Tag Archives: Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair

Ornament: Collecting Contemporary Craft. Visit to Touchstones Rochdale

Ornament: Collecting Contemporary Craft. Visit to Touchstones Rochdale

First stop was Touchstones Rochdale where I met with Art Gallery Officer and Curator Yvonne Hardman and she kindly showed me around the galleries and behind the scenes.

Touchstones Rochdale brings together an art gallery, museum, heritage gallery, local studies centre, education space, shop and café with a dynamic exhibition and events programme. The art gallery collects and regularly shows contemporary craft by some of the UK’s leading artists.

Yvonne and I discussed the story of how this group of objects came to be part of Touchstone Rochdale’s collection and we thought about how we might choose an artist for Ornament. The conversation revealed some interesting themes including the significance of the piece at the time it was made, when it was purchased and now.

The artist we both agreed on is Junko Mori. Her piece owned by Touchstones Rochdale is called Propagation Project: Super Jumbo Nigella, Wave.


Image courtesy of Junko Mori and Adrian Sassoon

Made in 2011 from Forged Mild Steel and then Wax Coated, this is Mori’s largest piece of work to date created at her studio in North Wales. Incorporating the repetition of an organic form, it also echoes the nature of a wave and was created as a response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Mori’s native Japan.

This piece of Junko Mori’s work was awarded to Touchstones Rochdale through Art Fund Collect 2012, a competition for curators at the Craft Council’s international fair for contemporary objects supported by the Art Fund.

The assembling of multiples of forged metal is the key to Junko Mori’s work. Her observations of nature, here the petals of the Nigella plant, are the driving force behind her sculptures which vary in scale from small objects in precious metals such as silver to large scale pieces in steel as in this case.


Propagation Project: Super Jumbo Nigella, Wave will feature in Ornament as part of GNCCF 2014 and then return to Touchstones Rochdale to be featured in an exhibition called A Common Ground from 13 December 2014 – 7 March 2015. This will feature more of Junko Mori’s work alongside ceramics by Ikuko Iwamoto and jewellery by Kayo Saito.

Organism 01

Junko Mori and Touchstone Rochdale are part of:

Ornament: Collecting Contemporary Craft

The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair

9th-12th October

Old Granada Studios


Touchstones logo (2)

Link4Life Trading



Introducing ‘Ornament’

Ornament is an exhibition of collectible craft by some of the UK’s most eminent artists.

Ann-Marie and I have always collected words.. Searching for the perfect alternative name to give our show…

One day the word ‘Ornament’ appeared on the list. We loved it and decided to save it for something special.

From Middle English ornament, from Old French ornement, from Latin ornamentum (“equipment, apparatus, furniture, trappings, adornment, embellishment”), from ornare (“to equip, adorn”). It embodies all that is contemporary craft.

Some people think that contemporary means plain and simple without ornamentation. Some people don’t like the word. It reminds them of the tasteless, shoddy ornaments of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Some people argue that ornament is always dictated by fashion and therefore destined to become ‘old-fashioned.’

Completely undeterred by all such comments (because we both loved the word equally and when we agree on something we are ‘a force to be reckoned with’), Ann-Marie and I have reclaimed ‘Ornament’ and given it the respect it deserves. It’s a word with grandeur. It doesn’t have to be highly embellished but it can be. It doesn’t have to be part of a collection but it can be. It can be contemporary, it can be traditional, and it can be a mix of both.

We’re looking forward to Ornament becoming a regular feature of the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and seeing how the word is interpreted. With ‘Ornament’ there is always a story to be told..

Angela Mann

The Curator of the very first Ornament exhibition is Kelda Savage and here she tells the story of her journey and gives you a  taste of the exhibition that will take place in Studio 2, Old Granada Studios in Manchester from 9-12 October.

Ornament aims to help build the market for collectors through exposure and education. The exhibition will celebrate the wealth of work on display in the North-West and encourage visitors to engage with contemporary craft across the region.

Since the end of May I have been traveling around the North-West visiting museums, galleries, universities, retail spaces and private collections all of whom hold excellent examples of contemporary craft. These collections were the starting point for Ornament.

I have visited  a collector’s home in Manchester and seen collections held by  The University of ManchesterManchester Metropolitan University, Blackwell: The Arts & Crafts House, The Harris MuseumGallery Oldham, Touchstones Rochdale and The Bluecoat Display Centre.

I have met with curators and collectors to look at objects and discuss the stories of the people who made them. We have marvelled at the artist’s expertise of techniques, skills and materials and revealed histories of the collections or individuals who purchased them and why. Appropriate artists from each collection were identified and  one artist chosen from each to participate in Ornament.

Venues and individuals have kindly loaned pieces from their collections for the exhibition but there will also be work by each artist available for sale. This presents the opportunity for visitors to begin a collection of contemporary craft or add to an existing collection.

I believe that “Understanding the processes of making and the histories of each object will enable visitors to more fully engage with the pieces on view and encourage confidence and desire to own something truly amazing.”

Join me as I share the story of Ornament 2014….

Many thanks to Arts Council England for funding Ornament through the National Lottery Grant for the Arts.


Granada TV’s New Production : Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair 2014

Welcome to the GNCCF’s  blog on all things contemporary craft.

We’ll be blogging about our shows, our exhibitors and our travels as well as bringing you news on exhibitions and opportunities. From what we get up to behind the scenes to highlights from fairs and exhibitions, we hope we’ll inspire, inform and entertain along the way.

We’ll also be featuring guest bloggers too so if you’d like to review an exhibition, wax lyrical on your favourite piece of contemporary craft, impart business advice to fellow makers or share your latest addition to your ,for example, please get in touch with us at ann-marie@greatnorthernevents.co.uk. And of course we’d love to hear your comments too.


So first up, we’re very excited to announce that the GNCCF is moving to a new home when it takes over the iconic studios of Granada TV in Manchester from 9-12 October.granada-tv

The studios are really impressive and enormous…that little person is Angela in the middle of Studio 12.



The last time I was in Studio 12 was 20 yrs ago when I worked at Granada TV on the Saturday prime time game show The Shane Richie Experience…and it was quite an experience! Three couples competed to get married at the end of the show by playing stupid games; oh no it’s all coming back to me now…just had a quick flashback of the round Stags & Hens where the bride to be rode a giant hen whilst it catapulted eggs from its rear end which her fiancé had to catch dressed up as a stag. Ho hum… wonder how many of the winners ended up a divorce statistic? Then there was Simply Greek in Studio 2, a FIFTY TWO part series on Greek cooking, better know by the team as Simply Eek when we realized the limited repertoire of the Greek cuisine…here’s Loula,the presenter, poking her fingers into her 51st mousaka of the series…





I hang my head in shame for being responsible for some tacky shows in a previous life! Thank goodness I escaped and found solace in the beauty and calm of contemporary craft.


At least I can promise a quality show this time! We have over 160 designer makers all selected for their exceptional skills and designs in ceramics, glass, textiles, jewellery and wood. Over 50% of these are showing their work at the GNCCF for the very first time so I can assure you there will be lots of new work to browse and buy. Over the next few weeks we’ll be blogging our favourite work, but I‘ll leave you to drool over this gorgeous image hot off the press this week from fab embroider Louise Gardiner who will be exhibiting her new collection of scarves and cushions….




Contemporary Craft Experts?!!!

This is my first ever blog post, so where to begin but at the beginning. People wrongly assume that as the organisers of the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, we have an in-depth knowledge of craft.

Seven years ago, when we decided to launch the show, we knew only how to organise. We brought in the experts. People like Jo Bloxham (Curator/ Collector), James Beighton (MIMA), Jamila Ghazoul (Artizan Gallery), Steve Dixon (Professor of Ceramics/ Ceramicist) and Kelda Savage (Manchester Craft and Design Centre). Together they selected the makers for our first show.

When I look back on that first selection day, it makes me smile. At the time, Ann-Marie and I suffered. What we had thought of as beautiful, contemporary craft was harshly rejected as derivative and lacking in quality, finish or innovation. What they all craved was something new and different or work that had moved on over time. They also sought consistency via a cohesive collection of work. Half way through the selection process, Ann-Marie and I sought refuge in the toilet and wept.

At the end of that day though, as we all walked through the City Centre trying to avoid drunken Glasgow Rangers fans, we realised that the cruel selection process meant that we had the makings of an excellent first show.

Seven years on, we know a lot more. Now we, too, are looking for something new to excite us.

Exposure is education, as Grayson Perry once said, “You have to have looked at lots of things to have the ability to judge what is good art/craft”. I think this is truer in terms of knowing what is poor. You have to know what has gone before, to realize when something is copied. You have to have seen work that is well finished, to see the poor finishing. You have to have seen lots of the same work to realize when something is innovative. But judging what is good – isn’t that more than simple exposure?

There’s good because something is beautiful. There’s good because you love the story behind the work or because you understand it. There’s good because there is a personal connection. There’s good because something is clever or the technique is difficult and probably most importantly for me, there’s good because you like the person who made the work and the work is a reflection of them.

Before we launched the Craft Fair, a group of us visited Aberystwyth Ceramics Fair. In the exhibition shop we saw some work by the potter, Simon Carroll. Knowing nothing about his work, we laughed at the £39 price tag attached to what we, at the time, thought were badly thrown cups with sloppy glazing. Were they having a laugh? Then we saw a demonstration/presentation by him. The work was a reflection of him. There was madness to it. His demonstration involved him sitting on a swivel chair and spinning as fast as he could, whilst someone threw a pot on his bald head. We fell in love with his craziness and became ‘groupies’, getting up very early the next morning especially to see him again. This time, in a more intimate seminar we saw his more vulnerable side and fell in love a little more. When it was time to leave, we all had to take a little piece of him home. The cup is a treasured possession. It contains a little madness that makes you smile and it’s beautiful because he was. I say ‘was’ because, sadly, he died in 2009 at the age of 45.

Fairs like the GNCCF allow us to meet the maker and hear their story and feel a connection to the work we buy. That, for me, is what contemporary craft is all about.

Angela Mann







The V&A are currently showing an exhibition of Simon Carroll’s work from Saturday 5 April 2014 – Sunday 4 January 2015.

Here’s what they say about him:

“An unconventional and adventurous artist, Simon Carroll produced some of the most singular and extraordinary ceramics of recent years. Characterised by extremes in the handling of clay and by bold and vigorous mark-making, his pottery has an affinity with abstract expressionism.”