Vintage supermarkets and secret ceramics: Here's what to see at London Craft Week 2024

From L to R: Mosaic by Quemamu Mosaics, Yemeni embroidery, Dale Chihuly sculpture, clay making class.
From L to R: Mosaic by Quemamu Mosaics, Yemeni embroidery, Dale Chihuly sculpture, clay making class. Copyright London Craft Week; Asma Hamdi; Dale Chihuly; Inhabit/ Canva
Copyright London Craft Week; Asma Hamdi; Dale Chihuly; Inhabit/ Canva
By Amber Louise Bryce
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London Craft Week is back, with an abundance of creative events taking place across the city for its tenth anniversary.

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There's an old myth that says "you leave a bit of your soul in everything you crochet," adding: "To avoid this, you should always work in a hidden mistake so that your soul can escape.”

While a welcome joke for all those "hookers" that have spent many an infuriating hour unravelling yarn, the idea of people leaving a part of themselves in their crafts feels very true.  

From the ceramic mugs we drink our coffee in, to the teak tables we rest said mugs on (hopefully using a coaster), all craftsmanship has a deeply personal connection that sensualises and shapes the very fabric of our lives. 

London Craft Week (LCW) is a citywide salute to all the exceptional artists, makers and designers around the world, both established and emerging. 

This year it celebrates its 10th anniversary, seeking to explore the evolution of the craft sector within that time through an expansive curated programme that features immersive experiences, original exhibitions, masterclasses, workshops and demonstrations.

Sustainability, endangered crafts, diversity and the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on creative industries are all core issues being tackled this year. 

At the heart of it all are the makers, their stories and cultural backgrounds an integral part of any process, from concept to the materials chosen. 

“One of the many things I personally love about our journey is the way in which the festival welcomes artist-makers from so many nations and backgrounds, who are brought together through shared creativity and the joy of making,” Guy Salter, Chairman of London Craft Week said.

On from the 13 May until the 19 May, there's a lot to explore, as London effervesces with shared artistry; a welcome reminder in a digital age to appreciate the power in physical creations - and the human hands that brought them into being. 

These are some of the LCW highlights to look out for.

Secret Ceramics

A ceramic by Kate Malone
A ceramic by Kate Malone©Sylvain Deleu

A dream come true for lovers of ceramics, this event features more than 100 stunning single-stem vessels to peruse and potentially buy for a good cause at SoShiro Gallery. 

For those keen of eye, some of the designs might be instantly recognisable — but all contributors remain anonymous until a piece is sold (hence the name). Each work has a fixed price of £300 (€349) and the money goes towards the opening of a new FiredUp4 ceramics studio in White City, London. FiredUp4 is a charity organisation founded by Kate Malone that aims to improve the accessibility of ceramics amongst young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Malone's works will be available at the exhibition, alongside other signature ceramists such as Hitomi Hisono, Aneta Regel, Gregory Tingay and Henry Holland. Emerging talents and cultural influencers like Yinka Ilori, Kit Kemp and Dame Zandra Rhodes have also contributed works, so there's every opportunity to walk away with something truly special. 

Craftworks

Cox London, which is sponsoring Craftworks at London Craft Week
Cox London, which is sponsoring Craftworks at London Craft WeekCox London

Not to be confused with the German electronic band, 'Craftworks' is another brand new feature of LCW. A three-day free exhibition (ending 17 May), it has stalls from 100 traditional and contemporary makers, live seminars, workshops and panel sessions. Presented by Jay Blades MBE ('The Repair Shop') at Shoreditch Town Hall, a key element of the event is engaging with younger people from diverse background in the hopes of inspiring them to pursue a crafting career. 

A Feature exhibition titled ‘Craft Really Works’ focuses on the mental health benefits of crafting, while cutting-edge talks from industry leaders, including Timorous Beasties, Cox London, Soane Britain and Fortnum & Mason, discuss topics including AI's potential impact on craftsmanship, the protection of endangered crafts, and zero-wast crafting. 

Modern Masters

Dale Chihuly
Dale ChihulyNathaniel Willson

As the sun stretches its rays, what better way to appreciate the beauty of craftsmanship than outside? 

Partnering with public art agency New Public, LCW are launching their very first edition of 'Modern Masters', a free outdoor programme that explores the influence of skills such as welding, casting, carving and glassblowing on contemporary art. 

There are four installations by American artist Dale Chihuly to check out; a tangle of tentacled grandiose glassworks, suspended amidst the greenery of Chelsea Barracks like imaginary monsters that dazzle and displace. 

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The Vintage Supermarket

Merchant & Found's 'Vintage Supermarket'
Merchant & Found's 'Vintage Supermarket'London Craft Week

G Plan clean-up on aisle five! 

Pioneers of restoring and reinventing retro furniture, Merchant & Found have created possibly one of the coolest ideas this LCW: A 6000 sq ft 'Vintage Supermarket' at the Vinyl Factory in Soho. 

All the fixtures and signs are authentically from decades past, so it truly feels like you've stepped back in time. Instead of shelves lined with fresh food and drink, however, this supermarket is purely vintage produce that has been sourced from around the world, reinforcing the importance of a circular economy and sustainability within design. 

It's also freshly stocked with handmade crochet, ceramic and paper commissions from a curated global group of contemporary artists and makers. Race you to the checkout? 

Elite crafts and 'Tomorrow's Talents' at Cromwell Place

Ottchil Jogakbo no.2 by Lloyd Choi, who is presenting a curated group show titled 'Hidden Gems' as part of LCW
Ottchil Jogakbo no.2 by Lloyd Choi, who is presenting a curated group show titled 'Hidden Gems' as part of LCWPhoto courtesy of Lee So-ra

Highlighting the stories behind some of the world's most elite craftsmanship is Cromwell Place, which has partnered with LCW to host a variety of exhibitions focused around the maker processes. These include Lloyd Choi's curated group show, 'Hidden Gems', featuring a presentation by textile artist Lee So-re, and 'Today's Masters Meet Tomorrow's Talents', a presentation by the Michelangelo Foundation that brings together 20 international artists with masters in their field to collaborate and learn from one another. 

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RESELFRIDGES

Fine jewellery by Anabela Chan, on display at RESELFRIDGES
Fine jewellery by Anabela Chan, on display at RESELFRIDGESAnabela Chan

Known the world over for its luxurious offerings, Selfridges is focusing on eco-friendly shopping for its LCW curated edit: 'RESELFRIDGES'. Makers that are reusing materials or reviving old designs in innovative ways are spotlighted, including textile artist Celia Pym's blankets, Anabela Chan's jewellery made from lab-grown diamonds and waste aluminium cans, and a set of uniquely upcycled shirts from graduates of the Chanel and King’s Foundation Metiers d’Art Fellowship. There will be demonstrations on restorative techniques too, like Kintsugi (also known as 'golden joinery'), a Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics. 

Learning and lates at London's museums

The Natural History Museum is hosting tin embossing workshops
The Natural History Museum is hosting tin embossing workshopsLondon Craft Week

Many of London's leading museums will play host to LCW-themed events. At the V&A South Kensington, artist demonstrations on gold thread embroidery, featherwork and more will takeover six separate galleries, along with conferences tackling issues within contemporary crafting industries. 

There will be more live demonstrations at the National Portrait Gallery via 'meet-the-maker' sessions, with Black-owned businesses such as Kingsley Walters, Umutoni and Lucocoa Chocolate at the forefront, an adjunct to the gallery's new exhibition 'The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure'. 

For night owls, the Science Museum is collaborating with LCW for the very first time by dedicating its monthly Create Lates event to craftsmanship within scientific and technological spheres.  

The Design Museum and Natural History Museum are also getting involved with various workshops, the former showcasing the making of Sedia 1, a blocky self-assembly chair designed by Enzo Mari in 1974. 

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London Craft Week takes place citywide from 13 - 19 May. See the full programme here.

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