Tag Archives: Manchester Craft & Design Centre

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


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.”