Friday, 3 June 2011

Ask me how it's made...

Last night saw the opening of the exhibition Paper at Craft House Concept. Steph Marsden, the creative head behind Craft House Concept approached me back in February to discuss the curation of a series of exhibitions at the shop inspired by materials. As soon as she mentioned paper I did not need much persuading, it is such a fantastic and versatile material that I fell in love with a long time ago.

After an open call for submissions we received entries from all over the UK and even the odd suggestion from Europe. The entries excited and also challenged us we sorted through and brought out the best of the selection. Even more exciting though, was the moment the packages started to arrive at the shop last week.

The exhibition represents artists, designers and craftsmen who all work in some way with paper. Process is celebrated in the collection as each creator started with the same material but the results are varied and innovative, no two are alike. Even within the artists who cut paper there was great diversity. The exhibition includes work by Helen Snell, Turnhurst and Julie Linn using a laser cutter; Hannah Greenwood’s use of a Robocutter and hand cut work by Janine Partington and myself. 

The question floating around the room at the opening was definitively ‘just how was that made?’ Each method of cutting does end up with a linear slice through the material, however each device leaves a unique ghost on the finished piece. For laser cutting the burnt edges add character and scarring that add texture to the article. The robocutter leaves a smooth line, accurate and digital in nature. Hand cut work with a scalpel leaves a story told through the angle of the cuts, small snags and the linked branches holding an image together. All of these features are exploited and manipulated by artists to produce beautiful and unique results.

Claire de Ruiter moulded silk fibres to create a beautifully fragile and feminine pair of paper slippers. This contrasted with Rosalind Bunter’s moulded scissors and doll’s clothing made from white pulp. Hannah Lobley’s Paperwork series explores moulded paper treated with wood working practises to create robust and solid objects. Travelling bookbinder Rachel Hazell brought work that brought the traditional craft of bookbinding into clothing and jewellery. This reflects perfectly Steph’s vision of living with craft carried throughout the shop. Jenny Pope’s delicate vessels are built from porcelain paper clay. Paper plays a vital role in the making process of the artwork, however the material itself is burnt away in the firing process. In a similar case, Janine Partington uses paper cutting regularly in the process of vitreous enamelling however has only recently began to see the templates made as artworks in themselves.

As a natural researcher I am delighted when artwork inspires the kind of animated discussion we shared last night around the paper works. The subject of which pieces were Craft, which were Fine Art and what role design played was an important consideration as we arranged the artworks and worked out the relationship between the shop and the gallery space. Andy Singleton's colourful birds burst out of exhibition case to drift out in the shop reminding me that craft follows function and causes the same perpetual question I find popping up in book exhibitions on a regular basis; how do you display a functional object in the way it was destined, available to handle and use, and yet protect the fragile artwork. In a digital world I look forward to seeing where the future of paper lies and it fights for its place as a valuable material. I suspect it will not be retired to the box of cassette tapes and floppy disks quite yet.

Paper is on at Craft House Concept until Sunday 17 July.

Craft House Concept
31E Minto Street, Edinburgh
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 to 5 pm and Sunday 12 to 5 pm

Images to follow.

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