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Annie Warburton, Creative Director, Crafts Council
4th September 2017

Crafts Council: Woman’s Hour Craft Prize

To mark the 70th anniversary of much-loved radio staple Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Crafts Council have teamed up to launch the inaugural Woman’s Hour Craft Prize – a celebration of contemporary making that explodes the definition of craft.

At first glance, the finalists in the inaugural Woman’s Hour Craft Prize don’t look like they share a lot in common. There’s Laura Ellen Bacon’s den-like willow sculptures, Lin Cheung’s delicate jewellery and darned hoodies and trackie bottoms by Celia Pym with their seemingly haphazardly patches of multicolour thread. Caren Hartley’s slick bespoke bicycle sits next to an installation of bumpy mounds of unfired clay by Neil Brownsword, all overseen by an otherworldly glass figure, made by Emma Woffenden. But what ties all these practitioners together – aside from being nominated for the £10,000 prize – is a commitment to examining traditional and modern making techniques and using objects to explore bigger issues like consumer culture, the decline of UK manufacturing, and geo-politics. If your perception of craft is frilly and fusty, it's in need of an update.

Confused, Lin Cheung
“Although perceptions are changing, ‘craft’ is still sometimes used as shorthand for ‘traditional’ or ‘homespun’,” says Crafts Council creative director Annie Warburton. “By the way, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that it's a partial, limited, view of what is one of today's most vibrant and progressive creative fields. It’s our job at the Crafts Council to transform ideas of what craft is and can be - and this exhibition does just that, from breathtakingly exquisite vessels to ‘how-on-earth-did-they-do-that?’ feats of virtuoso skill to works addressing social, personal and political issues. I hope that there is something in this show to astonish every visitor – and prompt them to recalibrate their notion of craft.”
Falling Hard, Emma Woffenden, 2014

The 12 finalists, who are Laura Ellen Bacon, Alison Britton, Neil Brownsword, Lin Cheung, Phoebe Cummings, Caren Hartley, Peter Marigold, Celia Pym, Romilly Saumarez Smith, Andrea Walsh, Emma Woffenden and Laura Youngson Coll, were whittled down from 1500 applicants over the course of eight section panels. Their work will be displayed at the V&A from Thursday 7 September 2017 to Monday 5 February 2018, giving visitors the opportunity to explore some of the most innovative and out there contemporary makers around.

Caren Hartley, Harley Cycles. Photography by Oliie Hammick.

“Going back to William Morris speaking of objects being ‘useful’ or ‘beautiful’, craft can too often be reduced to something merely utilitarian or decorative,” says Warburton. “So, it can come as a surprise to people that, like any other art form, craft addresses big social, political and humanitarian issues.  We connect with objects in a different way to other media.  It’s not just down to their immediate, physical presence or the tactility of the materials. It’s the resonance of the emotion, care and skill that’s gone into making, along with the way that makers often work with, and subvert, familiar forms, that enable objects to tell vital stories in a different way.”

Interior Gold, Andrea Walsh, photography Shannon Tofts.
The final winner will be selected by a panel comprising Rosy Greenlees OBE (Executive Director, Crafts Council), Tristram Hunt (Director of the V&A), and Martha Kearney (BBC journalist and broadcaster) and will be revealed live on air from a ceremony at the V&A on Wednesday 8 November 2017.
Inundation by Laura Ellen Bacon
To learn more about the Crafts Council and the Woman's Hour Craft Prize contact jodi@zetteler.co.uk.
Bleed Side Cabinet, Peter Marigold, 2014
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