Updated: May 2
I spend a lovely afternoon at Harewood House, Yorkshire last week. Apart from a wander in the grounds and the house, my main reason was to see their biennial exhibition Radical Acts, which explores the transformative power of craft and creativity. So close to my heart, as my aim is to bring peace and play to your everyday. Overall, I saw some thought-provoking quotes, projects, and creativity. In Radical Acts, the craft is presented as a bridge between our roots and our future. Each participant tackles an urgent issue of our modern lives with a resourceful attitude and hopeful intent.
Set amid the splendor of Harewood's reception rooms, alongside furniture by Thomas Chippendale. here I share some snippets of the makers and their thoughts.
The radical act was of care: textile artist Celia PIM shares " mending is not just about fixing something in need of repair. It is also an act of care. Care is applicable to everyone and important for all of us. These pieces belong to people who work at Harewood. The process of mending something for others is an opportunity to ask people, what matters to them, and to explore why it builds empathy. A hole in a garment is an opportunity to talk about life. Here there are 16 mended garments" Saddened that a London textile artist was chosen for an exhibition in Yorkshire and that the 16 garments didn't demonstrate a wider range of mending and decoration skills and styles, it was interesting to read the stories these garments told.
Eunhye Ko, a designer from Seoul, wants to raise awareness about our apathy towards making and consuming and the resulting environmental crisis we face.
"We value crafted objects more than mass-produced once we feel they have been carefully made and we are pleased to own them and look after them. They are not disposable. I want to challenge how we take for granted so many things that we use every day. Electronics do not always need plastic coat casings, and craft does not always exist in traditional areas". Here is a vacuum cleaner where the electric interior is encased with wood, leather and wicker:
To make collective clean water, the good foundation's international ceramic water filter, partnering with communities to work inside out is the best way to embed change. They give water hygiene education and teach soap making. Their filters remove almost all of the bacteria causing waterborne illnesses, serving underserved communities around the world. The people that produce these ceramic filters are local people using locally sourced materials, which create sustainable businesses. Clean Water fundamentally impacts so many women's social justice issues, from basic health to childbirth, menstrual hygiene to education and employment. These are all connected. "Let's not take freshwater for granted"
Founded by Patrick Grant, Blackburn-based Community Clothing was launched with a simple goal – to sell great quality, affordable clothing and sustain and create great jobs in the UK’s textile-making regions. " almost none of the money that is spent on your clothing goes to the people that produce your clothes. So that's the people who spend the hours who produce the fibre in the first place, those guys all together, get less than 25% of the value. That's pretty unfair. We change that to 60% of the cost of the clothing. So we pay really good quality manufacturers who have very well paid staff to make up stuff. We pay local weavers and local spinners. We're not here to change the world of fashion. We're here to create good jobs.
On the vertical axis of contemplation: Mac Collins, please sit down and ash chair showcases the radical act of contemplation. "I want to invite everyone to sit down and to pause. Consider the environment you're in, and how history informed contemporary British society, think about what Harewood House represents in a way that runs deeper than the surface gilding and luxurious textiles. Acknowledge how the wealth of this was amassed from the West Indian slave trade and respect the significance of the Caribbean community to our British story. The Caribbean contribution has had a profound impact on contemporary British society and culture. This is our truth and our reality. We are all part of this story".
The view from sitting in the chair includes a glorious view out of the window of the landscape designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, and also a mirror so you can reflect on your own actions and impact on society.
The radical act of imperfection, Sheffield. metalsmith Francisca Onumah "It is important to challenge the values that we inherit from the past. I am an introvert. For years I struggled with this side of myself. I express my vulnerabilities through my vessels. They are human in form and subdued in character, and I position them as if they are in quiet conversation. I like to embrace the material imperfections and highlight the aspects that I find beautiful -marks for my tools, the seams and connections. These are features that many silversmiths would see as mistakes. We are taught to polish and clean up. Tradition tells us highly finished objects are valuable, embracing imperfections in ourselves and our work is quietly radical"
In the radical act of salvage, The final radical act and crafter I have chosen to share is Fernando Laposse who specialises in transforming humble natural materials into refined design pieces. Since 2016 he has been working with the farming community in Mexico to reintroduce corn crops to land that has been decimated by industrial agriculture. Alongside regenerating traditional farming practices. They turn the colourful corn husks into a beautiful veneer material. There is no waste. Everyone in the community can contribute. Together the crops and craft generate income opportunities and promote the preservation of biodiversity for future food security. This project shows the power of design to transform and repair the relationships between land and community. The added income of craft is an incentive for farmers to replant native corn crops.
Radical Acts is exhibited until the end of August 2022.. I have shared half of the radical acts and makers featured here in this blog - I would love to hear which ones really stuck you - either of these I have shared or others if you get the chance to visit?