British Museum blog

Teddy time traveller


Faye Ellis, Digital Learning Programmes Manager, British Museum

I’ve liked Grayson Perry’s work for a long time, and was hugely excited when I heard that the British Museum would be staging an exhibition of his work. He’s a bit of a legend in my family – there are lots of Grayson Perry books lying around my parents’ house, and my Mum even dressed up as him once – complete with rosy cheeks and teddy bear. Knowing a bit about his work, I was also very aware that the content of the exhibition might be quite adult, and wasn’t too hopeful that we’d be able to do many Grayson-inspired family activities. However, much to my delight, it turned out that we’d be able to run an activity in the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre. If you’ve not been yet, the Samsung Centre is a digital education space for young people in the British Museum. We run free activities for families and 13-18s every weekend, and the Grayson Perry session would make up part of that programme.

A lot of the Museum’s activities for young people based on the exhibition have centred around Alan Measles, Perry’s childhood teddy bear, who is, on the surface, the ‘child-friendly face’ of the exhibition (but look closer and you’ll discover he’s a witty, cynical old bear with a strong tendency to swear). We wanted to stick with the theme of teddy bears, but do something a little different. We decided to run a session called Teddy time traveller, inspired by the idea of taking a childhood toy with you on a journey (as Grayson Perry did when he travelled around Bavaria in 2010) and blogging – something which Alan Measles does himself from time to time.

The session has three stages – firstly, families have their photograph taken in front of a green screen with their teddy bear (or one of our six standby bears, if they don’t have one of their own). I even donated my own childhood bear, the unimaginatively named Brown Ted, to take part:

My very own Brown Ted

Next, they use Photoshop (the children are amazingly quick to pick it up!) to insert themselves into an illustrated scene. Finally, they upload the picture to a WordPress blog, and write a short entry about their travels. It was important to me that the children found a ‘voice’ for their bear, and so I put some of the less adult Alan Measles quotes on the walls to inspire them! Although most children wrote the blogs from their own perspective, we did have a few writing as their toys.

Here’s part of a blog entry I particularly liked – especially because of the enormous handful of toys Dan took to Egypt with him:

I went to Egypt and I had lots of fun and a nosebleed. That’s the thing with time travel: nosebleeds. I liked it at Egypt. It was hot. I did some digging and found lots of beads and necklaces and jewellery and a model of a Pharoah. Monkey enjoyed it lots and Margot and Foofah enjoyed it. It was too hot for Monkey…

I wanted the scenes to be visually exciting, and so I asked the illustrator Rob Flowers to create backgrounds of ancient China, Greece, Rome, Egypt and Mexico. His work is bright, bold and funny, just like Grayson’s. Rob used pictures of objects from the Museum when creating the illustrations, and was very interested in where they came from and what they were used for. He was recently interviewed by Topman.co.uk in which he mentions the project and the Museum. Here’s my favourite of the four backgrounds – ancient Mexico:

The Aztec backdrop created by illustrator Rob Flowers

Grayson often mentions technology when giving talks or writing blogs, whether it’s to discuss his dislike of the way we use mobile phones or to write about his appreciation of the potential of technology in craft and design. He’s used technology in his work, including to create some wonderful digital tapestries. It was therefore interesting to create a workshop that entirely used technology, but to create an illusion – children travelling back in time, teddy bears writing blogs…it’s all part of delving deep inside your imagination (something Grayson does in spades) whether it’s through the use of technology or not.

The thing that pleased me most of all about the activity was the fact that children did actually bring their own teddies along – it meant that a lot of our standby teddies sat unused most of the time, but it was hugely encouraging to us that the children felt their bears were so important. One even brought her ‘second-favourite’ teddy because of the fear of losing her favourite one!

We’ll be running six Teddy time traveller sessions altogether – the last one will be on Saturday 4 February. Bring your children, nieces, nephews and all their friends – and don’t forget your teddies!

See all the families’ blogs at http://teddytimetraveller.wordpress.com, and keep up to date with all our free digital activities for families by checking the family events calendar.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
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Grayson Perry, a pot and me


Ian Jenkins, Senior curator, British Museum

I begin this post as a failure – that is to say – somebody (disarmingly described by him as ‘brilliant and funny’ but) unable to persuade my good friend Grayson Perry of the merits of Greek sculpture.

To underline this point, he has depicted me on a pictorial vessel in his current exhibition at the British Museum, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman. I am shown, wielding a blood-dripping sword, defending the legacy of ancient Greece in the form of a Greek temple. The reference here is the ongoing conversation I have with Grayson about his view of Greek art and sculpture.

Ian Jenkins in warrior mode on the vase 'Grumpy Old God', Grayson Perry, 2010

It’s a matter of principle with Grayson that he regards Greek art as posh people’s stuff and associates it with all that he despises in Establishment art history. Although I wield the sword, it’s Grayson who sees himself as the artisan warrior and The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman is his personal commemoration of the lives of all those nameless craftsmen who created the majority of the objects in the British Museum.
A question I have for Grayson is what about the nameless Greek artisans who built the Greek temples and carved the many sculptures that we have in the Museum? Why are they to be excluded from his church of craftsmen?

I say this in the spirit of the good-natured dialogue Grayson and I have been having for approaching two years. In my capacity as a curator, I assisted him in various ways including delightful car journeys to the Museum store rooms at Blythe House – ironically in that part of west London we call Olympia – if not, in George’s café over delicious bacon sandwiches and milky coffee. I would find myself enthralled by Grayson’s effervescent personality, his natural intelligence and his remarkable tendency to speak in poetic aphorism. Sometimes the things he said seemed so profound as to leave me reeling and I could only reply ‘I’m going to have to think about that one Grayson.’

The striking thing about introducing Grayson to the collections was that while others might have selected the material they wanted to feature by a process of elimination based on the things that were put before them, he seemed always to have in his head a fully formed idea of what it was he wanted. As often as not he shook his head when shown what I thought would be appropriate, declaring the object to be not what he was looking for. And that, I think, is the essential difference between how a curator might approach an exhibition – laboriously sorting and collecting material – where Grayson had in his mind’s eye a ready formed idea of what he wanted and his adventure into the reserves of the Museum was a search for the desired objects.

The thing about Grayson is that he is universally regarded by all those who had the pleasure of working with him as a thoroughly nice bloke with natural intelligence and charisma and none of the pretensions of the celebrity artist that might be found in other personalities. I hope he found in us his extended family and in the British Museum, a new home. He became, and remains, one of us and in his own way became a curator.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
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Stunt double trouble


Janet Larkin, Curator of the Enlightenment Gallery

I’ve had an exciting time these last few months managing the installation of the objects for Grayson Perry’s exhibition. As part of this, I have also been tasked with changing the stunt double teddy bears on the back of Grayson motorbike, which you can see on display just outside the exhibition entrance. I usually work in the Department of Coins and Medals and look after the Enlightenment Gallery, and so getting up close to this fantastic motorbike is a real change for me!

Hundreds of bears entered their CVs and photos for Grayson Perry’s competition to find a stunt double for Alan Measles, who is of course Grayson’s teddy bear and ‘god of his imaginary world’. Grayson shortlisted the candidates to find his top 12 and then the public voted for their three favourites. The final three reminded us of The Story of the Three Bears, there was “a Little, Small, Wee Bear” called Dr Schmoo, “a Middle-sized Bear” called Pinny, and “a Great, Huge Bear” called John Duggan.

Last week, early one morning before the Museum opened to the public, we tried John Duggan out for size by placing him in the shrine on the back of Grayson’s motorbike. Dressed up in his leathers and wearing a fantastically ornate eye patch, he really looked the part. However, John was slightly too tall for the shrine and so, very sadly, he won’t be able to take up his place as the stand-in for Alan Measles after all.

This is incredibly disappointing for John Duggan of course. He had so wanted to sit in the shrine and for all to come and see him. However, we know that he will take comfort in knowing that he has been an internet star with thousands of votes. He now even has his own Facebook page, so do go and make friends with him! He will certainly go on to have many more adventures I’m sure. Whilst he was here, and in true stunt teddy bear spirit, he did try out a few poses on the motorbike which we caught on camera and which he wanted you to see…

John Duggan prepares for a ride on Grayson Perry's motorbike

Displaying his fine balancing skills on the handlebars

Enjoying the scenery

Posing like a true stunt double

And so, we now need a stand-in for the stand-in! The next bear on the shortlist from the final stages of the competition will be contacted and asked to take John Duggan’s place. Keep an eye out (not literally, like John Duggan) on Twitter for the announcement of who that lucky bear will be.

You may have seen Pinny and Alan Measles on Harry Hill’s TV Burp. Pinny is thrilled to have been on television. Have you seen Pinny or Dr Schmoo on display yet? Dr Schmoo is proudly wearing his Grayson Perry badge, and I’ve even found him a cushion so that he can sit on that big throne much more comfortably.

Find out more about the Grayson Perry Late event.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
is supported by AlixPartners, with Louis Vuitton.
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Making connections


Philippa Perry, Grayson’s wife, on looking for connections in
the exhibition Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

On the rare occasions when Grayson and I visit a shopping street together, his favourite place seems to be the charity shops. We go into one together and I look at everything and after about three minutes of finding nothing I long for fresh air and wait for him outside. He takes longer than me, he looks more carefully and comes out after a few more minutes with a rare book or a tweed jacket that somehow I managed to overlook. And when we take his finds back home it is as though we’ve always had them. They seem to have his handwriting on them.

Amulet with plaque, ‘Tsa Tsa’. Bronze and paper, Tibet, 1800–1899.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

When I saw his final selection from the British Museum this is what struck me. To me, it looked like the objects he chose could have been made by him – they had his personality already. It can be hard to know what he has made and what he has found until you look at the labels. For example, the tiny portable shrine he has chosen (Amulet with plaque, ‘Tsa Tsa’, Tibet 1800-99) reminds me of the one he made for the Tate gift shop in 2009 (Tate Modern Reliquary).

Grayson Perry (b. 1960), Tate Modern Reliquary. 2009.
© Grayson Perry, courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

I asked him if ‘Tsa Tsa’ influenced his Tate gift shop reliquary, but no, he found it after he had made the pendant. Both these items are in the exhibition but they are not placed obviously side by side. I like this, it means that we look and let our minds make the connection; it is not done for us. This is not an exhibition to be rushed through. The more you look the more connections you can make.

Grayson won’t necessarily make connections obvious: his pot ‘Grumpy old God’ is based on the Greek vases in the Museum but he has not included one from the Museum’s collection. He asks us in a label not to look too closely for meaning. When he was selecting, he did it intuitively and he invites us to look at his selection in that way. But not looking for meaning does not mean not looking and noticing how things feels for us.

I am reminded of what Alain de Botton once said, which was something like don’t go to Cambrey and look at where Proust lived with your eyes, but stay at home and look around you with Proust’s eyes. If Grayson can pull out this stuff from the collection which seems so resonant of him, his style and his meanings…if objects in the Museum replicates the ages before Grayson made things – stuff that he went on to make before seeing it – then we know that not only Grayson’s psyche is to be found in the British Museum, but all our psyches. We just have to take the time to look and have confidence in our personal reactions to what we see.

And I really mustn’t rush outside when we visit charity shops but stay awhile to see if I too can find myself in an object there.

Find out more about the Grayson Perry Late event.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
is supported by AlixPartners, with Louis Vuitton.
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Grayson Perry Late

Polly Wright and Francis Olvez-Wilshaw,
University of the Arts London students

For one night only, this Friday 11 November, we, the University of the Arts London, are exhibiting alongside Grayson Perry’s exhibition The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmanas part of the Grayson Perry Late event at the British Museum.

I have been fortunate enough to sit on the committee of students helping to curate the event. From the written proposals to meeting my fellow students and artists, it has been an interesting journey, one of excitement, fun and insight… and we only have a few days to go!

I feel I am speaking on behalf of all involved when I say it is an exceptional experience to not only be exhibiting in the British Museum but also to be connected to the loved and respected Grayson Perry. This was apparent from the proposals we received as they were filled with enthusiastic appraisal for the British Museum as an institution and for Grayson’s work as an influential artist. Our students’ are committed to creating works suitable to communicate this inspiration. Now, in our final stages of preparation, I can already reflect upon what is a wide array of idiosyncratic ideas, across all mediums, which heightens my excitement for the night.

Meeting everyone behind the projects has been great. Whilst hearing these talented artists animatedly explaining their projects I have become more aware of the raw passion behind their work. I think this will be particularly apparent on the night. The night will be an exhibition of a wide array of interesting and colourful ideas created by a mixture of solo and collaborative works.

The performance piece Touching Death – A Wake has been a particularly interesting project to watch develop and to hear the extraordinary story behind its conception. The connections between the artists and the pure shock ability of the live wake of a real person on the night are bound to be a thought-provoking, public way of exploring death on a dramatically real level.

Showcasing 25 works, from fashion to craft, discos to pilgrimages, I can assure you that the night will be both thought-provoking and entertaining. I am personally excited to watch the space transform – we hope it will highlight aspects within the British Museum’s expansive collection as well as support Grayson Perry’s work.

I am going to leave you with a list of words the artists have used to sum up Grayson Perry: Technicolor, eccentric, genius, revolutionary, cocktail, hilarious, crackers… I hope this gets you excited! See you there!

Find out more about the Grayson Perry Late event.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
is supported by AlixPartners, with Louis Vuitton.
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My artistic practice


Nicola Jarvis, artist and hand embroiderer,
Royal School of Needlework

Nicola Jarvis was one of the ‘unknown’ embroiderers who worked together to construct the lace for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. In this guest blog post, she explores how anonymous craftspeoples’ identities can create a sense of mystery and magic.

My artistic practice is a work in progress that has been evolving ever since I could hold a pencil. During this journey, I trained as a hand embroiderer at the Royal School of Needlework in the early 1990s. Over the last two decades I have worked on numerous commissions for the Royal School and contracts for a multitude of companies and private individuals. Most of these jobs have involved making stitched items or artworks for which, after payment, I received no further acknowledgement for my craftsmanship. This has become the norm for me, and my colleagues working in the same industry.

To create a well-crafted object through an intimate relationship with the materials and process of making constitutes much of the job satisfaction.

The history of material culture is made up of hundreds of thousands of anonymous craftspeople that have made objects as a livelihood, to enable their survival and that of their families, with no thought of recognition for what they do.

'c17th Summer Sampler’, silk and gold thread (2011)

'c17th Summer Sampler’, silk and gold thread (2011)

I am currently in Delaware, USA, at the Winterthur Museum attending an international needlework conference where 230 delegates are examining and discussing the work of English and American embroiderers over the past 400 years. Some of the makers’ identities are known revealing fascinating stories of where, why and how their needlework was made. Others remain hidden and it is only through detailed study of their craftsmanship that we may construct our own narratives. I think this mystery creates much of the ‘magic’ that surrounds an object with a potent mix of unanswered questions and possibilities.

When I began my training at the Royal School of Needlework, it was the mastery of skills and process of making embroidery that was of utmost importance to me. When working the lace for the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress, 20 years on, this was still the case.

I played a small part in a process that involved a large team of highly skilled needlewomen realising a very beautiful textile in the history of object making. Our stories and relationships are bound up in that dress, made with a commitment to, and a passion for, our craft. The individual and/or joint identities are not imperative, rather the collective energy and mastery of the materials and techniques is what will always be valued and celebrated.

Nicola’s embroidery short course at the Museum starting on Sunday 6 November is now fully booked, but take a look at other events in the Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman programme.

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

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Grayson Perry at the British Museum?

Philip Attwood, Exhibition Project Curator
Chair of the Modern Museum Group at the British Museum

You might be wondering why a contemporary artist is putting on a show at the British Museum. Well, the artist is Grayson Perry, Turner Prize winner, probably most famous for his witty and satirical ceramics. He approached the Museum a few years ago and proposed an exhibition which would pay tribute to anonymous craftsmen and craftswomen over the centuries. The British Museum is the ideal place for this, as its collection spans over 2.5 million years of human culture and most of the objects in the collection were made by people whose names are lost to us today. There is almost no other place on earth that could claim to represent the history and culture of humankind. Grayson’s work sits alongside these objects, and shows us new ways of looking at the collection.

The Museum also has a tradition of working with contemporary artists. Years ago we worked with Henry Moore and Eduardo Paolozzi and in the last few years the Museum has played host to the exhibitions Statuephilia (2008), which included works by Antony Gormley. Damien Hirst, and Marc Quinn, and Medals of Dishonour (2009), which featured medals by William Kentridge, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Steve Bell and even an example by Grayson. This is in addition to the ongoing work by curators across the Museum to make sure the collection contains contemporary pieces – from many cultures across the world.

I have spent two years behind the scenes, working with Eleanor Bradshaw and curators from departments across the Museum to help Grayson put his exhibition together. I’m really pleased to finally get to share it with you. The press reviews are just starting to come in, and writing in The Independent, Howard Jacobson called it ‘the best exhibition by a contemporary artist I’ve seen in years.’ Some have questioned why this exhibition is at the British Museum but I hope the answer is becoming clear.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the Museum, has explained that it is quite different to anything we’ve done before. Usually exhibitions will be based on academic research of a particular subject, but the British Museum is also a “storehouse of the world’s imagination”. It’s a source of inspiration and has been for many artists. This exhibition shows how we can think about the world in new ways and reveals the extraordinary imaginative power of the collection.

Grayson has made it explicit that he wants the viewer of the exhibition to come away inspired. If you have visited the exhibition, what did you think? Please tell us which bits you enjoyed and which you didn’t on Twitter using #graysonperry or comment below.

I wanted the exhibition to offer an insight into Grayson’s creative imagination, and show that there are many different interpretations of objects in the Museum. Many people associate the Museum with ancient things, even though many of the pieces in the collection are contemporary. I hope this exhibition has changed people’s views.

I look forward to reading and responding to your thoughts and comments.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
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The Big Draw: why drawing matters


Hilary Williams, Art History Education Officer, British Museum

The act of drawing makes someone really look. Drawing heightens curiosity, one of the concepts on which the Museum was founded way back in 1753 when it aimed to attract the “interested and curious”. While drawing, you are almost asking yourself, how was this made, how did that craftsman or artist form this object, mould it, carve it, colour it and use it?

Drawing objects is part of a journey. A journey asking these questions but also discovering something about yourself, as you look, perceive, question and discover. As Picasso said so eloquently, “I do not seek, I find”.

The Big Draw will take place at the British Museum on Saturday 8 October 2011 and encourages participants to spend 20 to 30 minutes or more really looking at objects through drawing them.

This is our twelfth Big Draw and we’ve taken the theme from the forthcoming exhibition Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman. That theme is the Teddy Bears Picnic and is inspired by Grayson’s use of Alan Measles, his teddy bear and god of his world of creativity, and should appeal to families or children of all ages, from three to 93… Teddies will be posed with the British Museum objects which have inspired Grayson in his choice of objects included in his new exhibition.

Why do I think the Big Draw is important? Drawing can be part of the creative exercise, creating another world for thoughts, dreams, objects or whatever. Drawing can also communicate that creativity. It can be a means of showing your imagination to someone else; what a sublime experience!

Grayson Perry is a marvellous example of this. He uses drawing to create imaginary worlds and a new context for thoughts or, in the exhibition at the British Museum, for objects. We are incredibly lucky that Grayson is coming to discuss why and how he draws, on Big Draw day, at 14.00.

To see the Big Draw in action is inspiring and a real thrill. It’s great to see people of all ages and backgrounds, drawing together, literally and metaphorically, across generations and cultures, without language being a barrier. Everyone can draw!

Come on a journey to draw and find curious new worlds, in front of your eyes and in your imagination!

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

The Big Draw: the teddy bears’ picnic takes place at the British Museum on Saturday 8 October, 11.00–16.00. The full programme is available online. Children and teddy bears must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
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Selecting objects, X Factor style

Eleanor Bradshaw, Assistant Curator

As part of the first cohort of Inspire curating MA students at the Royal College of Art, I have had the unique opportunity to work at the British Museum for the last two years, and my time is finally coming to an end! The Art Council’s Inspire programme is unique in that it is a course aimed at BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnics) in an attempt to diversity the arts and cultural heritage workforce, hoping to bring with it some different outlooks, perceptions and ideas.

Throughout the lead up to the exhibition Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (which was an incredibly tight eight months) I was heavily involved with the initial curation and planning of the exhibition, as well as working closely with Grayson himself in selecting nearly 200 British Museum objects to go on display. Grayson planned on displaying about 30 of his own works which he wanted to sit – sometimes in juxtaposition and sometimes in harmony – with objects from the Museum collection.

Before we met, Grayson had taken photographs of over 900 objects from the collection, which he brought to me in a Tupperware box. These ranged from miniature Japanese pocket shrines to large Chinese tomb bricks and prints of the infamous transvestite Chevalier d’Eon.


A Ghanaian Asafo banner in the British Museum collection

Together, we decided it would be sensible to cull the photographs (and therefore objects) down to about 200 so they would actually fit in the exhibition space. Grayson decided he would play the role of Simon Cowell, so luckily that made me Cheryl. The selection process was truly fascinating to watch. Grayson chose many of the objects because they referenced his own works beautifully. For example, an Asafo banner connects really well with his tapestry Hold Your Beliefs Lightly. Also included in the exhibition are some late seventeenth century German stoneware jugs, which could almost be mistaken for his own ceramic pieces.

Grayson Perry, Hold Your Beliefs Lightly, 2011. © Grayson Perry

Objects were also chosen in relation to certain elements or themes of the exhibition, such as pilgrimage and the craftsman. In some cases he did not choose an object based on the aesthetic, for example the Department of Prints and Drawings has several maps of Pilgrims Progress but Grayson chose his least favourite and the least decorative simply because visually it was easier for the audience to decipher. Conversely some objects were chosen because they were purely spectacular, such as the ornate gold ceremonial headdress from Ghana.

Once selected, I had the daunting task of locating all 200 objects. Luckily, Grayson has almost total recall and could remember what every single object was, what department it was from and if not the name of the curator responsible, then whether or not they had a beard!

Throughout the selection process, many people have questioned why a contemporary artist like Grayson Perry would want to do an exhibition at the British Museum. I think this provokes a very interesting question: can the contemporary and the historical speak intimately to each other and create an interesting dialogue, or should they be kept apart?

Grayson Perry takes you behind the scenes of the making of this exhibition in a new BBC documentary. Come along to free screenings at the Museum on 10 November or 1 December 2011.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
is supported by AlixPartners, with Louis Vuitton.
Book tickets now

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Craft in the information age

With Grayson Perry:The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman opening on 6 October 2011, the Museum has been asking contributors from the craft world including the Crafts Council and The Craftivist Collective to share their thoughts on the importance of craft today. In this special blog post, Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry gives us his opinion on craft in the digital age, one of the diverse themes he explores in his exhibition.

Tell us your views and debate with Grayson Perry live on Twitter at 13.00 BST on Friday 16 September 2011 – join the conversation using #craftdebate

I often feel I am under pressure to somehow represent the craft ‘community’, to be the poster boy for the handmade. I am a great lover of craft skill but I am not going to fetishise technique over artistry. The difference between craft and art I define as craft being something that can be taught, and art coming much more from the inspired individual. Many artists are extremely poor craftsmen, many crafts people are rubbish artists. I see many beautifully made things that I find pig ugly. What I will stand up for is the relevance of craft in the information age. Some people think that craft is a nostalgic activity like knitting with grandma or throwing medieval peasant pottery, I say craft is necessary and thriving more than ever in the age of the internet, Photoshop and rapid prototyping. There are some great examples in the current show at the V&A, The Power of Making.

The Walthamstow Tapestry (detail) by Grayson Perry

One of my pleasures now I have had a bit of success and a bit more money is commissioning and working with great crafts men and women. I like nothing more than designing a dress, some shoes or a motorcycle and collaborating with highly skilled individuals or teams to bring my ideas to life. I employ crafts people to assist me in casting my sculptures, printing my etchings or digitising my tapestries. None of these individuals would I describe as nostalgic or an anachronism in the digital age. In fact every one of them uses to a greater or lesser degree the wonderful technology now so woven into our lives.

My shoemaker very much depends on her website as a shop window, her footwear is for a niche market and she needs to be found by her far-flung international clientele. A rock star in L.A. can order a pair of lace thigh boots with seven-inch heels and my shoemaker can make them in an inexpensive studio in north London. I can email drawings of a detail of my motorcycle design to a custom bike builder on the south coast where he can skillfully convert them into CAD/CAM programme and the parts get milled to a standard that would be hugely time consuming and expensive if not impossible if made by hand. A friend alters photographs in Photoshop for me to get turned into ceramic transfers that I will fire onto a vase. These will be printed on a specially built inkjet printer which uses ceramic enamels making it possible to make full colour transfers much cheaper than with the old litho or silk screen method.

A pair of Grayson Perry's shoes

Digital technology brings to the craftsman and artist a range of tools that offer creative opportunities that before were too expensive for an individual making one offs, or too time consuming or just plain impossible. This technology is coming down in price all the time it won’t be long before 3D printers are as common as kilns. I think that to become skilful with these newer technologies is to be just as much of a craftsman as with a traditional weaver or potter. To get great results the user has to be just as sympathetic to the material effects of a particular digital technique. Tests have to be done and responded to just the same as I do with glazes in the kiln. The results of digital production often have a lifeless feeling that is because the machine will do exactly what is asked of it and no more, there are few ‘gifts of the fire’ as in pottery. Crafts people will become better at predicting and nuancing their instructions to the machines and digital manufacturing machines will become more refined. I look forward to an amazing era of craft and art using computers in various ways and in combination with the old techniques we know and love.

Tell us your views and debate with Grayson Perry live on Twitter at 13.00 BST on Friday 16 September 2011 – join the conversation using #craftdebate

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
is supported by AlixPartners, with Louis Vuitton. Book tickets now

Images © Grayson Perry

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Francisco de Zurbarán died #onthisday in 1664, best known for his works depicting saints and monks #art #drawing #history Titian died #onthisday in 1577. Here's an early drawing from the Venetian artist #art #drawing #history James Cook set sail #onthisday in 1768 from Plymouth in England on his first expedition. The voyage lasted almost 3 years #history #Endeavour Born #onthisday in 1819: Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. As well as being a prince, he designed this brooch – each of the train-bearers at his wedding to Queen Victoria was presented with one! #art #jewellery #jewelry #prince #royal #victorian #turquoise #rubies #pearls #diamond #history #victoriana The St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Huguenots took place #onthisday in France in 1572 #history Louis XVI was born #onthisday in 1754. He met a gruesome fate – executed by guillotine in 1793. Here he says farewell to his family. #art #france #history
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