Winter Fair at Clerkenwell Studios

Craft Central, Clerkenwell

It’s December so it’s officially okay to mention Christmas (and it’s snowing on my blog, did you notice?). I’ve just been to my first Christmas fair of the season (well, strictly speaking, it’s billed as a winter fair but they do suggest it would be a good place to buy your Christmas presents), Made in Clerkenwell at Craft Centre Studios. It’s on for four days and today is the last day so if you’re interested get down there this afternoon. Here’s a heads up on what you’ll find, focusing, as ever, on the Japanese designers in the show.

There are actually three venues; I just went to the largest, the Victorian studio building in St John’s Square, but there’s also an indoor design market in the Goldsmiths’ Centre round the corner and more designers on show at 21 Clerkenwell Green. In all there are 150 makers showing fashion, jewellery, accessories, ceramics, printmaking, illustration and interior products.

The area around Clerkenwell Green is rich in history; the Craft Central studios in St John’s Square are right next to picturesque St John’s Gate which houses the museum of the order of St John, the Hospitallers order, founders of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade.

St John's Gate

And there are quaint little nooks and crannies nearby, like Passing Alley.

Passing Alley

The Craft Central building is showing six floors of designers, and visitors soon worked out an etiquette for going up and down the narrow staircase that connects them. I visited every floor to see the five Japanese designers, two showing ceramics and three showing jewellery. They included a couple of designers I’d seen before and a few new faces.

On the ground floor I found Takae Mizutani with her charming and practical ceramic mugs and plates. She calls her company Takae Mizutani and Sons – the sons are her two black cats, Mooks & Guiness (sadly not present at the show). Takae makes things that deliberately have a childlike naivety – she says she wants to bring a little smile to people’s faces. So her mugs have little messages inside.

Takae Mizutani

And her plates are snails, or animals or boats.

Takae Mizutani

On the second floor I found a bubbly pair of jewellery designers, Erica Amishiro and Yuki Takahashi, who taught me a new Japanese expression – hidari-uchiwa (ひだりうちわ、左団扇) which literally means using a round fan with the left hand and is a metaphor for living in comfortable idleness with no need to work.

Erika Amishiro and Yuki Takahashi

Erica works in silver, semi precious stones and enamel.

Erica Amishiro

I really liked her heart-shaped lockets.

Erica Amishiro

Yuki makes incredibly detailed pieces from silver and gold and decorates them with flowers, birds and butterflies which bring back memories of her childhood in Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan (now sadly affected by the tsunami).

Yuki Takahashi

Her lovely jewellery combines gemstones with plique-à-jour (‘letting in daylight’) enamel.

Yuki Takahashi

Up on the fifth floor was Ikuko Iwamoto, a ceramicist whose work I’ve seen at the London Design Festival and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Her strange, abstract plant-like shapes are always fascinating.

Ikuko Iwamoto

Ikuko Iwamoto

And in the basement I found Momoko Tamura whose work I saw in the summer at the Treasure exhibition at Somerset House and who makes strange of slightly twisted jewellery under the name Momocreatura.

Momocreatura

This was my first visit to Craft Central, a vibrant artistic community worth keeping an eye on. If you can’t get to the exhibition before it closes at today 5 o’clock today, keep an eye on their website or sign up to their mailing list for the next event.

Craft Central, Clerkenwell

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