Imperfect Home

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I’ve featured Bailey’s before in this tour of their converted barns in Wales. The shop is a wonderful place and the couple’s latest book Imperfect Home, further hones their influential aesthetic. Below is an extract from the new book, a Q & A with Ryuji Mitani, a Japanese maker who creates wooden tableware such as trays, spoons, forks and bowls. Ryuji is passionate about promoting Japanese crafts and also curates exhibitions and writes books on the subject. His home, gallery and studio (pictured above) in the Japanese city of Matsumoto, are testimony to the simple pleasure of handmade things. It is not overfilled with objects, instead you are drawn to the detail of what is on show; the careful chisel marks of a bowl or the patina of a well-worn leather chair.
Q&A
Do you have your own philosophy of life?
I like everyday simplicity and comfort. I can’t change the whole world, but I hope that my wooden pieces will bring simplicity and comfort to someone’s life.
What music do you enjoy listening to?
Piano music by Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans.
Which authors or books inspire you?
Saigo no Shinran (The Last Shinran) by Takaaki Yoshimoto, Mon (The Gate) by Soseki Natsume and Onnatachiyo (Ladies) by Jyuzo Itami.
Likes: Carrying the table outside and having lunch in the shade of a tree. Meals with friends. Textiles and baskets woven with care. White porcelain and linen sheets. Well-used wooden vessels and chairs.
Do you have any recipes that you like?
Yes – pasta with negi (Japanese leeks). You will need olive oil, crushed garlic, thinly sliced leeks and some pasta. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a pan and add the garlic. Cook over a low heat until soft, then add the thinly sliced leeks and continue to cook gently until they are soft. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the pasta to the boiling water. Once the pasta is ready, drain then add to the leek mixture, combine and serve.

Imperfect Home by Mark & Sally Bailey is published by Ryland Peters & Small. www.rylandpeters.com

The Maker Drawers

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Hello and Happy New Year! I hope you are as pleased as me that a new year has begun. I tend to hibernate through December as a reaction to Christmas-mania then emerge in January, looking forward to spring. 2015 has already started well, with a pottery commission that I’m excited about and a general feeling that this will be a fine year.
I thought I’d kick-off by introducing The Maker Drawers, an interesting series of curated drawers from one of my favourite companies, The New Craftsmen. Housed in an old plan chest in their shop building, each drawer has been filled by a different maker, telling the story of their work and providing a unique insight into the techniques, materials & processes that they use. Pictured above are drawers by Aimee Betts, Michael Ruh, Gareth Neal, Laura Carlin, Silvia K Ceramics and Katherine May. If you get a chance to visit the shop and see the drawers in person, do! It is probably one of my favourite places to be in London, as all the work is highly skilled and expertly chosen. Otherwise, please enjoy this online rummage and visit their website to see more.

Work in Progress

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I’m so used to writing about other people’s work, that putting pictures of my own things alongside them seems weird. However, since I wrote a post about my clay samples, I feel I should show what I’ve done with them.
I’ve been experimenting with a few bowl, plate and cup shapes, and it’s been good to try out the different clays and see how they respond to glazes and firing. There have been some disasters and a couple of nice surprises, but I’m yet to settle on anything that I’m sure about. In the meantime, it’s just fun to play around.
I started learning to throw a little over five years ago now, which sounds like quite a long time but realistically I haven’t spent nearly as much time at the wheel as I would like. Pottery classes and opportunities have been squeezed around work and looking after babies and toddlers, so my progress has been slow. Finally though, I have my own workshop set up and it feels like it’s all beginning to come together. These are a few of the first things to come out of the kiln. Hopefully, I’ll be making a lot more in the months to come.

p.s. To see more, follow my Instagram feed. It’s pretty much just pots on there these days.

The Future is in our Hands

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Tomorrow the Crafts Council launches Make: Shift, a conference taking place in London exploring the emerging relationship between crafts and technology. This follows an eventful few months where craft and craftsmanship have been (rightly) making headlines.
It all started sometime last year when the UK government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) proposed dropping crafts from its list of recognised creative industries. Of course, this is crazy talk and it immediately produced a backlash.
New research from the Crafts Council shows that last year craft skills generated £3.4bn for the UK economy, with 150,000 people employed in businesses driven by craft skills, in engineering, science, design, architecture, fashion and film. The figure is far larger than expected and includes the value that craftspeople bring to different industries including science and technology. Examples include the glass artist Matt Durran’s work at the Royal Free Hospital to develop glass moulds for growing bio-engineered organs such as noses; and jeweller Lynne Murray’s pioneering work in augmented reality through her company Holition, which develops interfaces through which customers can virtually try on jewellery.
So craft is important (I never doubted it anyway!) and just over a week ago the Crafts Council launched their brilliant new manifesto at the House of Commons which aims to reinstate craft skills as a core part of the UK’s education curriculum.
Making develops creativity, inventiveness, and problem-solving, yet strangely it is gradually being dropped from schools and universities. “Between 2007 and 2012 following changes in educational policies, student participation in craft-related GCSEs fell by 25 per cent,” says the Crafts Council. “In higher education, craft courses fell by 46 per cent.” This comes at a time when elsewhere around the globe investment in creative education is rising.
The Craft Council’s manifesto makes five calls for change, including putting craft and making at the heart of education, building more routes into craft careers, bringing the entrepreneurial attitude of makers into education, investing in craft skills throughout careers and promoting higher education and artistic and scientific research in craft.
Change is needed – a number of leading education courses for craft skills have faced closure over the past five years. These include the celebrated Harrow Ceramics course, Bucks New University in High Wycombe, whose excellent Furniture Design course focused partially on traditional craft skills and now Falmouth University has just announced that it is closing its Contemporary Crafts degree to make way for Digital Gaming and Business Entrepreneurship. The Contemporary Crafts degree, with historic roots in Cornwall’s creative culture, is considered a vital part of the Cornish economy. Living in Cornwall myself, I find it misjudged of them to close this course. Transforming it would be a far better option – and if they want ideas of how – I’ve got plenty!
An online petition has been launched to try and save the Contemporary Crafts degree at Falmouth. You can sign the petition here. As the Crafts Council’s manifesto says, “Our future is in the making. It is in our hands”.