Saturday, August 27, 2011

No stunner at Stonor

I went to Stonor Park at Henley-on-Thames this morning to the annual Chilterns Crafts show. I go most years and quite enjoy mooching around the marquees (especially the food hall) and chatting to other artists. It's usually a good indicator of current trends in the arts and crafts community. And it often sparks my creativity and gets the juices flowing.

This year was strangely disappointing though. There's usually some new innovation or unusual new twist on an older craft to get excited about ... but not this year. It ws the same old jewellery, metal sculpture, pottery and paintings. The show was top heavy with clothing stalls including leather goods that clearly were not the work of the swarthy gentlemen selling them. I started to get a sinking feeling when I saw one lady painting landscapes with household emulsion that were all about technique over content and who was selling them signed and framed for £20-30. No passion. No soul. No story. What hope is there for us artists when this mass-produced stuff is so affordable?

That said, there was some exceptional artwork on display. There was glassware by Cornwall's own Jo Downs. I love her stuff and own several pieces. Visit her site here. Eli Ofir's House Portraits showed some exemplary pencil work and an interesting selling point in his signature skewed perspectives. You can see his work here. Lovely stuff but I wouldn't ask him to draw my three bedroomed semi even if I could afford him. He's strictly a posh house owning client kind of a guy. Also way out of my price league were Bruce Aitken's amazingly beautiful wooden clocks. Definitely my favourite thing at the show. Here's the website. Just how gorgeous are they? I also loved the sensuous curvy wooden lamps of Christian Wallis (see here). I'd have one in the house tomorrow if I had the pennies.

The Chilterns Craft Show has traditionally always catered for an audience that either has money or big gardens. Not everyone has the room for a life-sized metal warthog or the spare cash to buy a handcrafted £2000 clock. But this year the show featured a lot more affordable items and while many were genuinely lovely, there was a lot of obviously mass-produced stuff. That, to me, is not what a craft fair is about. It lowers it to little more than a car boot sale or a weekend market. So I'm hoping for better stuff next year. And better weather! The sun was gloriously hot at times but only in the gaps between the torrential rain squalls.

Oh and one more tiny niggle ... if you're going to charge the public £6.50 per head at least give them the little guide booklet for free. It may only have been an extra 20p for a single folded sheet but I found it hugely irksome to shell out further. Next time, charge me and £6.70 and say that the booklet is free. I'll still feel that the entrance fee is overpriced but at least I won't feel so ripped off.

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