International Design Art in Chelsea: Collect Craft Fair at the Saatchi Gallery

Judging by the queues at the Saatchi Gallery, and the liberal sprinkling of orange dots already placed on exhibits, crafty customers were out in force on the first day of the Collect craft fair (which runs until Monday).

Billed as the ‘international art fair for contemporary objects’, the applied art on offer generally encompasses tableware, metalwork, furniture, jewellery, textiles and ceramic sculpture. In keeping with the modern design ethic, the meticulously handcrafted works in this show include trayfuls of unwearable necklaces, deconstructed clothing, useless utensils and chairs you can’t even sit on.

With prices starting at a couple of hundred pounds for items such Katie Bunnell’s computer numerically controlled laser-cut silicon moulded porcelain beakers, the show does offer affordability. But there are also items, probably the more collectable ones – like Michael Eden’s computer generated urns, or Kate Molone’s exotic vegetable inspired pots, where in some cases you won’t get much change from £30,000.

Arty eye candy abounds, with ephemeral glass sculptures and curiosity collections from the likes of Steffen Dam and Geoffrey Mann, exquisite Far Eastern designed enamel and lacquerware from Takuo Nakamura, Tang Mingxiu, Koji Hatakeyama and others – and molten sculptures from Norway like Irene Nordli’s Rosa Venus and Christina Schou Christensen’s Drip. There are some beautifully hand painted, and fairly reasonably priced, Central American inspired pots by a collective of Nicaraguan artists. And a few bizarre mixed media creations, where it looks as though Professor Branestawm got carried away with a Meccano set.

One room in the gallery is dedicated to ‘raw craft’, including Peter Marigold’s roughly constructed Log Chess Set. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a contemporary exhibition without a space for experimental installations. Louise Gardiner’s intricately appliquéd and embroidered canvases deserve a mention here, combining, as they do, detailed workmanship with colour-coordinated saleability (Belgravia-based concept stores take note).

Most extraordinary of all – and great fun too – is Geoff Crook and Peter Jones’ latest collaboration. Following on from their previous showing of ‘useless stuff’, Crook and Jones have created The Rhizome Chair. Its organic form “began as an experiment in translating theory into practice, but has evolved into an ecosystem of ideas and possibilities that redefine form and function.”  Based on Delueze and Guattari’s rhizome theory, the chair is made up of ‘pods’ (or rhizomes), each of which houses a scientific experiment. These range from the production and application of an electric current from fruit and vegetables to the interpretations and response to the unseen world revealed by the scanning electron microscope (SEM). “From its playful use of hyper-real colour to a fresh herb bed, the Rhizome chair is effectively a living form that has the potential to keep evolving. While it reflects some of the proportions and conventions that are normalized within the genre of ‘chairs’, the Rhizome is ultimately the product of a strategy of subversion and extension that encourages us to think before we SIT.”  Like much modern design art, it may not feel very comfortable…but should, at least, stimulate the imagination?


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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

5 thoughts on “International Design Art in Chelsea: Collect Craft Fair at the Saatchi Gallery

  1. Brit
    May 12, 2012 at 16:35

    Welcome back Susan!

    I like the chess set, but how big is it? Hard to tell the scale there… is each piece more or less a tree trunk?

      May 12, 2012 at 17:26

      Thanks, Brit! Seems I brought the sunshine back with me…

      Sorry, I forgot to take my ruler, but the pieces are around 4-6 inches tall x 2-3 inches wide (6-8 inches x 3-4 inches with the male conversion factor).

    May 12, 2012 at 16:38

    The Kate Molone fennel bulb vase is very nice, and I wouldn’t mind a faux aztec thingamebob either. Are they jellyfish in those jars?

    May 12, 2012 at 17:32

    Yes, small squid-like thingys (would you like the measurements?) – and there were other displays of marine curiosities too… plant life, anemones and the like.

      May 12, 2012 at 18:09

      They would be about six squid each? a bargain. Whilst backing away from describing the stuff as genuine art one could simply say ……………Chelsea conversations

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