Thought provoking exhibitions

This week I visited the latest exhibitions at the Crafts Council and The Design Museum. Both are fascinating, both are political and both are really worth a look.

Pencil drawing by Onome Otite
Untitled work combining pencil drawing and fabrics by Onome Otite

We Gather, at the Crafts Council Gallery – This show brings together the work of five female artists of Black and Asian heritage living and working in the UK. Although each artist’s journey to the gallery is distinct, they are part of a much broader history of cultural exclusion from craft.

We Mek knitted magazine cover by Lorna Hamilton-Brown
We Mek, knitted magazine cover by Lorna Hamilton-Brown

This is one of those shows where you need to take time to read all the background details and explanations for the pieces to fully understand the themes of diaspora, identity and vulnerability they explore.

I was also lucky enough to meet the curator Rosie Ross and a couple of the artists, including Lorna Hamilton-Brown, whose subversive piece We Mek (patois) is a knitted magazine cover brim-full of political symbolism. The central figure, for instance, is political activist Angela Davis and her watch shows 9.25, the time that George Floyd lost his life to police brutality.

I loved this exhibition which demonstrates the power of craft to unite and educate.

We Gather will run at the Crafts Council Gallery until 5 February

A circular approach to fashion from Stella McCartney including plant based and recycled materials

Waste Age, at The Design Museum – Waste Age (clever title) really packs a punch starting with a gloomy summary of how much waste humanity creates – the statistics are truly terrifying. But as you progress through the exhibition, the second section strikes a more hopeful note, demonstrating how designers are using discarded materials and adopting a circular approach to design that encompasses ways to both recycle and repair.

Acoustic panels from Baux
Acoustic panels from Baux made from 100% bio based and biodegradable material.

The third section of the show explores waste free living. With examples of sustainable, plant based products that replace oil based plastics – gathered from the sea, grown in a lab or extracted from waste these new materials biodegrade back into the soil.

Sustainable sugar waste wall cladding
Architectural wall cladding made from sugar waste – the pattern could catch water to grow plants

I had the opportunity to talk to the show’s curator Gemma Curtin, who explained how the Design Museum was committed to presenting the show in a sustainable fashion using recycled plastic for the signage and natural brick partitions that can be dismantled and re-purposed.

Waste Age will run at the Design Museum until 20 February

I recorded interviews at both the Crafts Council and The Design Museum for online platform Bspoke365. I’ll let you know when these go live.

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