It’s not hard to spot an instant classic at the Collect craft fair. Emma Love takes her pick of the antiques of the future.
Forest + Found
Since setting up their east London studio just over three years ago, textile artist Abigail Booth and woodworker Max Bainbridge have become known for celebrating natural resources. Booth mixes her own fabric dyes from plants and bark, while Bainbridge makes vessels from locally sourced wood.
This year, they will be exhibiting as part of Collect Open, where makers showcase ‘risk-taking’ work. «I’m making a four-by-two-metre wall hanging and Max is making oak and sweet-chestnut vessels up to a metre tall,» says Booth. «They are the biggest pieces we’ve ever made.»
Birch standing vessels from Forest + Found CREDIT: JAKE CURTIS
«There’s more scope for the materials to dictate [the process], whether that’s wood cracking or fabric warping,» says Bainbridge. «It adds an essence of wildness.» The pair have been trying out new techniques, too: Bainbridge, who usually works with hand tools, is also using a lathe, while Booth has introduced red chalk from Norfolk into her dyeing process.
«I soak unbleached calico in tannins extracted from Max’s wood shavings,» she explains. «It’s then treated in an iron bath, which reacts with the tannins to transform the browns to a dark grey, before another soaking, this time in a red-chalk paste. The colour shifts to a dark warm brown with tonal variations.»
Forest + Found pair Abigail Booth and Max Bainbridge
There’s a constant dialogue between the couple. «My textiles are abstract; Max’s objects are more grounded and physical,» says Booth, «but we’re both seeking out that underlying connection to the raw materials and the landscape.»
Isabelle Moore, Craft Scotland
Edinburgh-based furniture maker Isabelle Moore, who trained at John Makepeace’s Parnham College, has been making chairs for more than two decades. Yet it wasn’t until she read Norwegian industrial designer Peter Opsvik’s book Rethinking Sitting, which considers the idea that furniture is an intermediary between architecture and clothing, that she was inspired to incorporate textiles into her work.
The results, after two years of development, include a woven elliptical chair and suspended oak seat. «I love the contrast of metal and wood with the softness of weaving,» she says of the two pieces. «I steam-bent the oak to make the frames, then wove the seats by hand with a low-stretch plastic fibre that is often used for fishing nets and skydiving parachutes.»
The woven elliptical chair by Isabelle Moore CREDIT: JAKE CURTIS
Other pieces of furniture in Moore’s repertoire include an upholstered leather and copper swing, a rocker made from plywood and recycled plastic, and an oak dining table – but it’s chairs that she uses to try out new design concepts. «The challenge with furniture is to bring together sculptural and practical elements,» she says. «That’s the attraction for me.»
Louis Thompson, London Glassblowing
Anyone familiar with Louis Thompson’s glass vessels will know how tempting they are to touch. At Collect he is showing a new composition featuring three elements, each with creases and curves that subtly reference the human body.
«I’ve always liked Braille as a form of language so I was looking at the idea of drawing on tiny surface bumps to create texture,» he explains of the sculptures, which have been hand-blown, etched and then sandblasted.
Although Thompson has been working in glass for more than 30 years, he credits the master’s in ceramics and glass at the Royal College of Art that he completed in 2011 as being a ‘career-changing’ move. «It got me to rethink my approach to glass and to think more expansively about the creative possibilities of the material,» he says.
Louis Thompson glass-blown pieces are inspired by the human body CREDIT: JAKE CURTIS
The course is also where he met Danish designer Hanne Enemark, with whom he has been collaborating on an ongoing body of work inspired by snow globes and Christmas baubles. The result – vessels with very fine white canes inside – will be displayed on Vessel Gallery’s stand at Collect.
«When we drop the rods inside the glass they bend and move but don’t melt, which allows us to build up an interesting structure,» says Thompson. «It’s magic.»
Ashraf Hanna, Cavaliero Finn
Egyptian-born British ceramicist Ashraf Hanna has lived near Newgale Beach in Pembrokeshire for almost 18 years, so it is perhaps no surprise that the grey seascapes and dense forests of Wales have found their way into his work.
CREDIT: JAKE CURTIS
«A storm in Newgale four years ago moved the sand on the beach and unearthed what had become a petrified forest,» he recalls. «I wanted to use the shades of black and grey that were revealed in that storm.»
The outcome is an installation comprising a series of vertical treelike forms, about 70cm high, which Hanna has clustered together. «The idea is that, from a distance, trees look like a single mass, but up close they are all unique,» says Hanna, who will also be showing a handful of his voluminous Undulating Vessels at Collect.
Ceramicist Ashraf Hanna
Each piece starts as a pinch pot, with Hanna forming and modelling the shape by hand using slabs of soft clay, adding layers as he goes. The vessels are biscuit-fired, refined again and then fired several more times in between the addition of fine layers of clay in Hanna’s signature, mostly muted palette.
Collect is at the Saatchi Gallery, London SW3, from Thursday till 25 February; craftscouncil.org.uk