Last week I had the opportunity to spend a day in central London to see what London Craft Week had to offer. LCW is an event held annually, showcasing the finest craftsmanship in fields ranging from ceramics and weaving, to sculpting and jewellery making. Exhibitions, talks, and workshops are held all across the city, and anyone is free to explore and discover.
Photo from Harry-Forster-Stringer's demonstration
I first looked in on Ruth Tomlinson’s retrospective exhibition, located at her atelier, tucked into the heart of Hatton Garden - London’s prestigious jewellery quarter. This is where the most prominent works from her career were displayed, ranging from delicate porcelain pieces she created while at university (the ‘Flora’ collection), to her very latest collections.
The space is bright and modern, with a shelf wall housing her inspirations: from seashells and fossils, to dainty porcelain figurines. I also had the chance to peek through a sketchbook of design ideas - always an intriguing experience to get an insight into a designers mind!
‘Encrustations’ is a collection that caught my eye immediately. It is clear Ruth has true mastery of the materials she uses with how realistic the porcelain and metal coral and barnacles look. These designs are so distinctive, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like them before.
While each collection is unique in it’s own way, there is a clear theme running through them, connecting them: the treasures of the natural world. Just like in nature, each piece is one-of-a-kind, with asymmetrical, organic features, as though grown from Ruth’s mind rather than consciously designed.
Photos from Ruth Tomlinson's retrospective exhibition
I then went to an Enamelling and Engraving demonstration held by Harry Forster-Stringer in the gorgeous backdrop of the Dr Harris & co. apothecary on St James’s street - the oldest still running in London. Harry Forster-Stringer is a master in his field, and he demonstrated the techniques he uses to achieve the finest quality in his engraving and enamelling, as well as providing plenty of practical advice for the fellow enamelers and engravers in the audience.
It’s time consuming, and finely detailed work, that seemingly could be instantly ruined by a clumsy hand or a misjudged action. Patience and precision are key in this field.
Harry explained to us that the jewellery trade has been an interest of his since childhood, and the passion he holds for his job is abundantly clear. Describing the process as “like alchemy”, Harry enjoys experimenting with technique and colours. Due to the nature of the enamelling process, colours are difficult to reproduce, but this just adds to the individuality of each creation.
It was truly fascinating have a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into crafting his beautiful works, and I certainly have a greater appreciation for the highly technical art of enamelling than I did before.
Photos from Harry-Forster-Stringer's demonstration
I'll be keeping an eye out for next years LCW. There are bound to be more treasures to unearth, and it’s sure not to disappoint!