I recently headed down to London and the Saatchi Gallery to see Collect 2018. Organised by the Crafts Council and now in its 14th year, it promised to deliver in bringing together 40 galleries from four continents as well as individual makers from all parameters of craft disciplines.
I have been to Collect before, not for a few years, but now studying on my MA at the School of Jewellery, I was visiting with a fresh pair of eyes and with a very different agenda to my previous visits. I kicked the visit off with the ‘Jewellery in Focus’ talk, led by Joanna Hardy, a jewellery consultant probably best known from the Antiques Road Show, in discussion with Lin Cheung, a jewellery artist, designer and senior lecturer at Central Saint Martins, Jo Bloxham, a leading craft curator and contemporary jewellery collector and the final panellist David Mills, Director of Communications and Marketing at Goldsmith Company.
The discussion touched on some great advice, particularly when considering the life of a piece of jewellery when it has left the makers hands and of course it was great to get some rare insight into the mind of a collector. But, the overriding discussion centered on the lack of uptake of contemporary craft and contemporary art jewellery from the wider UK audience, and what is and could be done to change this.
Once I started to explore the exhibition, I was initially a bit put-off by the ‘luxury retail’ environment and the huge amounts of ceramic and porcelain exhibits. Looking for potential future opportunities, I really wasn’t sure where my work would sit, or if it was the right audience at all. But I soon found pockets which spiked my interest.
I appreciated the variety of works that Jaggedart, London had on display and the curation – particularly Jeremy May’s ‘Literacy Jewels’, jewellery made from the pages of a book and lacquer, which is then nestled back into the book. I loved the energy from Dutch company Thalen & Thalen, their work was a real display of mastering your material. The presence and enthusiasm of the artists also seemed to really make a difference in connecting and engaging an audience.
Finally, I surprised myself by also staring to seriously consider installation work as a curation direction that I could pursue. The examples here are by glass artist, Elliot Walker at Vessel Gallery and Valeria Nascimento’s Rainforest installation in white porcelain and charred woodflooring, again at Jaggedart, London.
Collect has also introduced me to key contemporary jewellery galleries such as Gallery SO, Dutch gallery Marzee and also JOYA, Barcelona Art Jewellery Fair. I also attended a stand talk from gallery Marzee, this was great in witnessing their knowledgeable staff and unadulterated enthusiasm for contemporary art jewellery, as well as learning about their support for new graduates with their ‘Marzee for Starters‘ project.
Collect 2018 has given me a lot of food for thought. Mostly, in the introduction to industry galleries and in widening my horizons beyond a British market place. It has also awakened ideas on curation and audience engagement as well as providing key information on graduate opportunities and support for emerging makers such as the Craft Council Hothouse programme. I have also thoroughly enjoyed discovering new artists and also following up researching their career-paths to gain insight into their routes up to exhibiting at Collect 2018.