London Design Week is back for a ninth time, celebrating sustainability and groundbreaking technology in design and craftsmanship across the city
The rise in people choosing to buy craft pieces for their homes is showing no sign of slowing down.
According to a 2020 report by the British Crafts Council, the UK market for handmade items grew from £883 million (approximately €1 billion) in 2006 to more than £3 billion (roughly €3.45 billion) by 2019.
Post COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are increasingly trying to make the places we live more homely and individual and most people are more aware of the amount and provenance of pieces we choose.
Consumers are making choices to buy fewer things in a more conscious way for environmental reasons as well as supporting local makers rather than huge, mass-producing corporations.
Following on from last month’s Milan Design Week, which focused heavily on sustainability in design, 2023’s London Craft Week is underway and while the British Crafts Council report found that some 33 percent of consumers (10.3 million people in the UK alone) are more likely to buy online, the entire city has been taken over by the best of craft from the UK and around the globe.
This year’s event marks the ninth iteration and features the work and skills of over 400 iterations in numerous markets and exhibitions as well as at talks and workshops.
Euronews Culture looks at some of the highlights not to be missed.
British royals link to the craft industry
It’s been a big week for the British royal family, with King Charles III being crowned on Saturday. The Windsors have also long been great supporters of British craft makers. In fact, more than 800 UK companies have been awarded royal warrants in recognition of their service to the crown.
Craft Week is celebrating this special relationship with a number of these royal warranted companies opening up for tours and demonstrations.
There will be a masterclass in grooming at Truefitt & Hill and talks from the hat-maker Lock & Co and cordwainer John Lobb and a tour of the atelier of Rachel Trevor-Morgan, which made hats for the late Queen Elizabeth II.
The Royal Mint’s chief engraver will demonstrate how King Charles III’s new coin was made and Floris is putting on a perfume-making workshop.
The National Army Museum will give visitors a chance to explore the craftsmanship behind ceremonial dress and British military uniforms as well as hosting ‘Embroidering Identity: Goldwork’, an embroidery course led by Hand & Lock who recently painstakingly hand-embroidered Penny Mordaunt’s standout outfit at the coronation.
Leighton House Museum will offer a tour by Turquoise Mountain, the NGO co-founded in 2006 by King Charles, which will show off the work of ceramicists, jewellers and woodworkers from Afghanistan and the Levant.
Impressive displays of Korean artistry
The winner of the 2022 Loewe Foundation Craft prize, Dahye Jeong, will be a particular standout at this year’s event. She creates delicate baskets and bowls that are so fine and intricate they look as if they’re made of lace but, in fact, they’re actually woven from horsehair.
It’s a technique used in Jeong’s homeland of South Korea to make headwear for men since the 14th century and her pieces will go on show, presented by Soluna Crafts, at Cromwell Place.
Jeong’s exhibition will be complemented by a group exhibition at the Korean Culture Centre. Light of Weaving: Labour-Hand-Hours will present pieces of contemporary Korean weaving, using traditional materials including horse hair as well as bamboo, wood and glass.
Vivienne Westwood - a celebration of the late British designer
Celebrating the best of British design will be the flagship Vivienne Westwood store in Conduit Street. As a tribute to the rebellious, avant garde eponymous designer, the brand will put on an exhibition called ‘Vivienne Westwood Corsets: 1987 to Present Day’, which includes corsets made by Westwood for her Harris Tweed collection.
The display will carry on past the end of Craft Week, running until 21 May and aims to delve into a hallmark of the designer’s work - and one which goes hand-in-hand with British craftsmanship through the ages, with her having played a significant part in liberating corsets from being restrictive undergarments to a glamorous choice for outerwear.
Oxo Tower - a London landmark takeover
London’s iconic Oxo Tower is presenting the work of more than 70 leading makers from across Europe at its Bargehouse, as part of the Future Icons Selects project. Visitors have the opportunity to learn more about an array of contemporary craft disciplines from the creation of aesthetic artworks to functional objects take part in numerous workshops and meet the people behind the designs.
Also at the Oxo Tower’s Wharf Gallery, artist collective The Tangible Project will show a group exhibition exploring the relationship between crafts people's hands and the individual making of wood, clay, textiles and glass. Eight artists are to be featured, including Loraine Rutt, Amélie Crépy and Line Nilsen.
The future of craft and sustainability
London Craft Week is paying host to numerous champions of sustainable design and craft, including Anabela Chan, the world’s first fine jewellery brand to make use of gemstones grown in laboratories. The brand, famed for their considered and circular approach to materials, will also present their creations, including the ‘Mermaid’s Tale’ - a collection made using recycled and refined aluminium cans from beach cleanups.
Also highlighting the importance of sustainability in craft is The Mills Fabrica, the Innovation Partner of Craft Week for the third year running. They are presenting a series of panels, keynote speeches and conversations on the theme of ‘Planet-Saving Innovations’ from their hub in Kings Cross.
Luxury fashion brands and innovators including Ganni, Farfetch and Fabrican feature on the programme and a biomaterials exhibition at gallery and concept store Fabrica X will shine a light on heritage techniques as well as contemporary craftsmanship made by scientists and bio-designers.
The Mills Fabrica is also hosting workshops including a screen-printing session using bacterial dyeing technology and a bio-embellishment and embroidery event hosted by CQ Studio, which will give participants the chance to make sequins from seaweed.
The launch of a new Design District
For the first time at Craft Week, 2023’s event is welcoming the Park Royal Design District in north-west London. As part of an initiative by the Mayor of London’s Creative Enterprise Zones, visitors have the chance to see two new exhibitions. Park Royal Clay explores the work of eight makers using raw London clay from infrastructure projects while Future Craft showcases designers working at the intersection of traditional techniques and cutting-edge technologies.
That includes Blast Studio, who use waste to make sustainable furniture and artefacts using 3D printing and living organisms like mycelium, the root network of fungi
There’s a focus on sustainability too, with a programme of talks including discussions on ‘The Craft of Fashion: How to Stay Sustainable and Future Facing’ featuring local designers and another, ‘Re-Imagining Material for Architectural Design’, which will explore the future of sustainable materials in building and interiors.
London Craft Week runs until 14 May and the full programme can be found here.