Barbican Centre, London
2 - 28 September 2009
This review appeared on Mary Butcher’s V&A blog
“This is a show of contemporary basketry in the Barbican library foyer, showing the world that the craft is no longer what people instantly imagine. No shoppers here, though I love to see them in other exhibitions and still love to teach those traditional skills which it is so important to maintain. More of that, and the Heritage Crafts Association another time.
But here are diverse sculptural objects, threads, wires, willow, and much more, professionally set out in cases with surface broken with covered flat plinths - can plinths be flat?– setting the objects up really well against light backgrounds. More, larger, pieces are on the walls.
All are works by Basketry Plus, a group who have emerged from the City Lit City and Guilds basketry course and who have banded together to continue to work and exhibit.
Their title, The Upsett, is a nice play on words, the first few rows of weaving up the side of a traditional basket being the upsett. With those rows you are getting everything set up and organized, but the group is also keen to upset the perception of basketry. They are showing the audience that, as a craft, it has two sides, which interact and have crossovers but here is the contemporary, full of personal discovery.
All the exhibitors here have traditional skills, not only UK ones, taught them at the City Lit so have a good base to work from but now they use them as they wish – scary freedom! The exhibition is fascinating and fun too – check it out.”
Mary Butcher, Craft Residency: Contemporary Basketry, Victoria & Albert Museum, July - December 2009
This review by John Page appeared in the Basketmakers’ Association Newsletter
“This exhibition marked both the first held by the group calling itself Basketry Plus, and the first of basketry held in the foyer of the Barbican Library. It comprised a stunning collection of work from ten makers, all of whom had at some time followed courses at the City Lit in London, so one might have expected some uniformity, or overall style. If there were, I didn’t see it and, as the introduction to the exhibition said, the exhibitors used the knowledge and skills of traditional basketry, and worked in differing and individual directions. This they certainly did; from the seemingly random weave of Norma Adams’s paradoxically named ‘Air Stone’ to the rightly named ‘Khadi Madness’, a large madweave paper bowl by Joyce Hicks, and from the jolly, glittering, and fluffy coiling from Margaret Sparks to the generally monochrome freeform coiling, seed-inspired exotic forms of Joan West. Possibly the most dramatic departure from baskets-as-some-of-us-know-them, came from Suni Lopez and Lorraine Gilmore. Suni’s pieces strikingly combine sometimes unexpected materials, such as chicken wire, felt, and plastic bottles with more conventional materials such as paper string, and some of Lorraine’s wisps of monofilament bound with the finest of wires are delightful, and could be worn as jewellery.
Geraldine Poore showed virtuoso painted-paper plaiting in brilliant greens, with dramatic interlacing in red, and Sherry Doyal a collection of containers made from all manner of woodland and garden gleanings as found or highly processed, such as cedar bark into paper. Stella Harding’s dogwood and apple ‘Blooms’ familiar from the poster burst joyously from the walls and Elaine Kingsford’s ‘Sewing Box’ plaited in cardboard and decorated with all sorts of haberdashery, poignantly evoked a time long ago, when we all knew how to sew on a button.
I thought this a great show, wish the group success, and hope it is not long before they are able to put on another to delight us.”