The Power of Making portrays the power of the Crafts Council at the Victoria & Albert Museum

By Kathleen McIlvenna | 25 October 2011
A photo of a young woman modelling an elaborate spikey white hat
© James Lock and Co
Exhibition: The Power of Making, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, until January 2 2012

British Manufacturing has always been a political matter, not least in the current climate where the coalition government seeks to champion British design and manufacturing, via their Made by Britain project launched in the summer.

However, the decline in the appreciation and understanding of British craft, if not craftsmanship, was first addressed in the 1970s with the establishment of the Crafts Council, the national development agency for contemporary crafts in the UK.

Since then, the Council has worked to actively encourage and promote a creative craft industry, increasing audiences of craft work and acting as an advocate and champion for British craft.

It is a credit to the Council and its partner institutes, such as the V&A, that there is a record of British craftsmanship in the 20th century.

Through the collection and work of the Crafts Council we can see that British craft design and manufacturing is not in decline, but very much alive and forward-thinking.

The Power of Making celebrates the Council's 40th anniversary by showcasing some of this innovative design and craft.

In a gallery facing the V&A's spectacular Renaissance galleries, the opening object of David Mach's Silver Streak, a gorilla made of wire coat hangers, offers a juxtaposition of the craft of the past and of the future.

We can still make beautiful statues that take great skill, but the materials, technique and subject matter has evolved. Modern craft, it seems, is a brave new world.

As a snapshot of contemporary making this show is packed full of objects – more than 100 items are arranged in groups that share certain attributes, usually related to their materials or the techniques used to manufacture them.

This visual variety offers a mix of beautifully crafted objects that range from a kitchen knife and a flute to a six-necked guitar and a Crochetdermy bear.

A dress design by Thorunn Arnadottir sums up the theme; using the technique of African bead design to produce a design of QR codes in a meeting of cultures and technology - and craft.

The exhibition also brings together amateurs and leading makers, making the casual indistinguishable from the established.

It is therefore the perfect celebration of the Crafts Council’s first 40 years and outlines why the organisation is so important to the future of British design and manufacturing.

The gallery space is however relatively small for such a variety of items, techniques and materials - thankfully the free exhibition allows return visits.


More pictures from the show:

An image of a sculptor of a baby inside a box in an art gallery
The show is a celebration of 40 years of Craft Council creativity in Britain
© V&A images
A photo of a man staring into the camera while wearing a fashionable white eye patch with a design of a blue flower inside it
Damian O'Sullivan's eye-catching ceramic eye patch
© Damian O'Sullivan
An image of a series of text signs on a shelf against neon blue lights inside an art gallery
The display is beautifully presented at the entrance to the museum
© V&A images
A photo of the entrance to a grand modern art gallery with a sign saying Power of Making hanging above the entrance
David Mach's Silver Streak, a gorilla made of wire coat hangers, provides the opening object© V&A images
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