Taxidermy really is so very over. It’s all about the crochet hook now and the undisputed queen of crochetdermy is Shauna Richardson.

Shauna won one of the Arts Council England ‘Artists Taking the Lead’ London 2012 commissions for her region of the East Midlands. Inspired by the three lions on the St George’s crest she decided to create three crocheted lions that could tour the region before heading down to the Natural History Museum in London for the duration of the London 2012 Olympics.

The lions heading into the Natural History Museum. Tricky parking manoeuvre.

Why do life-size lions when you can create lions that are about eight metres long? These monumentally-scaled lions are created using just one simple crochet stitch.

Statically prowling around their new home

Of course Shauna doesn’t just use one stitch – the stitches follows contours in different directions and with differing yarns on pre-formed structure to create pretty breathtaking results.

Incoming lions.

The lions are in a bespoke glass case so they can be transported safely. Oh to have seen them in transit ….

  • In three words: whoa, courageous, lion-hearted

The Lionheart Project is at the Natural History Museum until the 10 September

http://www.lionheartproject.com/home/ #giantlions

You know someone’s hot stuff when they’re never off the telly and the British Museum allows them to rummage through their collection and curate an exhibition. Grayson Perry’s approach to life and his art is unique to say the least, with his childhood teddy Alan Measles exerting a powerful influence (Alan has his own Twitter account FYI).

So off to the Victoria Miro gallery to see his new work – the topics (class and taste) of which act as the framework in his recent series for Channel 4 –  In the Best Possible Taste.

Inspired by Hogarth’s ‘Rake’s Progress’ The Vanity of Small Differences charts the journey of Tim Rakewell from humble beginnings in Sunderland to middle class domesticity to (spoiler alert) his ultimate demise.

The Adoration of the Cage Fighters

We meet the young Tim born into a working class Sunderland family, tattooed skinheads proffering a football shirt and local lasses about to go out on the town set against a background of kitsch ornaments and a garish carpet.

The Agony in the Car Park

In the second tapestry (that I can’t upload for love nor money but which you can see on the Victoria Miro site) – The Agony in the Car Park – we see Tim’s embarrassment as his step-father croons X-factor style against the backdrop of a crane that gives us an Angel of the North type silhouette and the local boy racers tinker with their cars outside Heppie’s social club.

Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close

Tim and his university girlfriend flee from the working class tastes (Range Rovers, golf, suburban housing estates) into the  psychoanalyzed middle-class world of dinner parties.

The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal

Tim and his young family at home, Birkenstocks cast aside, a cafetiere and organic veg sit on top of a Guardian and a Make Tea not War tea towel hangs over the Aga. Tim has already made his millions from the sale of his IT company.

The Upper Class at Bay

Tim and wife are out shooting and their prey is the Upper Class stag being hounded by a number of dogs (fuel costs, tax). In the background we see a placard ‘Pay Up Tim’.

#Lamentation

Tim has a fatal car crash. His new young blonde wife looks on as he lies dying in the arms of paramedics. His material wealth unable to help him passing away with his trousers round his knees with the nurse commenting ‘All he said to me was ‘Mother’ / All that money and he dies in the gutter.’

The detail is unbelievable and that they are woven (albeit by a digital wonder loom in a matter of hours) somehow makes them more compelling.  I am still unsure of the message – with Hogarth’s it was a little more straightforward as born rich Tom Rakewell’s downfall is partying too hard. Here Tim Rakewell comes a cropper for wanting to rise through the social classes. Would he have been better off staying in Sunderland?

  • In three words: epic, devilish, detail

The Vanity of Small Differences at the Victoria Miro Gallery, 16 Wharf Road, London, until 11 August

http://www.victoria-miro.com/ @victoriamiro

During the 1980s the Bolingbroke Hospital in Wandsworth started a reminiscence programme to trigger memories of their elderly patients. Objects, fashions of the time, music, photographs and film were all used in order to help patients maintain good mental health. The hospital went on to became a centre of geriatric excellence before closing in 2008 (happily the acute elderly health service is still thriving in St George’s in Tooting).

The Bolingbroke Hospital: a view backwards focuses on new work by three artists – Julie Arkell, Penelope Batley and Shelly Goldsmith – who in 2009 were given some ‘reminiscence objects’ from the hospital. Simultaneously, photographer Jason Oddy was asked to take photographs of the closed hospital and the work by Arkell, Batley and Goldsmiths is presented alongside these images.

Untitled, 2012, Shelly Goldsmith

Shelly Goldsmith’s work is represented by a series of pieces using black and white name tape and a series of photographs of garments.

The name tape pieces were inspired by neatly labelled storage spaces that Shelly encountered during a visit to the hospital.  I immediately think of school uniforms when I see this tape however its use to explore identity and memory is made acute by Goldsmith’s entry in the catalogue. She tells of a friend of hers who recently sewed her mother’s name into all her belongings in advance of her entering a care home.

Blouse, 2009, Shelly Goldsmith

The photographs of reclaimed textile pieces include a striking blue dress with a blood-red stain covering the heart of the dress, an elaborate wedding veil on a black background and the above blouse.

Floor light piece by Penelope Batley

Penelope Batley’s pieces centre around a number of glass lanterns that used to be in the hospital (as seen in one of Jason Oddy’s photographs). Shiny copper piping turns around imaginary corners to create labyrinth-like shapes incorporating these lanterns in a series of ceiling lights and floor pieces. For Batley the piping celebrates the arterial plumbing and electrical systems of a municipal structure and the lanterns represent the luminescent spirits of those cared for at the hospital.

Assorted creatures by Julie Arkell

Julie Arkell is best known for her papier-mâché figures. Here they carry snippets of text found amongst paraphernalia collected up at the hospital. The little figures are guardian-like and bear requests such as ‘please pray for all those in this hospital. Many thanks’. One piece I found very moving was a knitted pixie hood made from a pattern found at the hospital. Clearly made for a small child its shape hints at its post-war age and in turn, the history of the hospital.

Untitled, Bolingbroke Hospital, Jason Oddy

The overriding feeling of absence is made explicit in Jason Oddy’s photographs of the empty hospital rooms and corridors.

The whole exhibition presents things once worn, rooms once sat in and lives once lived. For me the pieces all evoked a tender sadness summed up in one of Arkell’s embroidered handkerchiefs ‘you were so there and now you’re gone.’

  • In three words: life once lived

The Bolingbroke Hospital: a view backwards, Contemporary Applied Arts, 2 Percy Street, 15 June to 21 July

www.caa.org.uk @CAAGallery

A fitting post to kick off to this blog – a look at the RCA Show 2012 or if we’re being official – Show RCA 2012 (#ShowRCA12). The RCA is an incomparable institution. It is the world’s oldest university of art and design (in continuous operation) and the only one that operates exclusively at postgraduate level. Its cachet remains undiminished and the end-of-year show is always a treat (and even got a mention in Tatler’s Bystander recently).

The RCA Kensington campus is home to the ‘School of Material’ Shows – that is – ceramics, glass, goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork, jewellery and textiles.

So on with some highlights….

A piece by Nina Khazani

Nina Khazani’s pieces made from human hair were extremely beautiful. Rings with lustrous ponytails attached, earrings of layered hair of differing shades and shoes with long blonde hair cascading from the soles. Beautiful – yet ever so slightly creepy. On the head – hair is part of our identity and can symbolise fertility and health but once it isn’t – our relationship with it changes. I had to ask the obvious question – where does she get the hair? From (very generous) friends apparently.

From the Vanitas Vanitatum series by Tamsin van Essen

Tamsin van Essen is known for her eerie medical pieces but she explained that, quite understandably, she didn’t want to become known as ‘medical girl’. Her new work is about the transience of beauty and that specific moment when things turn from full-bodied vitality into decay. The Vanitas Vanitatum series is a change in direction for Tamsin but it still retains an unsettling and dark edge that she does so well.

From the Baroque series by Jo Woffinden

It was the colour and texture of Jo Woffinden’s concrete pieces caught my eye. Inspired by Baroque architecture the shapes of the pieces are constructed in order to draw your eye inwards. The smooth exterior and lunar-like interiors made my fingers itch to have a feel (I did) and result from her experiments with concrete and its properties.

Ceremonial dress by Hannah Truran

A little bit Bat for Lashes, a little bit Lady Gaga. Hannah Truran’s body pieces are ‘designed for a futuristic warrior huntress’. Nuff said.

Contuse by Jane Hunt

Jane Hunt’s glass pieces seem familiar in shape despite their abstract nature – the fluid lines, gentle curves and subtle colouring hinting at the human body (the piece above reminded me of an ear). By manipulating small bubbles of hot glass she expertly creates structures within the skin of the vessel.

A cup of Au by Alice McLean

Alice McLean’s work is incredibly delicate and concerned with the expressive power of materials through process. I love tea which is probably why I like cup of Au so much. Notions of value and material all swirling around in a gossamer tea bag.

Movement tests still by Larisa Daiga

Larisa Daiga combines digital film and ceramics. The film of a spherical vessel rolling around the floor eventually coming to a standstill on its neck had me hooked for a fair few minutes. I was bracing myself for it to smash and wondered whether it had been filmed in slow-motion (it hadn’t). Sound and ceramics are not obvious bedfellows but the films were nonetheless compelling.

Silver dollar by Laurie Schram

Laurie Schram’s pieces demand close inspection. She describes them as small interventions through which she adjusts the material world around her. Her use of money and precious materials raises questions about value, commodity and worth. George Washington’s head peeps through a layer of electroformed silver in ‘Silver Dollar’ a piece recently acquired by the British Museum.

  • In three words: hirsute, Gaga, B+

Show RCA 2012, RCA Kensington, 20 June – 1 July

www.rca.ac.uk @RCAevents

I have worked in the contemporary craft world for over five years now (sadly not making) and they say right about what you know.

So this blog will feature posts on exhibitions, installations, showcases, open studios, graduate shows and other miscellany going on in the beautiful world of contemporary craft. Each with a three word* summary.

*creative license allowed

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