The Crafts Council was founded in 1971 and granted a Royal Charter in 1982 to promote the work of high-quality British craft nationally and internationally. Exhibition Project Manager for Design Days Dubai Barbara Gunter-Jones reflects on the high-calibre designers who have been exhibited over the last five years and reveals whose work will be on show in 2017.
Q: This is the fifth year running that the Crafts Council has participated in Design Days Dubai. Clearly your mission to promote the work of high-quality British craft internationally is proving successful in the Middle East. Which designers have proved popular with collectors and museums in past years and why do they appeal to Middle Eastern design sensibilities?
Barbara: It has been an interesting journey. Over the last 5 years we have introduced more than 40 British designers to the Middle East, and the results have been very encouraging. Many British designers continue to work with clients in the region, and others have received new commissions of work as a direct result of their participation at the event. Some of our designers working in architectural textiles and ceramics have been particularly successful - their use of innovative materials and unique methods of working have not been seen in the UAE before.
Q: Have you noticed a shift in the UAE’s appreciation of high quality, collectible design in the last five years?
Barabara: The Crafts Council has worked hard to show how bespoke, hand made contemporary craft has a valid place within the interior design and architecture sector. We are seeing a developing appreciation for the value of the hand made object.
Q: How did you decide on this year's shortlist of designers?
Barbara: The Crafts Council works with an independent selection panel to consider the work for display at Design Days Dubai. This year’s panel comprised Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at The British Council; Dr Alexandra MacGilp, Curator at the Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah; and Annie Warburton, Creative Director at the Crafts Council.
The chosen designers all demonstrate an experimental use of materials and an individual approach to making contemporary craft objects. In 2017, the Crafts Council is presenting objects by a number of designers who have not shown work in the UAE before.
Highlights this year include work by artist Anita Carnell who hand stitches gilt thread onto leather to create bespoke wall panels; and work by Edinburgh based designer Harry Morgan who creates sculptural pieces in concrete and glass. Also showing for the first time in Dubai is Umut Yamac, a designer who is interested in creating objects that are both playful and functional - his work at Design Days Dubai this year will include carefully balanced kinetic sculptures. A returning artist to Dubai is Shauna Richardson whose 3.2m high ‘crochetdermy’ animal sculpture is sure to generate a lot of attention.