From weavers to cabinetmakers, ceramists to sculptors, the emerging batch of contemporary artists are bringing new and captivating twists to age-old traditional techniques.
Sales of handmade furniture have soared over 2,300% on Etsy, and we’re in the midst of a textile revival, with London Art Fair director Sarah Monk using the artwork tactile such as wall hangings as a hot new trend. in our recent interview.
If you’re tired of seeing the same mass-produced prints popping up in every Instagram post and crave something more unique and distinctive for your home, it’s time to upgrade your art collection ( or start one) and familiarize yourself with the cool kids of 2022.
The perfect place to start is the atmospheric abandoned Safehouse in Peckham, where the contemporary craft platform FELT exhibits the original or limited edition works of 20 key designers from May 4 to 7.
Many featured craftsmen created joyful one-off pieces especially for the show, titled sensational beingswhich aims to “surprise and delight” at every turn.
Highlights include bold, large-scale works of art that can take center stage in a home, such as Deptford-based Amber Khan’s papier-mâché sculptures, as well as smaller takeaways , from under £100, such as sculptural lamps, illustrated and elongated plates. patchwork cushions to slip along sofas or at the foot of a bed.
Admission is free and everything is purchasable, with artwork also available for purchase online. It is, as they say, the modern way.
FELT’s founders, longtime friends Tintin Macdonald and Francesca Wilson, have a background in art and fashion, respectively. They both live in Peckham, three doors down from each other, and discover many of their artisans at the Copeland Gallery and the Peckham Festival.
“Craftsmanship is often associated with this party hall, WI style, so we’re excited about the new energy around it,” they say. “These makers use traditional skills to create something contemporary that reflects our culture today.
“Many use recycled materials and natural dyes, or take unloved objects and reinvent them, which adds so much character.”
When sourcing their collections, Tintin and Francesca look for personality pieces that “clearly have the artist’s hand running through them”.
Their favorites are usually quirky or humorous with intriguing textural qualities. “We love to see rough edges and seams – a celebration of materials.”
The couple believe the craftsmanship brings “wit, originality and a warm feeling” to the home. “You don’t have to be an expert on a particular artist to fall in love with a work and want to share it with other people,” they say.
“These works of art make great talking points; the sustainability movement means that people are now much more interested in where something they bought came from and how it was made.
Elsewhere, fashion and homewares retailer TOAST continues to run its New Makers program, launched in 2019. Each year, a new cohort of five artists are chosen from more than a thousand applicants.
They are mentored on how to grow their businesses and market their work, some of which is sold online and in five stores nationwide, including Mayfair and Carnaby stores.
TOAST does not charge any commission on its sales, all profits being returned to it.
“Meeting these creators is an absolute pleasure because they are so passionate about what they do,” says Suzie de Rohan Willner, CEO of TOAST. “We benefit as much from their thinking about how to navigate arts and crafts as we hope they give them.
“It’s a joy to help the next generation of artisans, and probably the most exciting part of what we do.”
To whittle down its bottom five, TOAST seeks manufacturers who share its enduring values and “displace craftsmanship” in some way by innovating in their field.
“You buy these things for the long term; they have longevity,” says de Rohan Willner. “Instead of buying something, putting it aside and then buying something else, people are looking to save beautiful pieces that are meaningful to them, that they can keep and that they can talk about with their friends and future generations of their family.”
Meet the creators
Part of FELT sensational beings collection, Sylvie Franquet hunts down old tapestries based on masterpieces and layers them with brightly colored embroidery and calligraphy-style texts from philosophy, poetry or a message from friends.
“I love how much I can change up this imagery while still keeping it recognizable,” she says. “I compare my work to a cross between traditional samplers and graffiti. He yells at you with thoughts of reconnecting with the natural world.
She started her unique practice about 11 years ago after inheriting three cabinets full of unfinished needlework from her mother-in-law.
Inspired by the “unfettered freedom to travel”, particularly in the Middle East, she is currently based in Brixton – “I can always find color here, even in gray weather” – and does much of her sewing in buses, trains and planes. .
“The world we live in is so fast, plastic and disposable that making things is a wonderful, mindful way to embrace more sustainable living,” she says.
“It’s a sign of the times that people are looking for a slower, nicer, more human way of life. Craftsmanship is a rebellion against all the speed and confusion of our society.
Painter and ceramist Eliza Hopewell, who also exhibits with FELT, began her practice painting commissioned portraits on dinner plates. Working from her south London studio, she has since expanded into everything from jugs and coffee tables to murals and wallpaper.
“I’m interested in creating playful objects that will fit in anyone’s home,” she says. “My pieces are sometimes quietly subversive when you look closely, but they always feature great craftsmanship and carefully chosen imagery.”
Hopewell draws inspiration from interior designers like Beata Heuman and artists’ homes like Charleston House, which is associated with the Bloomsbury complex.
“I’m excited about designers and makers who treat homes like a canvas, creating objects or decorations that are utilitarian but also unique, handmade, colorful and thoughtful.”
She noticed a growing trend to take craftsmanship more seriously, especially given the need for more affordable artwork that people on an average salary might be able to acquire.
“A lot of developers create stale white box type interiors that all look the same, but I think people’s homes should be an expression of who they are,” she says. “The feeling of owning a unique object and having poured love into it is an insurmountable pleasure.”
One of TOAST’s new designers for 2022, textile artist Dalia James weaves wall hangings, doilies and rugs from his studio in Walthamstow.
She herself dyes biodegradable yarns and is inspired by the geometric shapes of the Bauhaus movement. “I’m passionate about color, but I’m also a big fan of angles,” she says. “Trigonometry was the only thing I liked about math.”
James noticed a willingness to do things with our hands – “perhaps in response to the way the world has become computerized” – and to connect with the past.
“Every piece I make is unique. I couldn’t make them similar if I tried, both at the dyeing stage and at the weaving stage,” she says.
“There’s an interest in the surface patterns, but also in the woven structure itself, which gives these wall hangings more depth of texture than, say, a painting.”
Carpenter Samuel Alexander is also part of the New Makers gang of TOAST this year. Self-taught, he makes spoons and containers by refining raw wood felled as part of local tree management.
Drawn to his ‘cathartic’ craft six years ago after suffering from depression, he draws inspiration from the organic forms of natural growth and harvesting.
He lives on a boat on Regent’s Canal, but is found getting lost in his work at London Greenwood, a ‘vibrant and fruitful inspirational’ Hackney-based co-op and community.
“I like to think of my rooms as objects of calm in the house,” he says. “The more I earn, the happier I feel. I find the woodcarving process vicious, due to the use of an array of sharp tools, but my style is refined and meticulous. Each finished shape is unique.
Believing that during the Covid shutdowns many people have turned inward and discovered a lot about themselves creatively, Alexander now enjoys seeing their “amazing” outing.
“When someone buys a piece of craftsmanship for their home, they are not only buying a beautiful object, but they are also buying the time that has passed and which has been given, generously, by the maker.”
FELT’s Sensational Beings exhibition runs May 4-7 at Safehouse, Peckham.
TOAST is collaborating with textile artist Jacob Monk to present an ikat exhibition and hold paper weaving workshops as part of London Craft Week at his menswear boutique in Newburgh Street, Carnaby, from 9-15 May.