Curves in all the right places

The Origin show gives everyone the chance to enjoy crafts by creative stars at affordable prices
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Buying delightful pieces of contemporary applied art is an enjoyable way to invest your money.

The modern art market is booming despite the economic news. This interest in the contemporary seems set to grow, with high expectations for this year’s Frieze Art show.

That’s good news for modern craft. A significant number of artists in the Royal Academy Summer Show came from the craft sector, including ceramicist Rachel Kneebone, whose work was selected by Tracey Emin to appear in her dedicated room at the show.

Kneebone started off showing at the Chelsea Craft Show; now she’s considered a hot ticket at Frieze, as are an increasing number of craft artists.

Origin, the Craft Council’s successor to Chelsea, is a good place to find pieces by new stars at considerably more affordable prices than in the art market. What’s more, much of the work is functional as well as decorative and thought-provoking.

'Origin is a good place to find pieces by new stars at more affordable prices than in the art market'

Take, for example, pieces by Jacob van der Beugel in black stoneware. Each of his pots is functional but he displays them in multiples as an installation.

Jungle Cushion Collection by Margo Selby
© Margo Selby
Textiles by Margo Selby include her colourful jungle cushion collection (£60)
Chris Keenan, an established, much-collected potter creates exquisite porcelain teaware, bowls and vases in delicate Japanese-looking greens, blues and browns.

A new Japanese rising star based in London is Ikuko Iwamoto, whose strange sprouting vessels, while being extremely sculptural, also have a practical function as vases.

Craft, like art, can make social commentary, as in Anja Lubach’s disturbing face bowls in black or white, where strange surrealistic heads poke out of the china.

More humorously, Helen Beard comments on London life in her bowls and cups decorated with London street scenes and witty sketches of “rogue” characters.

There is also more functional work, which, nevertheless, is strikingly beautiful. Andrew Wickes has extended his palette from white to a delicate range of greens and blues. His vessels are decorated with subtle twig-like, textured surfaces.

Blue lace bowl by Marie Retpen
© Dominic Tschudin
Collapsed squashed bowls are decorated with lace transfers by Marie Retpen (£600)
Andrea Walsh’s bowls have intensely coloured interiors like deep pools of colour in a Hockney painting, and Sara Flynn makes fine porcelain vessels such as pinch jugs in restrained colours.

In contrast, Katrin Moye produces Fifties-look designs on mugs and plates. Cathy Miles’s wire figures also have a Fifties feel. Her work is a whimsical comment on life.

In recent years, metalwork, and in particular silver, is one of the strongest areas at Origin. A designer/maker to watch is Esther Lord, whose strong shapes have finely textured surfaces. Her work, mainly vases and bowls, is elegant and haunting. Equally unusual are the stainless-steel platters etched with twig-like designs by Latimeria, which also makes small twiggy forks.

'In recent years, metalwork, and in particular silver, is one of the strongest areas at Origin'

Louise Loder creates simple but beautiful silver paint buckets that work as vases or bowls and are likely to become as collectable as pieces by Danish designer Sidsel Dorph-Jensen, whose folded ribbon platters and candlesticks have made her an international figure.

New on the block is Seung-Hyun Suh, whose bowl studded with silver discs looks like a homage to Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely.

Curly Vases by Marie Retpen
© Enok Holsegaard
'Curly Vases' by recent RCA graduate Marie Retpen (£45 each)
Glass artists, too, have international recognition, especially in America, where glass is the most collected contemporary craft. One highly talented artist is Clare Henshaw, whose etiolated forms and delicate but strong colours reflect the surroundings of her Welsh home.

Amanda Notarianni also produces strong work along with Gillies Jones, whose intensely coloured vessels are decorated with precision. There are also innovative new glass-makers whose pieces have a feel of the 18th century.

Lucy Alexandra Batt’s hand-carved layered glass looks as if it is a curious kind of glass flock. Her platters are carved with ornate baroque patterns and she has recently completed a commission to do a series of platters for Launceston Place restaurant in Kensington.

A similarly 18th century look is achieved by recent RCA graduate Marie Retpen, who makes collapsed squashed bowls decorated with lace transfers that are both delicate yet modern.

That historic mood is also evident in Laura Marsden’s work. She has developed her own system for recycling plastic bags and turning them into a yarn with which she creates lace-like patterns applied to cushions. It is really elegant recycling.

Steam Bent Ash Tilting Stool by Angus Ross
© Julie Campbell
'Steam Bent Ash Tilting Stool' by Angus Ross (£380)
Cushions are a favourite way to bring high-quality artistry into the home. Some of the best are by Margo Selby, who seems to be almost every craft-maker’s favourite textile artist, judging by the number of makers who sport her scarves.

Doerte Behn (a frequent choice for ties by journalist and TV news presenter Jon Snow) weaves simple, beautifully coloured modernist cushions.

Wallace Sewell has similarly elegant colouring in more cosy woven wools, while Eleanor Pritchard has understated geometric patterns in fine wool and Ekka Haul creates unusual textured cushions in silk.

This year, there is some interesting and unusual furniture, such as Andrew Trotman’s spiral wood bench and stool.

There is also a trend to defy gravity: J-P Vilkman makes three balanced cabinets, each in a different wood, that appear to totter precariously and Paul Johnson of Bloq pursues a similar theme with his disturbing jigsaw cabinets.

Furniture is the new Design/Art but furniture at Origin is more accessible and reasonably priced.

Ticket offer to Origin

Buy two full price single entry tickets for the price of one. To claim this offer, print this page and present it at the ticket desk on the day.

Celadon Teapot and Cups with Wooden Tray by Chris Keenan
© Michael Hawey
Potter Chris Keenan's porcelain teaware includes 'Celadon Teapot & Cups with Wooden Tray' (£220)
Origin, Somerset House, Strand, WC2
* 7 to 19 October. Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 7pm.
* Late-night shopping every Thursday until 9pm.
* Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 6pm.
* For more information, visit
*To buy tickets, call 0844 847 2393, or visit
* Tickets cost £8 for a single entry, £6 for concessions.
* One entry each week during the show costs £12; concessions, £10. Unlimited entry for the whole event costs £15. All prices include a catalogue. Under-12s have free entry.

Frieze Art Fair, Regent’s Park, N1
Runs from 16 to 19 October. Thursday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm; Sunday, 11am to 6pm. For more information, visit

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