Thursday, 20 October 2011

Ruthin Crafts Centre, "Baskets" Exhibition

Ruthin Craft is the purpose built state of the art complex for the display, understanding and sale of some cutting edge work by contemporary makers. For a while now I have been anticipating their latest exhibition called, perhaps a bit unassumingly,"Baskets". The nine makers chosen to exhibit are diverse and talented masters specialising in the ancient craft of basket making in the broadest sense, exploring individual ideas and techniques to create their own unique and beautiful forms. All of the work is fascinating and inspiring. As a maker I am always scrutinising the work of others to find the "how" and the seamless interplay of materials and techniques to achieve the work. All these makers deliver excellently and elegantly. For me the show is uplifting. Looking at the images later I realise the things I  missed in the gallery, especially in the photos taken standing further away. Dail Behennah's pieces are for sale individually but here in the show they appear to be of a whole with the angles of  colours matching and flowing from one to the next, it would be a shame to separate them, what a brilliant acquisition they would make together. Lizzie Farey's airy wall pieces are a delight, they seem to have flown from the more densely woven sphere and vessel forms placed below them, frozen in a moment of flight. Looking more closely in the gallery the work of Joe attracted me on a more personal level as he is a rural dweller growing his own willow to use and commenting that he found these three elements "deeply satisfying". Again the depth of this relationship with his thirty years experience is evident in his sculptural take on the traditional form. Including gnarled and curving branches and stones to close and top his pieces I was reminded of the landscape of the west coast of Ireland, the ever changing weather, the shimmering light on a lake or sea, the outline of the rugged ancient hills and mountains and the puzzling prehistoric structures that cling to the landscape like stubborn, decaying teeth, mysterious and secretive. Lee Dalby's, minimal frame baskets may have their origin in the everyday unfussy utility ware familiar to every home once upon a time but he has transformed these baskets into objects that resonate with an almost  modern spirituality. An obvious love of these humble, simple shapes and their recipes combined with his sensitive selection of his own cultivated materials and excellent execution, I feel  he elevates what is the everyday, the commonplace. I could not imagine I would dare use one of his baskets for something mundane they surely should be used for some other special, sacred or ceremonial purpose. They are very beautiful and very desirable. Mary › artists & curators › artists & curators
shows some joyful examples of her journey as a maker whose experience began with a misunderstanding. She went  one day to buy a basket from a maker only to find he had misheard their telephone conversation and  had instead prepared some willow for a lesson and so by chance her making began. Here she creates curves and ties in works that  combine  a depth of knowledge and experiment that reflect the diversity of her explorations from her initial introduction and hint at her earlier academic studies and recent travels.John Galloway, Tim Johnson , Anne Harrington Rees and Caroline Sharpe are the other exhibitors showing here. RCC may be tucked away in North Wales but is close to lots of major cities and being surrounded by some beautiful landscapes  would make any  visit doubly  rewarding.

Living here in rural West Wales I am very inspired by my visits to RCC in general and my respect for other makers, their work and committment is enhanced by the opportunity to see great work displayed beautifully. Thank you Ruthin.


  1. That was a lovely review Michelle. I too went to the exhibition and would agree it was a wonderfully presented exhibition. I was also totally wowed or should that be bow wowed by Olivia Brown's 'Reggies Roller Palace', really made me smile.

  2. Yes I loved her show too. As a dog person I would love to take part in her workshop and make a lovely clay version of my JR Beanie such a character, Olivia is a totally prolific artist.

  3. Beautiful exhibition