The Power of Making

This exhibition, a collaboration between the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Crafts Council, presents an eclectic range of objects,  including various textiles, made by both amateurs and professionals.

Some use traditional techniques in unexpected ways, like Shauna Richardson’s crochetdermy bear, or Christien Meindertsma‘s knitted Aran rugs, requiring custom-made needles nearly 2 metres long:

I was particularly struck by a machine-embroidered snowflake made by Ellis Developments in polyester suture thread.  This delicate structure is actually a surgical implant – it provides multiple attachment points for replacing lost tissue:

Other exhibits feature unusual materials. For example, Sabrina Gschwandtner made a quilt from 16mm film stock, sewn together with polyamide thread:

On a similar theme, Alyce Santoro produced a dress woven from audio tape and polyester thread. Apparently, if you drag the magnetic head from a tape player (remember those?) along the fabric, it emits a garbled, underwater-type sound.

And then there was Elisa Strozyk‘s fascinating wooden textile, made by applying tessellated triangles of maple wood to Elaston polymer:

Finally, there were some innovative materials, like Manel Torres’ spray-on fabric, Fabrican:

And I’ve written about Suzanne Lee before – she uses bacteria to “grow” material, which she then makes into garments or other items. One of her tote bags was on display.

There were lots of non-textile items, of course, including 3D printers and sugar sculpture. But my favourite was a Santoku kitchen knife, which is made by folding and forging 101 layers of different steel, producing a stunning wave pattern on the blade.

The manufacturing technique is based on that used for making samurai swords, which you can also see in the Japan section of the V&A. In one particularly fine example, the pattern is in the shape of a dragon. Quite amazing.

The Power of Making runs at the V&A until 2 January 2012, and admission is free – definitely worth a look.


I was lucky enough to win a ticket, courtesy of Liberty, to the private view last night of Origin, the contemporary craft fair organised by the Crafts Council. It was a wonderful collection of 200 makers from every discipline – and a glass of something bubbly and delicious canapés helped things along!

There did seem to be an awful lot of jewellery (I’m not really a jewellery person, much to ESP’s relief!), but naturally I was mostly drawn to the textiles, though there were some fascinating lighting displays as well. Favourites below.

I’ve mentioned Michelle Griffiths before, so it was great to meet her in person. Her pure, pollen-inspired forms are rooted in shibori techniques of stitching and pleating, but she does use dye as well. She showed me a beautiful indigo shibori piece with a pattern based on a spectogram of a blackbird’s song. And she also makes lovely heat-set “bubble wrap”.

More shibori – Anne Selby makes the most amazing sculptural pleated scarves using the arashi shibori method. This is not just pleating – it’s double pleating and layering, steaming, discharging and redyeing that produces such exquisite pieces.

Johannes Hemann, storm series from Victor Hunt on Vimeo.

And now for something completely different. Johannes Hermann‘s “Storm Series” consists of lamp shades and other objects that look like organic crystal growths. He makes them by using a fan to blow granules of styrofoam or other light plastic around a heated box. The combination of heat and wind causes the granules to clump together. Fascinating!

I guess you could call Jasmin Giles‘ work jewellery, but it’s more like wearable art. She combines knitting with glass, wax and resin to create bold statement pieces. Not something you’d probably wear to the office, but certainly wonderfully eye catching.

Joanne Bowles works in metal and ceramics – her work has a very Japanese feel. I love the contrast between the linear ridges of the metal basket and the smooth translucence of the bowl.

Gill Wilson works with paper, forming pulp into large-scale multi-layered geometric structures encased in clear perspex cases. Like Michelle Griffiths, she has trained in Japan, and some of that aesthetic purity comes through here.

Rachel Gornall combines layers, colour and stitch to produce textile artworks that remind me of stained glass windows – beautiful!

Finally, Claudia Phipps works in real glass. She was exhibiting glass wings, based on patterns from dragonflies and lacewings, cutting the holes using waterjets. It’s inspired me to think about felting a scarf in a similar shape.

Origin is on from 22 to 28 September, at Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 6EW, 11am-7pm. Admission £10.