Once Upon a Time

Fairytales and Memories in Contemporary Fine Craft

Through a programme of creatively-themed exhibitions, the RBSA Craft Gallery has established its reputation as the leading outlet for contemporary fine crafts in the Midlands. Displaying innovative, yet affordable, craft from designer makers based in all corners of the country, the Craft Gallery strives to demonstrate the diversity and creativity of the UK’s craft-making community. The RBSA seeks to provide an outlet for designer makers to exhibit and sell their work to an audience that is sympathetic to their creative and technical skills.

Exhibitors include: Alix Swan, Beth Essex, Serena Partridge, Katie Almond, Claire Lovett, Gwen Hosker, Helaina Sharpley, Nicola de Cruz, Zoe Duthie, Abigail Brown, Hollie Evans, Elaine Hughes, Alison Macleod, Anya Keeley, Hannah Goodall, Rachel Llewellyn.

A captivating display of contemporary fine craft inspired by fairytales and memories, this enchanting exhibition promises to be a truly magical experience. It explores the influence of childhood memories and nostalgia upon designer makers whose varied responses demonstrate the diversity in craft practice today.

Crafts on show range from the conventional to the eccentric, resulting in a display of eclectic and unique objects. Vintage items, such as old letters, books and postcards will be used. These evoke a sense of fantasy and sentimentality, and enable the exploration of our perception of the past. In a society where fashion and technology have become disposable, the rediscovery and re-appropriation of these objects helps us to reassess our relationship with our own memories and how they manifest in the things that surround us.

Featured Designer Makers:
Contemporary jeweller Beth Essex is concerned with the attitudes towards today’s ‘throw away’ culture and its environmental impact. This has inspired her to explore ideas of value placed on treasured heirlooms. Beth uses a range of precious metals and textiles in her jewellery, including 18ct gold and silver. To this, she adds crochet and pearls which are symbolic of the precious and non-precious identities of her work.

Unusual multi-media assemblages will also be on show from Serena Partridge. With a passion for fifteenth-century European costume, she creates accessories and garments inspired by the period. Her particular interest is for the flamboyant fashions paraded by the wealthy élite, such as the extravagant coiffures worn by Marie Antoinette. She mixes antique fabric and trimmings with any material that will achieve the desired effect. Serena presents her work as if they are museum acquisitions, complete with fictional labels. The presentation heightens their anonymous qualities, as if to distance the viewer from the maker by suggesting that someone else has selected and displayed these pieces.

Wire artist Helaina Sharpley will be displaying her quirky one-off 2D and 3D wire works. Initially inspired by tea drinking rituals of the Edwardian and Victorian eras, she also became interested in the architecture from the periods. This has now become a major focus in her illustrative wire work. Helaina’s pieces derive from her pen and ink drawings, which are often inspired by old photographs. These capture the intricate details of the buildings from a bygone era. These drawings are then translated into wire through bending and curling.

Alix Swan’s work displays an eclectic mix of techniques and uses a wide range of media. Her multi-media approach to craft-making has labelled her a textile artist and fine art bookmaker. However, she has adopted the term ‘paper artist’ because of her love of the medium alongside print and graphics. Her ideas derive from a paper doll that she made whilst at art school. This reminded her of ‘story time’ during her childhood with her mother and grandmother. Alix developed this idea into a stream of adult work, based on traditional fairy-tales. She fuses together old and new technologies through her used of found materials, original drawing, digital images, stitch, collage and traditional book binding techniques. She also includes direct quotations from story books to echo ideas and phrases.

This enchanting exhibition holds fantasy at its heart and is an ideal experience for all the family. Look out for the RBSA’s Young Friends Workshops that accompany the exhibition!

Where: RBSA Gallery, 4 Brook Street, St Pauls, Birmingham, B3 1SA Admission: Free. Dates: 26 July – 10 September 2010 Gallery Open: Mon – Fri 10.30-5.30, Sat 10.30-5.00, Sun 1.00-5.00

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