Press release

Contemporary craft comes to Number 10

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Number 10 Downing Street is for the first time hosting an exhibition of some of the UK’s finest contemporary craft, on display from today

Visitors to the Prime Minister’s official residence will be able to see a diverse range of works by established and up-and-coming contemporary craftspeople. The display will act as a showcase for the UK’s vibrant craft sector, which contributes £3bn a year to the UK economy and employs more than 80,000 people.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

“Contemporary craft doesn’t necessarily have the same profile as contemporary art, but it is no less important in terms of creativity or its ability to enrich people’s lives. 

“Since taking office I have been keen to do what I can to redress the balance and for the past year have had a display of work on loan from the Crafts Council in my Ministerial office.  This new display in Downing Street will showcase work by some of the UK’s finest craftspeople to the many thousands of people who visit Downing Street each year.”

Works by craftspeople including Edmund de Waal, one of the world’s leading ceramic artists, Kate McBride, winner of the Zelli Porcelain Award and Felicity Aylieff, senior tutor at the Royal College or Art will be on display in the state rooms and communal areas of the building.

Downing Street has a long history of displaying works of art by British artists, mostly from the Government Art Collection.  It also has many examples of the decorative arts, but these are mainly historic rather than contemporary. 

The Downing Street display is being curated by Janice Blackburn OBE, a well-known patron of the arts, freelance curator, writer and former co-curator of the Saatchi Gallery. 

Janice Blackburn said:

“I was aware of the Government Art Collection’s loans of contemporary art in Downing Street but no objects by the UK’s amazing potters, furniture makers and other designers who are continuing the great British tradition in these areas.

“As a nation we should be immensely proud of our fantastic art colleges that produce some of the best designers in the world with some of the most dedicated and gifted tutors and professors.

“Downing Street is in a position to proudly show off the best of the UK’s stunning creativity and talent to the numerous visitors from all over the globe.  I hope the work will arouse curiosity, interest and pleasure to the many visitors from around the world who will see them on display in No 10.”

The work on display is deliberately diverse, made from materials including leather, glass, wood and pottery.  It is chosen from designers with a wide range of experience.

It is expected that the Downing Street display will be ongoing and will be changed every few months.

Notes to editors

  1. Images of some of the works on display are available for publication from the DCMS Flickr stream.  

  2. Further information on the UK’s craft sector is available from the Crafts Council’s website.

  3. The full list of craftspeople whose work will be displayed at Downing Street is:

Edmund de Waal

Edmund is one of the world’s leading ceramic artists.  His work has been widely exhibited and he has most recently created a major installation for the V&A.  He was apprenticed as a potter before studying English at Cambridge.  He has written widely on art and ceramics, including books on Bernard Leach and 20th-century ceramics.  His memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, was published by Chatto and Windus in 2010 and has won the Costa Biography Award, New Writer of the Year at the Galaxy Book Awards and the Royal Society of Literature Odaatje Prize. He lives with his family in London. 

Simon Hasan

British designer Simon Hasan is interested in the convergence of ancient crafts and industrial production processes.  His work is imbued with a richness and texture borne from historical research, and a fascination for obscure crafts techniques.

Graduating from the Royal College of Art (M.A. Design Products 2008), where he learnt under Jurgen Bey, Ron Arad, Michael Marriott and Luke Pearson, Hasan’s boiled leather (Cuir Bouilli) vases and stools immediately caught the attention of curators, gallerists, and collectors.

Hasan is currently developing his own brand of production pieces for retail, and continues to work on gallery and bespoke commissions, most notably with Italian luxury goods brand Fendi.

He is part of the London Design Museum 2011 Designers in Residence programme, and in 2010 collaborated with Poltrona Frau for the Wallpaper magazine Hand Made issue.

Felicity Aylieff

Educated in textiles and ceramics at Bath Academy of Art, Felicity Aylieff is currently senior tutor at the Royal College of Art in the ceramics and Glass department. She works both in the UK and China, with studios in Bath and Jingdezhen. China allows her to make pieces that are monumental in scale, often two to three meters high. Their surface decoration is a contemporary translation of her research into the traditional Chinese techniques of Fencai enamel painting and ‘blue and white ware’. Smaller works are exploratory in their mark making with energetic brush work.  She has work in numerous public and private collections including the V&A, York and Birmingham museums and art gallery, and the Devonshire collection.

Rob Kesseler

Rob Kesseler is a visual artist and Professor of Ceramic Art & Design at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design. Realising the untapped potential for working with microscopic plant material, Rob Kesseler has been collaborating with botanical scientists at Kew since 2000 and has recently completed a research project with molecular biologists at the Gulbenkian Science Institute in Portugal.  From 2001-2004 he was NESTA Fellow at Kew and in 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society and in 2009 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Kate McBride

Kate McBride studied ceramics at the College of West Anglia graduating with distinction. She has worked as a full time ceramicist for the past 10 years and has won several awards including the Zelli Porcelain Award and a Crafts Council Development Award.

Exhibitions include Chelsea Crafts Fair and Origin and L’Atelier d’Ateliers D’Art, Paris.  Her work has been on show at Chatsworth House.

Commissions include Robin Woodhead, Chairman of Sotheby’s, The Duke of Devonshire, Krug Champagne (Moet and Chandon), the English Cricket Board and the Pinewood Studios film Nanny McPhee.

Deborah Thomas

A graduate of the University of Wolverhampton and the Slade School of Fine Art, Deborah Thomas has been making chandeliers in broken glass fragments since 1984.  The first chandeliers were made for theatre sets which led to private commissions by collectors.  Work was recently acquired by the V&A for their permanent collection.

Gareth Neal

Gareth specialises in one-off pieces of furniture. His designs have evolved into new and diverse territories.  This body of work, first developed in 2006, has structured geometric exteriors.  Gareth’s intriguing work fuses art, design and craft - history and contemporary - the material and immaterial.  The Crafts Council purchased Gareth’s ‘Anne’ table in 2008 for its Collection.  He was awarded a B.A. Hons Furniture Design and Craftsmanship from Buckinghamshire College.

Studio Glithero

Glithero is the Anglo-Dutch partnership of Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren who met and studied at the Royal College of Art. Their works take a variety of forms and media, but there is a conceptual backbone throughout: to capture the spirit that exists in the moment things are made.

From machines that miraculously create wax chandeliers from strung wick, a pouring slide that becomes a 10 meter long poly-concrete table, to ceramics that turn vivid blue with UV light, the key ingredients of their work are time and transformation. Glithero works have been presented in numerous exhibitions worldwide, and in the last year they have exhibited solo shows in London, Paris and Rotterdam. In 2011 their Blueware collection was nominated for both the Brit Insurance Designs of Year award and Dutch Design Award, and since 2010 they have served as visiting professors at the Royal College of Art.

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