How do you solve a problem like ‘Utopia’? Follow the Arts Trail!

by A_F_R_O_W

September was a SCORCHER of a creative month!

First up, was London’s inaugural Design Biennale, held in a Somerset House, replete with a host of 37 global delegations, problem-solving the notion of ‘Utopia’, through pure, clear Creativity… Yes, friends, I repeat, Creativity, with a definitive, capitalC‘!

Something about the socio-political mood revealed the V and A weathervane, in the courtyard, with new eyes. Surrounded by a singular weather-system, within the cobbled square… the perfect, windswept movement of a majestic installation called to mind the damage that the ever-developing power of such wind would and could do, in parts of the world which I could not see.

Ensconced within the wings, both East and West, resided ingenuity and innovation borne beyond blue-sky thinking… such as Sweden’s curated ‘We-topia’, which encapsulated the impact of serendipitous community collaboration, to form a collective of artisans, articulating the diversity of devastatingly desirable, stylish and, moreover, sustainable, homeware… via ‘Level’, Austria’s paean to light and balance, reflecting the pointed delicacy of the global butterfly effect… to Spain’s neon-laced, VR Reality vision of the future, accessed through a mirrored time-tunnel, reminiscent of the final, technicoloured vortex to the full-circle life-span, in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’… From navigating the modernisation of irrigation systems, in order to enhance the growth and yield of vegetation, in addition to stimulating ecosystems, proposed by the U.A.E, to Greece’s audio-visual honouring of the migratory patterns of peoples and their bespoke utilisations of a unique composition of marble…the entire London Design Biennale experience did more than represent the United Nations of Innovation… Underneath, and often, starkly, beautifully evident, was the best of expertise in fabrication, function and flair, infused with joyous wit and extensive wisdom. It has been, and will remain, one of the most engaging, thought-provoking private viewings which I have ever attended… where offerings (some of which were tantalisingly unfinished the day before the launch) of the power of dreams, were made pragmatically, believably real… It was a undeniable triumph and I am already declaring, alto voce, ‘Roll on 2018’!

If that were not enough, up popped the first, ever, Catford Arts Trail! This free, open-house event (including workshops and activities), spread over two consecutive weekends, was based in-and-around 31 venues, enthusiastically celebrating the creative energy and spirit of entrepreneurialism flowing throughout the area (much like the River Ford used to do!).

Event experience corroborated that I was up at the crack of dawn, set up with a super-hearty breakfast, my trusty map and an empty bag… ready to be filled upon my Arts Trail adventure… and what a brisk few hours of flying-visits it was! In fact, I’m sure that my, somewhat, ‘Phileas Fogg excursion’ at the London Biennale, had prepared me for my artistic treasure hunt…

Every house was handsomely bedecked in a clutch of brightly-hued balloons, a signpost, standing proud and true, emblazoned with the ‘Catford Arts Trail’ logo and quite often, the added bonus of a handwritten welcome, second only to the glorious souls inviting us in!

I first paid a visit to see the wondrous world of intricately-woven 3D structures created by Stella Harding… some which resembled robust, warrior masks, others, no less impressive,  fashioned with measuring tape! I was delighted to ascertain that there were two places remaining upon her contemporary basketry course, at Morley College (although I somehow doubted that would be the case by the day’s end, so great were the pieces). Work by accomplished ceramicist, Robert Cooper, was also on show… this time, woven around narratives linked to the Japanese tea rituals and foraging at the River Thames for broken fragments of old crockery, from which to devise new stories, through re-purposed pieces. I believe I overheard him regaling a tale of his Aunty, to a fellow visitor as I left!

With a cool breeze for company,  directing me onward, I wound around the corner, to take in the home textiles of ‘Sophie Home’ and locally-themed prints of ‘Place In Print’. Once again, the array of wares was first-rate! Although demonstrating differing elements of the design spectrum, both sets of products screamed ‘modern classics’. From tea towels to cushions, I was particularly taken by the bold use of minimal, neutral colourways, spiced up with slices of citric tones, in the soft furnishings, as well as the quirky and most charming individuality to the playful prints.

Now, you won’t believe this…but, what with all of the fun and creative fact-finding, time veritably flew by…but I had one last stop to make before winging my way back to the homestead… Quite frankly, amidst all of this awesomeness, I needed my fill of fantastic fashion… I found it, and then some, at House 24, upon the trail… which is where I also remembered to pick up my ‘Catford Arts Trail Card’, which, when stamped 9 times, at 9 different venues, would automatically enter me into the draw to win £100 worth of goodies from my chosen Catford Artist!

Once I got my stamp, I got to know the uber-cool sculptural jewellery of Katie New. Colourbursts, like the richest of cabochons, radiated through her collection of handmade articles. Standouts combined the strength of precious metals with the embossed textures of fragile leaves and were a perfect foil to the stunning designs of Jasmine Carey a.k.a ‘Deco 22’. Having followed Jasmine’s continual rise as an exceptional style artisan, I am an absolute aficionado of the clean-lined aesthetic of apparel that she produces, with the quality of her precision-cutting and the overall outstanding execution of assembly, giving masterly substance to highly-covetable and wearable works of art. Highlights? The entire collection!…If pressed, then, my star-buy would have to be the nod-to-40’s-glamour, expressed as a belted black-and-white overcoat, with a fit-and-flare silhouette to live for, invisible pockets that are so invisible, you’d think they were trompe l’oeil, and a steal at £65, (due to it being a sample)! As for accessories (yes, she designs and makes those too!), I adored all of the leather goods.. from wallets/ card-holders, to folios… and the cutest gift bags, containing a pin cushion and pins, perfect for new and experienced crafting types, which were simply darling!

With that… I was creatively spent!

… I returned to Afrow-H.Q, a fully-fledged member of the Catford Arts Trailblazers (as I like to call us!)… with the enduring memory of, not only the warmth of welcome at each and every home, the willingness of each designer-maker to share their inspiring stories, but most of all, the camaraderie of fellow Arts Followers, cheerily directing one another along the way…

The sincerest of congratulations to all involved in continuing to spread the word about the strength-in-depth of creative endeavour, both borough-wide and globally….

In an ever-changing world, moving from relative strangers to creative neighbours is, surely, the greatest treasure of all!

©A_F_R_O_W2016 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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London Design Biennale 2016 ~ Somerset House

Catford Arts ~ Stella Harding ~ Robert Cooper ~ Sophie Home ~ Katie New ~ Deco22

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Twitter Testimonial from London Design Biennale!

“LDN Design Biennale Retweeted Afrow:

“Problem-solving the notion of ‘Utopia’, through pure, clear Creativity” – thanks to @A_F_R_O_W for a great review of @londonbiennale 2016”

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Twitter Testimonial from Sophie McNiven, Catford Arts Trail Organiser and Founder/Designer of ‘Sophie Home’

“Sophie Home@shopsophiehome Oct 30

thanks so much for this write up! As one of the organisers of too, I’m particularly delighted to read of your joy!”

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