Curios - 40 Years in the Making 8th Oct 2022 - 7th Jan 2023
A collection of curios by some of our well-loved makers and some makers we’ve never worked with before. New collections by old favourites and collectable works to treasure for generations to come are brought together in this exciting showcase. Featuring rare works made from vintage finds, leather, wood, wire, glass, ceramics and paper, these exciting keepsakes, sculptures and curios will provide an opportunity to explore the very best of contemporary craft in the UK today.
Image: Chiu-I Wu
Click on the links to our past shows below to discover more from our amazing 40 year archive!
Image: Margo Selby
Sarah Jane Brown
Sarah is a maker of mixed media decorative objects made from recycled tin, newspaper, wire and paper. Her curious sculptures have been exhibited with us in many shows over the years including Wireworks in 2006, All Things Bright & Beautiful in 2010, Amore in 2011, Made with Love in 2019 and The Winter Show in 2021. Sarah will be showcasing some brand new pieces from her mini collection 'Gardeners Delight' as well as the more familiar pieces Sarah is well known for. Some of the small sculptures from past collections exhibited with us were created with a driftwood base where small scenes inspired by nature, animals, gardens and allotments were added, capturing the imagination. The materials Sarah sources are combined with each other in a way that makes the work clearly recognisable as hers. Sarah other unique creations include tiny everyday objects; lamps, chairs, cups, telephones…a fascinating world in miniature for collectors to explore.
“I'd like to say that I am ‘eternally grateful’ (said in an alien voice from Toy Story) for Leeds Craft Centre. You have supported me from the beginning of my career which was in something like 1995. I remember being so chuffed at you wanting to exhibit my work; a beaming smile moment at the starting point of my career as a maker. I think we have had a fantastic relationship and journey and it's like being part of an extended family. The standard & quality of other work has always been well curated and a bit quirky (I like that, given I don't really fit in any specific field). And I love your exhibition themes. Its no wonder you are still going strong after all these years, capturing the audience's hearts with the delights of unique affordable craft pieces.”
Anya began working with wire in 1992 and over her career has exhibited her fascinating characters with us for many shows which include On the Block in 2018 and The Winter Show in 2021. She was studying a diploma at Newcastle-under-Lyme College of Art and was really struggling to draw her ideas down on paper so began ‘drawing’ with wire instead. She moved to Hereford a couple of years later, to study a HND in Design Crafts, and started going down to the river Wye shore to collect broken glass ‘pebbles’, driftwood and potshards to add to her work: “I have always been a collector of damaged, decayed, broken and abandoned objects, many of which I use in my current practice. There was always a mental battle, as a child, of whether my love of finding objects would lead down the path of archaeology or whether my incessant inventing of stories and assembling of objects would take me along a more artistic route. The latter prevailed and eventually my object collecting has become a necessary material for my practice and my practice has become an essential usage for my amassed accumulations.” Anya’s favourite wires to use are iron and steel although she also uses brass, copper and silver wires. Most of the wire work is shaped and bound by hand, manipulating it using pliers and occasionally soldering the joins. The creatures are brought to life by applying plant dyed vintage fabrics around the wire frames and are embellished with vintage finds.
"The Craft Centre and Design Gallery is a joy to work with. My work has invariably altered and evolved over the years and the gallery has always been supportive of this, allowing me the freedom to create, and showcase, work in new styles and techniques."
We're delighted to be working with Samantha again for this special show. She, too, is celebrating a very special anniversary herself as a maker this year, 20 years! We've had the pleasure of working with her in a couple of Solo Showcases in 2002 and 2004 and a variety of other inspiring show such as Recollection in 2003, Archive in 2007, All I Want for Christmas II in 2009, Northern Lights in 2010, Remember When in 2011, Up Front in 2016 and Celebrating 35 Years in 2017. Yorkshire maker Samantha is inspired by Victorian gadgetry and invention. She creates suspended, wall mounted and free-standing sculptures out of a combination of wire, leather, found objects and collected materials. Samantha finds herself preoccupied with everyday life, but not of her own; that of the fairy. Samantha’s sculptures depict fairies going about their everyday lives. Her objective is to realise the necessities and requirements that would be involved in ‘fairy life’; to provide everything a fairy would demand during its daily existence. “I have named these ‘Fairy Aiding Inventions’, invented by ‘Brain’ (me). They are theoretically functional items for the mildly eccentric. A world for people to enter; a nostalgic glimpse of childhood fantasies.”
“Not All Fairies Can Fly curated by The Craft Centre & Design Gallery Leeds is still one of my all-time favourite exhibitions. The gallery have played a large role in supporting me as a maker. They gave me a short work placement during my degree. The director and assistant director then attended my degree show, despite it being a long journey down to Hereford. Additionally upon graduating I was offered a part time position with them. It was the perfect role to complement making, relevant, informative and supportive. It offered a wonderful window into good practice, the extensive knowledge of my peers and behind the scenes insight – a real advantage. I also made brilliant friends along the way.”
It's great to have Helen back in the gallery with her intriguing glass sculptures. We last worked with her when we were celebrating our 30th anniversary in a show called Glass in the Window in 2012. Glass Artist and Lecturer; Helen graduated from The Royal College of Art, with a master’s degree in 3D Design: Glass & Ceramics, in 1996 and since then has been lecturing and making glass sculpture from her workshop in the Cotswolds. She completed a part-time PhD by practice, in 2021, at The Royal College of Art, London. Based in Oxfordshire, Helen’s glasswork draws inspiration from spaces and places within changing environments. Her work explores the creation of the 3D or spatial image, within glass, and the notion of glass as a facilitator, in working with and challenging our perception of space. Her unique glass pieces vary in scale from dramatic life size outdoor figures to delicate tabletop casts for interiors. “My glass work has always been inspired by nature. I love walking through the countryside with my dog and taking in the magnificent landscape around my home and workshop. I was lucky to be brought up in rural Ormskirk, Lancashire, and this allowed me to make strong connections with the landscape and open spaces as a child, which I have never lost.”
“I first showed my work with Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery in December 2012. I remember being so excited at seeing a photo of my work in the Leeds press and it launch my new landscape inspired works. It was a great show and I'm so grateful to the Craft Centre & Design Gallery for agreeing to show my work then and now in their 40-year celebrations."
Julia Griffiths Jones
Julia worked with us back in the 90s so we are thrilled to be working with her again with her new body of work. Her work is concerned with the translation of textile techniques such as stitching, quilting, patchwork and embroidery, into a wire and metal form; thus changing its original nature and function but retaining the meaning and the decoration. “I am very inspired and influenced by Textile work created by women alongside their domestic duties as much as for need as for warmth. This interest began when I was a student at the Royal College of Art.” Julia won a scholarship to research and study Textiles in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Here she saw Folk Art for the first time; it was everywhere woven through all aspects of life. Gradually she began to transfer her drawings into three dimensions using wire and became totally enthralled by the possibilities of drawing in space using line and colour. “My training and qualifications are in Textile Design so this change in materials was a huge departure for me but a very crucial one as through it I began to create, I believe, a unique language and a deeply satisfying one.”
“I am thrilled to be exhibiting at the Crafts Centre in this celebratory year. I last exhibited here during the nineties, when I was working primarily in wire. Since then I have been learning how to enamel, which I am very excited to be showing here for the first time.”
We're over the moon to be working with Jennifer again. She has showcased her work with us for many of our shows over our 40 years including Expect the Unexpected in 2005, Amore in 2010, A New Life in 2013 and Another Life in 2016. Jennifer creates exquisite sculptures from vintage recycled materials in conjunction with stitch; a contemporary twist on traditional textiles. The papers serve as both the inspiration and the media for the work, with the narrative suggesting the forms. Through this marriage of unlikely materials old papers are transformed into something truly unique, delicate and complex. Jennifer completed a BA (hons) in Textiles (Print, Knit and Weave) in 1999 at Manchester Metropolitan University. Most recently Jennifer has been collecting rarely used, heritage stitches and discovering how to translate the art of lost stitches onto paper, as these techniques are an important part of our creative heritage and she wants to continue to invest time in them to keep them in the present, offering them onto future generations. Jennifer is giving new life to things that would otherwise go unused, unloved or be thrown away.
"As a student it was always my dream to show work at Leeds Craft and Design Centre, so it makes it all the more special that I have shown my work here so many times 23 years on!"
We are over the moon to be working with Jan again; he has worked with us in many of our exhibitions including Knock on Wood in 2007 and Remember When in 2011, but his first exhibition was with us backin 1985! Jan sees himself primarily as a woodcarver, and this skill takes him in a number of different directions. “My interest in carving started when I decided to make some small puppets as Christmas presents. These early puppets utilised driftwood and branches complete with bark. They had a primitive and slightly wild feel. I felt very encouraged in my new direction when I received a grant from Northern Arts, as well as some opportunities to exhibit.” During the early 80s Jan came to London and succeeded in getting a Setting Up Grant from the Crafts Council. This allowed him to develop his carving further. “The puppets I carved got larger and more sculptural. I enjoyed emphasising the natural qualities of the wood whilst leaving it unpainted but highly finished. These puppets were received favourably, and I started to exhibit them extensively around Britain.” Jan’s work was then included in exhibitions promoting British makers in Kyoto and Tokyo (British Council), Munich, and Avignon (Crafts Council). His puppet making process led smoothly to automata making. “I became fascinated by the process of combining the sculptural with the mechanical. Around that time I discovered the exciting world of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, and was very inspired by other automata makers. Finding new ways of making the work move became part of the creative process. Leaving the mechanisms exposed made them almost as important visually as the actual carving.” During the early 90s Jan got involved with the renowned ‘Little Angel Theatre’ in London, and became their resident carver, making puppets, as well as props for a number of productions – most notably Jan was involved in Little Angel’s co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s productions of ‘Venus and Adonis’ and ‘The Tempest’.
“My connection with the gallery goes back to the early 80's when Mercia Southon introduced me to the Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery as it was then and invited me to exhibit here. Over the years, and with encouragement from people like Hayley Walker and Jane Laverty, I have had the pleasure of continuing to show here. Taking part in various exhibitions and showcases has proved hugely encouraging. Through the sales of various puppets, automata and woodcarvings it also supported and boosted the creative path that my work took. Thank you, Leeds Crafts Centre.”
Chiu - I Wu
We're so excited to be working with Chiu-I for this anniversary showcase. We've worked with her many times over the years including Northern Lights in 2010, Figure That in 2015, and when we Celebrated 35 Years in 2017. When Chiu-I was little, it was with pen and paper that she felt expressive; drawing and drawing without thought. The feeling never left her, and she graduated to paint, then finally to ceramics. “I developed my art and ceramics in my home country, Taiwan and exhibited my first work in Taipei. I just produce from my heart, sensing when what I’m creating begins to feel right.” Ceramics was an adventure into clay and glaze for Chiu-I, and she studied hard to be able to create the feeling she wanted. When she moved to England, she brought many glaze recipes, but soon discovered a new range of English clays to explore. “I came to England in 2003; I can feel my love of English summers, blackbirds and sheep touching my heart and influencing my work. I now exhibit in both countries. My memories of childhood are built up in many pieces, I couldn’t remember them all, but enough to fill a daydream. I always thought I was a very shy and quiet person at school, but remembering the playing life, it was all wild and crazy. The best time of my childhood, was living in my mum’s friend’s house who had 3 young children living in a very traditional Chinese house with rolling hills as our playground.”
“Over the years it’s always been a delight when people come up to me and say "Oh I discovered your work in The Craft Centre in Leeds.” Always a pleasure to work with you and thank you for helping put me on the map!”
It's always a pleasure to work with Yorkshire artist and sculptor David and we've loved having his work showcased in exhibitions such as Down to Earth in 2014 and for his Solo Showcase too in the same year. David is a sculptor of national repute who produces work for galleries, public spaces and the domestic environment. Working in mild steel, stainless steel, bronze and cast-iron David creates a range of sculptures exploring landscapes with trees and animals. “Over the past 30 years I have developed my work from raw assemblage with found objects to the much more refined pieces I now create. I started using metal after visiting one of Sheffield’s many scrap yards while studying my fine art degree. I was instantly drawn to the colour and texture of discarded steel and the inherent quality it possessed. I have a lifelong passion with nature and landscape; I now live in Holmfirth near areas of stunning woodland, beautiful hills and moorland. My work is a response to this landscape and wilderness.”
"I have been exhibiting at the Craft Centre Leeds for many years and it has always been a special place for me as this is my home city. I have taken part in a large number of successful group exhibitions at the gallery but if I had to pick a year it would be 2014, first with the exhibition Down to Earth and then my Solo showcase later that year. The solo exhibition gave me the chance to explore and develop a number of new pieces which took my work to a new place and was the catalyst in the production of a range of work that I still make today.”
We started working with Maisie back in 2020 so it's great to be welcoming her back for this special anniversary exhibition. After graduating from Bournemouth with a degree in Illustration in 2015, she continued to draw, design and create which soon developed into drawing onto ceramics. "I started shaping my own little houses out of British clay and instantly fell in love. It is such a delight to bring my illustrations to life in the form of a physical little house which can be held and treasured. Shaping the clay by hand means that no two are ever the same. Creating with clay has led me to explore much further than houses. Windmills, greenhouses, garden sheds and mushrooms, to name a few, are all now part of my miniature clay kingdom."
"Working with the Leeds Craft Centre has been a truly joyous experience for myself and my small business over the years. It has enabled me to display my work in a beautiful and creative environment and made it possible for me to share my passion with a wider audience. I feel grateful and proud to be a part of the Leeds Craft Centre 40th year exhibition alongside so many talented artists. Congratulations!"
Please note that the images above may not be the work arriving for our show. Once the show starts we'll be adding photographs and creating a Virtual Gallery Tour so you can explore what the makers made for you to own or admire.
Go behind the scenes with some of our makers...