As part of my ongoing research in contextualising my own practice, I felt compelled to go and see the exhibition, Made in the Middle. A touring exhibition currently on view at Rugby Art Galley and Museum, developed in partnership with Herbert Art Gallery and is part of Craftspace’s 30th anniversary programme.
The first few months on my MA have been a steep learning curve, and in viewing this exhibition I really understood how much I have grown and what different perspectives I am gravitating towards. I found myself considering the curation, I am often disappointed by the curation of jewellery, but here the lighting, plinths, and display boards were really effective, and with so much interactivity curated into this exhibition, I, the viewer had a unique experience. The staff were lively, encouraging me to engage with the handling tables, or John Grayson’s automaton and Robyn Smith’s digitally interactive pieces, which focus in on personal experiences of mental health.
I was particularly drawn to the artists who create work based on social contribution, either by highlighting personal issues, or sharing intimate stories and experiences. I was interested to see how these makers like Libby Ward and Kay Williamson were able to extend their craft effectively into educational and community based projects. So much so, that this inspired me to apply to Craftspace to be part of a community based participatory arts project.
Kay Williamson’s work celebrates the value of skills sharing, both within families and between the ‘amateur’ and the ‘professional’. Her work demonstrates the importance of passing on skills and how these are currently at risk, particularly in education.
The exhibition also provides a great opportunity to purchase and commission work from some of the best makers in the midlands region and with great interest I flicked through the price guide. I felt compelled to complete the cycle, so, as I exited through the gift shop, I purchased a beautiful Anna Lorenz necklace, from her Transformed series.
This exhibition has been a fantastic insight into how my practice could grow and shape into an ongoing career, but more importantly how to engage and connect my practice with the outside world. Having moved around a lot, and with my family dotted around the globe, it’s also opened up questions in my mind as to my own regional connection. I have probably lived in the midlands as long as anywhere, but what impact does this have on my practice? Is my work stereotypically English, British, European? And is this something I need to consider? I am not sure of the answer, but as I push forward with my MA studies, I am driven to find out, to actively seek out opportunities and potential new avenues to explore and test my work out in practice.