2015 is a landmark year – the 60th birthday of Devon Guild of Craftsmen. So this year’s annual summer exhibition of work by Members is a special one. It is not only festive, but also reflects – on local craft heritage and how making is changing.
From humble origins, the Guild has grown from a small group of craftspeople who held a yearly show in places round Devon – into today’s network of 250 South West based Guild Members. Now they have an established venue: Riverside Mill in Bovey Tracey – a lively attraction and hub for local creatives. The Mill is home to the education charity, large shop, café and contemporary galleries. Today’s exhibitions also display a much wider range of craft: photography, mixed media, recycled books or wallpaper designs.
The annual summer show is still very much a tradition, featuring selected work by Guild Members. But makers increasingly apply non-traditional techniques, such as laser-cutting, CNC routers and rapid prototyping machinery. Back in 1955, when potters David Leach and Marianne de Tray were founder Members, the group were all highly skilled but the tools and machines available for them would not have included a single piece of digital equipment.
Forward to 2015: Celebrate displays glass panels produced with computer-aided design tools and digitally-cut vinyl stencils (Fabrizzia Bazzo). Also see textile throws by weaver Louise Cottey, made using a ‘compu-dobby’ rather than conventional loom: ‘This is a loom that has all the features of a standard hand loom, but is attached to a laptop. I use a weave programme to help design the cloth I want to make and the laptop tells the loom what shafts to lift when I press the single pedal’. (LC)
The Guild have also been helping makers with ‘Fab-Lab’ training and have supplied detailed notes on digital processes used by their Members, for visitors to the exhibition.
Alongside the Celebrate exhibition, there are graphic boards and road signs leading through the building, accompanied by a special App.* They all tell stories of Devon Guild makers, their objects and methods, from past to present-day. As well as looking back to the heritage of local crafts there’s an equal focus on change and emerging trends in making. The Guild embraces both, as for them, and potentially for the next 60 years – it’s important to be part of new maker-culture, its future tools and fabrications.
CELEBRATE Exhibition is free admission. Open daily 10am-5.30pm.