniture of Studio Toogood to tell a rich story of contemporary British craftsmanship through the lens of her practice. Taking over the Gallery on Harewood’s State Floor, Toogood will fill the entire length of the room with standard industrial shelving, in stark contrast to the rich Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale interior. With over thirty furniture elements, clothing and objects, from one-offs to limited editions to small batch production, the collection represents a celebration of contemporary skills, and sparks an intriguing dialogue between past and present.

For the final commission, Max Lamb has designed a handmade rug from discarded Yorkshire wool for The Yellow Drawing Room as a celebration of local materials, skills and industry. More local still, Lamb is hand-dyeing the rug himself using natural dyes sourced from the abundant trees, plants and vegetables in the gardens and grounds of Harewood. Following considerable research, together with Harewood’s head gardener Trevor Nicholson, elements harvested include oak bark, birch bark, onions, ivy, mahonia and alder cones. Lamb will dye the wool himself in his studio using a combination of tie and dip-dyeing techniques.

Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters is open at Harewood House until 8 Septmber 2019. Crafts magazine proudly supports the exhibition as Media Partner.