Most of us with an urge to buy work by living artists are thwarted by the price: contemporary art is just too expensive. That's why contemporary craft or applied arts can make a terrific and affordable alternative. These fields have some of the finest artists working in the UK today.
They use a multiplicity of materials, from metal to clay, a plethora of processes from hand throwing to 3D printing, and are creating everything from benches to baskets.
The public are fascinated by the process of creating, falling over themselves in search of luxury brands and the hand-made. Craft relates to the individual and the personal. It is high quality, intelligent and beautifully constructed.
Many of today's makers are more thoughtful and creative in their skill than their fine-art peers, often producing objects that are both solidly functional and captivatingly good-looking.
The rising value of contemporary craft
Craft falls somewhere between fine art and design and, interestingly, leading fine artists have jumped on the bandwagon and now use craft skills in their own work, as do cutting-edge designers. And crafts is now an established collecting field in its own right.
Some of the credit for this goes to the Crafts Council, which 10 years ago established the international buying show, COLLECT, in the words of chairwoman Joanna Foster "to provide a world-class event for galleries and makers that would help build a sustainable market for contemporary craft".
Today, COLLECT flourishes, and yet craft remains undervalued with some of Britain's greatest makers selling their work for hundreds, rather than thousands, of pounds. But these pieces will rise in value.
Ten years ago, writing about COLLECT, I asked the now leading ceramicist and author of The Amber Hare, Edmund de Waal, about collecting his work. He said: "I have collectors under 30 and lots between 30 and 40."
Already those same collectors have seen a very important hike in the value of their purchases. That view is confirmed by gallerist Adrian Sassoon. "We have been exhibiting at COLLECT since its inception at the V&A in 2004. Over the years, COLLECT has firmly established itself as the most important art fair for contemporary craft in the world. The market for craft has grown significantly over the past 10 years."
COLLECT 2013: the makers
This year's COLLECT has work of museum quality. Silver by Adi Toch (CAA) or Simone ten Hompel (Gallery SO and Bishopsland) is beautiful, functional and well-priced.
While there is little intrinsic value in clay, many ceramic pieces are functional as well as decorative, for example vases by Carina Ciscato (at Joanna Bird) containers and vessels by Kirsten Coelho (Adrian Sassoon), lighting by Jos Devriendt (Design Flanders) or stacking containers by Min Soo Lee (Gallery LVS).
There are pieces made using long-established techniques, such as Ryuhei Sako's Mokume Gane vases (Katie Jones) or Claudia Lis's Celadon glazed white stoneware vessels (Ruthin), but equally new processes and digital technology are used, for items such as Tavs Jørgensen's glass bowls, Ismini Saminidou's textiles, Drummond Masterton's metalwork (all The Wills Lane Gallery) or Michael Eden's 21st-century take on Wedgwood (at Adrian Sassoon).
COLLECT combines UK galleries with an intriguing number of exhibitors from around the world. This year there is a strong Eastern presence, including the Yufuku gallery from Japan.
The Koreans are showing how they use traditional skills and processes in new ways, such as Minsik Ahn's silver kettle and Haecho Chung's glossy black lacquer bowl made in the old technique of Ottchil, (Korea Craft Design Foundation). There are also strong Nordic, Dutch and Belgian showings.
COLLECT attracts numerous international collectors, so applied arts galleries around London including Flow, Marsden Woo, Contemporary Applied Arts and Lesley Craze will also be hosting special selling shows on their own premises during the event.
Potential collectors should take heed of Edmund de Waal's advice. "Collect for love. Go into it with your heart, not your head." If you had followed his approach a decade ago and bought his work, you would have been doing both.