Monday, 14 November 2011


London's V&A celebrates craftsmanship in an exhibition that runs until 2 January 2012. Power of Making is great fun and includes a cake in the shape of a baby, a shark sculpture made from recycled tyres and a 'crochetdermy' bear.

Produced with the Crafts Council, the show highlights the skills of gunsmiths or the beauty of ceramics, often creating contrasts by updating traditional vocations. For example, when the market for ecclesiastical wear began to dry up, Poland's Koniakow Cooperative turned its talents instead to making lingerie, including the handmade lace G-string on display (pictured).

There's a strand where these developments achieve the absurd: take Dave Bradbury's Bill Bailey book, which is carved from stone. Australian artist Patricia Piccinini imagines safety wear for genetically engineered creatures - her double-headed 'hornet' crash helmet could be a wholly impractical device for an adult and child to cram into together, for instance.

Jeremy Hutchison took this approach to everyday objects to its extreme in the recent Saatchi New Sensations exhibition. The artist contacted factories around the world and asked them to provide him with an example of their work that was altered in such a way as to make it unusable. (It's important to state he was not after a product rejected because it was faulty.)

As part of the project, he presents the pieces with the correspondence built up over the process (pictured), which shows many factories were understandably puzzled by his intentions - endearingly, some were unwilling to compromise their hard-won reputations by making something that didn't work. (An example of this approach in the news around the same time as the show is the story of the man who ordered two differently sized slippers but, when they arrived, one was a size 1,450 rather than 14.5, though this may have been a PR stunt.) Other responses reference the joy people experienced at giving their creative input while being relieved of routine constraints.

One of my favourite pieces is a pair of sunglasses with multiple bridges, making it unwearable; elsewhere pencils lack lead or a hat is sealed so it cannot be worn. The results are suitably surrealistic - there is a solid pipe, after Magritte, which cannot be smoked. The master of the found object is referenced, too: Duchamp's snow shovel became art by being displayed in a gallery but could still function in the manner for which it was designed; Hutchison, or his craftsmen, render it unusable by inverting the shovel on the handle.

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