London: Chelsea Crafts Fair
Thousands of visitors to the 23rd annual Chelsea Crafts Fair
eagerly streamed into Chelsea's Old Town Hall on Kings Road,
London, in November. Presenting their work were 230 exhibitors,
chosen from nearly 900 applicants, an amazing number that
speaks to the importance of the fair and to the vibrancy of
crafts. The exhibitions were split into two different sets,
each presenting on one of the two weekends of the show. All
craft media were represented, but one did not have to hunt
for fiber artists (especially if the term was defined broadly).
|Janet Stoyel, Blue copper cloud dimensional Sonicloth
(detail), 2002; silk and copper (weft); woven cloth
with pattern and coloration created using ultrasound.
Highlights included work by several artists who exemplify
the crossover between industrial and textile design. Janet
Stoyel creates magical, opulent Sonicloth by applying ultrasound
to cloth woven from a silk warp and metal weft. Heat, vibration,
and pressure encourage interlocked fibers to become densely
packed into seemingly random patterns combining two- and three-dimensional
surfaces. Stoyel demonstrates that something exceptional is
as much an intellectual as a practical achievement.
A more painterly approach is taken by Ptolemy Mann, who hand
dyes rayon and cotton with saturated colors inspired by the
Mexican architect Luis Barragan. After weaving her textiles
on an upright loom, she stretches them over wooden frames
to give them an architectural structure. Scottish weaver Margaret
Wilson exhibited work such as Tankerness Scarf, which integrates
more traditional twill weaving with a herringbone pattern
and deep fringe in grays and black. The maker references a
hooded yoke once found in a peat bog in Orkney, Scotland.
Another nod to the past is the felt revival, a trend that
was very evident in Chelsea as it has been "across the pond."
Using an industrial knitting machine, Susie Freeman traps tiny
objects in pockets of silky monofilament netting, exploring
modern "medico-political" issues. One work on view, OTC - a
veil inserted with candylike over-the-counter pills - asks whether
they can easily be confused with more dangerous prescription
medicines. Another provocative work was a pocket-knitted maternity
dress containing 840 cigarette butts, which equates to A Packet
a Week for nine months.
Susie Freeman in collaboration with Dr. Liz Lee,
A Packet a Week, 2002; nylon monofilament yarn, cigarette
ends; pocket knitting. Photo: ChloŽ Stewart.
The Chelsea Crafts Fair, sponsored by the U.K.'s Crafts Council,
provides a launch pad for many emerging artists; this year,
67 of the 230 exhibitors presented their work for the first
time. Believed by most to be Europe's finest craft fair, the
bustling show created an impression of abundance, urgency,
and innovation. The diversity of work exhibited indicates
the healthy state of textiles in the U.K.
- Marina D. Whitman
[The summer issue of FIBERARTS also includes
reports on three other recent events: the International Shibori
Symposium (Harrogate, U.K.); the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts
Fair (Washington, D.C.); and the 2nd International Tapestry
Art Biennale (Beijing, China).]
Marina D. Whitman, Ph.D., is an art historian and art
The 2003 fair will take place October 14-19 and October
|Janet Stoyel, Woven metal-brass, 2002; brass
wire; cloth woven with transverse weft and longitudinal
warp, surface face and coloration created with ultrasound.
Colour Study 3 (with detail, below), 2002; mercerized
cotton, vicose rayon; woven on a Dobby loom, then stretched
over a wooden frame; 56 by 20 by 2 inches.
|Margaret Wilson, detail of Tankerness Scarf (after
Age [ca. 430 A.D.] woolen hood buried in peat at
Tankerness, Orkney Isles, Scotland), 2002; wool; twill
weave with ribbed borders and deep fringe; 60 by 13.5
inches (including fringe).
Susie Freeman in collaboration with
Dr. Liz Lee, OTC-An
assortment of over the counter pills, 2002;
yarn, pills; pocket knitting; circle 30 inches in circumference,
12 inches wide. Photo: ChloŽ Stewart.