Curator Rowena Hamilton on Graphic Nature

Feb 09 2011

Peter Beard, Shell Form on Stone Base © Peter BeardWith the Ruskin Gallery closed for a big refurb until March 2011, we thought it was important to keep the nature vibe going at Millennium Gallery, but with a bit of a contemporary twist. Putting together Graphic Nature for the Craft and Design Gallery was also a chance for me to combine two of my top passions, the natural world and contemporary design into an exhibition. I really love it when an art and design exhibition can spread out a bit and touch on ideas from other fields, in this case natural history and a teeny bit of very visual maths.

I wanted to show internationally significant ideas and objects and so I looked far and wide for artists, designers and makers and for specific pieces for the exhibition (well, I looked virtually anyway; trawling design blogs, magazines, catalogues from other exhibitions and so on). I was mainly looking for interesting design approaches, superb craft skills and show-stopping objects. Of course the things I chose had to reflect a broad variety of different approaches to design from nature too, which I hope they do.

To create a bit of a story and shape for the displays I grouped the exhibition around the rough themes of Animal, Vegetable and the Physical world; but there’s a fair old bit of overlap, being too strict about what belongs in what section is a great way to create a really boring show…

The European designers and manufacturers that I worked with in the end were really supportive. In fact if they hadn’t been prepared to support the costs of shipping the works to the UK, we wouldn’t have been Juun Bench © Harry Wells, 2010able to show you these spectacular pieces. So thanks to Ingrid and all at Materialise.MGX for sharing my enthusiasm for the project!

Swedish designer Ingrid Külper’s beautiful Crown carpet is made in a fair-trade coop workshop in India. It arrived at the gallery in the best crafted packaging I’ve ever seen, a perfectly stitched up sheet of hessian with little ‘ears’ on the corners that you could use as handles to lift it, and furthermore totally bio-degradable, although in actual fact I took the hessian wrapping home to make rag rugs out of.

Anyway, I read recently that the best exhibitions come out of personal passion. I hope that’s true as this exhibition has a lot of mine in it and focuses on the work of designers, historic and contemporary, who are feeling it too…

Rowena Hamilton
Exhibition Curator – Craft & Design


Peter Beard, Shell Form on Stone Base © Peter Beard

Harry Wells, Juun Bench © Harry Wells, 2010


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