Last week we went along to Somerset House for Collect 2020 to see the skill and rigour behind contemporary craft, and browse the freshest designs from around the world. It was also a chance to pick out the artists who, like us, enjoy playing around with the relationship between tradition and modernity, and value the artisanal nature of the decorative arts.
Image credit: Somerset House
If you haven’t heard of it before, Collect is a four-day international fair of modern craft and design organised by Crafts Council that gathers more than 40 galleries from around 25 nations. This was its 16th anniversary and its first year at Somerset House.
Each of the 40-or-so galleries took over a room or space in the building to present a selection of world-class artists working in ceramics, glass, metal, wood, textiles and other experimental materials. Every piece on show was created in the last five years, so it’s fair to say that this is one of our go-to events for browsing the very latest creations.
We left the fair excited and full of inspiration to take back to the studio, so we thought we’d share some of our Collect 2020 highlights with you here. If you know Pigmentti, you know that we’re huge fans of interesting, organic forms and innovative materials, so we paid extra attention to the works and artists who merged the two. We’d love to know if you visited and had any particular favourites!
Collect 2020, Vip Room designed by Rachel Chudley – Image credit: Crafts Council
1 – Myung Nam An (Cube)
We don’t necessarily like talking about ‘trends’ or ‘trend-spotting’, but walking around the huge open rooms of Somerset House it was hard not to notice the amount of wall-hung work on show. Some of the best examples of these kinds of pieces were the ones that used bold and playful shades, like South Korean sculptural artist Myung Nam An’s colourful, textural ‘eye series’. Each of the individual ceramic elements can be arranged on the wall however you like, a tactile addition that we very much approved of. The crowd clearly approved, too, as the space in front of the work was one of the busiest in the show!
Myung Nam An at Collect 2020
2 – BATIT Studio
Another bold and brilliant wall piece that we spotted was BATIT Studio’s quirky post-modern ceramic collection, ‘Ethnic: Synthetic’. The works are made up of thousands of ceramic pieces, created by slip casting into moulds, and interwoven to create a 3D pattern as a modern interpretation of a carpet.
BATIT Studio is based in Tel Aviv and was founded in 2017 by industrial designer Tal Batit, who focuses on mixing ancient ceramic tradition with a contemporary palette and finish. That’s exactly why we enjoyed the collection: at Pigmentti we’re all about reviving tradition and respecting natural materials, and it’s clear that these designers are, too.
BATIT Studio at Collect 2020
3 – Vicky Lindo and Bill Brookes (Alveston Fine Art)
There was no way we could miss the works of Vicky Lindo, winner of the 2019 British Ceramics Biennial. Lindo works with her partner Bill Brookes to create earthenware ceramics in sgraffito – a traditional technique of carving through a thin, coloured surface to reveal a contrasting colour beneath, and one that we at Pigmentti use regularly.
The pair are inspired by centuries-old North Devon slipware and its sgraffito lines, imagery and motifs. You can really appreciate the contrast between sprightly tone and ancient Egyptian-esque motif in the pieces on show at Collect 2020. To us, Lindo found the perfect balance between old and new.
Vicky Lindo and Bill Brookes at Collect 2020
4 – Valeria Nascimento (Jaggedart)
Valeria Nascimento’s intricate porcelain creations are always a lesson in pushing the boundaries of natural material and blurring the lines between art and design. We were looking forward to seeing the Brazilian-born artist’s work at Collect 2020, and her ‘Vertical Garden’ installation certainly didn’t disappoint.
Each coral-like piece echoes shapes and forms from the natural world. Nascimento works the porcelain to such a thinness that you might mistake the material for miniature folds of paper, creating a unique textural aesthetic.
Valeria Nascimento at Collect 2020
5 – Morten Lobner Espersen (Officine Saffi)
We were drawn to Espersen’s heavily glazed and sculpted vessels as soon as we stepped foot inside Officine Saffi’s gallery space. Espersen is a ceramicist who challenges what can and can’t be done with ornamentation and questions its role in design – an approach we admire.
His ‘Terra Nova’ collection was on display at the show and in it he tests the limit of clay and glazing by applying coat after coat of thick glaze. The effect is almost architectural, with a sense of intense severity that is rarely captured in ceramics.
Morten Lobner Espersen at Collect 2020
6 – Daniel Mirchev (Cube)
Bulgarian sculptor Daniel Mirchev tends to work in wood and mixed media, but what struck us was his ability to manipulate the material and make you rethink what it’s capable of. These works showcase Mirchev’s exceptional craftsmanship and the malleability of wood.
He does it by tricking the eye into thinking it’s seeing light, tactile topography rather than a solid natural material. It’s no surprise to us that Mirchev pulls this off so effortlessly. He is, after all, a member of Nine, a group of brilliantly talented artists dedicated to working in wood.
Daniel Mirchev at Collect 2020
7 – Laura Slater and Mawuena Kattah (Intoart)
One of the most vibrant rooms of the fair was without a doubt that of the London-based gallery, Intoart. As we strolled into the space we were met with floor-to-ceiling hand-screen printed textiles by textile artist Laura Slater and visual artist Mawuena Kattah.
The pair used the shared connections in both of their practices – their methods, tools, and approach to making – as well as the narrative of family and personal iconography to create ‘Eye-Eye’. We were drawn to the fact that they focus on turning textiles into visual art. They’re also as interested as we are in exploring the relationship between artist and designer.
Laura Slater and Mawuena Kattah at Collect 2020
8 – Mireille Mallet (Collection Ateliers d’Art de France)
As you probably know, we love organic shapes and natural materials here at Pigmentti. French sculptor and ceramicist Mireille Mallet combines the two in her grainy and orifice-riddled spherical sculptures. She’s fascinated with the ancient rocks that carry the memory of how our planet was formed, so viewing her sculptures almost takes you back to prehistoric time.
One of the most admirable things about her process is that she is attached to an economy of resources, so she only uses clay as a base for the shades and colour effects.
Mireille Mallet at Collect 2020
9 – Vanessa Hogge (Vessel Gallery)
Vanessa Hogge uses porcelain to create decorative wallflowers and vessels that are both organic and ornate. We were in complete awe of the intense precision that clearly goes into each piece. No two flowers or anthers are the same, because Vanessa sculpts each one by hand before she fires them to very high temperatures. To us, each of her pieces is a true botanically inspired masterpiece in its own right.
Vanessa Hogge at Collect 2020
10 – Jonathan Wade (Craft Scotland)
The Craft Scotland gallery room was full of expert craftsmanship, but Jonathan Wade’s sculptures were the pieces that immediately intrigued us. Wade’s works resist labels and aren’t immediately obvious. He’s inspired by the built environment and the impermanence of the natural world, so it makes sense to us that the pieces resist interpretation.
They seem to morph depending on where you stand and how the light hits, just like the natural world ebbs and flows with time and the seasons.
Jonathan Wade at Collect 2020
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