+44 (0)113 218 1010

[javascript protected email address]

Author

Lindsey Porter

The craft of the matter…

Curator Hugo MacDonaldQ&A with Hugo Macdonald, curator of the inaugural craft exhibition, Useful / Beautiful: Why Craft Matters

Design critic Hugo writes for several international titles Wallpaper*, Monocle and House & Garden. He consults across a broad range of industries, helping define narrative identity and strategy for clients, including Airbnb, The Goldsmiths’ Company, Vitra, Instagram and Ikea.

Can you give a brief summary of what’s happening at Harewood this spring?
It’s a very exciting time indeed. We are opening the inaugural exhibition of the new Harewood Biennial. The exhibition is called Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters, and our mission has been to introduce ideas, challenge preconceptions and inspire debate about the role craft can play in life today. We are surrounded by the word craft today – whether on food packaging in supermarkets or luxury brands, galleries to gift shops to hobbies at home. I’m keen to ask questions about what craft is, and why it matters to us today: is it a product or a process? Is it always something handmade? Is it just a marketing buzzword?

What will visitors see and experience?
We have selected 26 diverse, contemporary practitioners of craft. The group has a variety of experiences, from recent graduates to names of global renown. They have different areas of expertise spanning fashion, textiles, woodwork, glass, metalwork, furniture, paper and leather. Each has been invited to exhibit in a different room on the State Floor and Below Stairs. The works respond in some way to the room, sometimes explicit, sometimes more subtle. So we have a bookbinder in the Main Library, a knife forger in the Old Kitchen, a ceramics studio in the China Room. Each of the exhibitors is a story in its own right, each promoting the idea in their own way that craft adds value to life.

Why craft, why now, why Harewood?
We are undoubtedly witnessing a resurgence of interest in craft. Harewood House itself is a fascinating platform to explore discussions around the subject. The house was built, decorated and furnished in the final days before the first industrial revolution, which would eventually spawn the Arts & Crafts movement. Our exhibition creates an intriguing contrast between historic and contemporary. The exhibits might look very different, but many techniques have not changed significantly. I hope visitors will see beyond aesthetic differences between “old and new” to question why these crafted exhibits are interesting to us today. What do they add to life?

Originally William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement made a principled rejection of the Industrial Age, back in the late 19th century. With the explosive emergence of industry, there was a belief that it would destroy culture and society.

Today we are approaching the fourth industrial revolution, witnessing the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation. I believe this is the reason for our current craft revival: in a world more reliant than ever on digital and virtual elements, people want to reconnect with the physical realm. We are witnessing times of enormous change beyond our control, characterised by forces we don’t understand. Craft is something fundamental. It is an innately human expression. We find it comforting and reassuring.

Who are the exhibitors and what will they bring?
Every exhibitor is fascinating in their own right and I’ve so enjoyed getting to know them and their work, and finding out why what they do matters to them. There is a broad mix: Wakefield-based paper artist and illustrator Andy Singleton is showing beautiful poetic sculptures; Welsh sustainable denim-makers Hiut Denim are demonstrating how craft can economically and socially boost a community; Fox Umbrellas prove that making one thing better than anyone else translates into a global multi-generational business run from a small workshop on the outskirts of Croydon. Visitors will discover Freed of London ballet shoes in The Music Room, with portraits of their work, together with the component parts and a heap of finished slippers. Every single one of the 330,000 slippers made each year is handmade to fit a single foot.

The aim is to show beautiful, contemporary handcrafted objects, against a classic backdrop and to take the time to not only admire, but to probe, question and consider. Craft has a vital place in contemporary life – we want visitors to leave inspired by the many wonderful stories and delighted by the many objects we often take for granted that are the result of another human’s extraordinary knowledge, time, care and skill.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.
William Morris

Art Fund Support

5 Minutes with Nick Dowling, Bird Garden Manager

BirdGarden BlogNick Dowling hasn’t stopped over Christmas and New Year, as the Bird Garden at Harewood is constantly ‘open’ for activity looking after the birds. Here he takes five minutes out…

Are there any highlights from 2018 that you particularly enjoyed?
2018 was a busy but promising year for the Bird Garden. Several of our newly paired birds had their first attempts at breeding during the spring and summer months, including the red legged seriema and Satyr tragopan. Our palm cockatoos raised a chick and the collared hill partridge enjoyed another good season raising three more chicks, as did the silver pheasant pair.

We welcomed four female goats, two mothers and their kids, as well as four breeds of heritage chickens into the Walled Garden as part of the Seeds of Hope exhibition, which ran throughout the summer months. Our younger visitors in particular enjoyed feeding the goats and helping keepers to collect the eggs during the holidays.

Other highlights included the arrival of thirty Java sparrows, eleven black-cheeked lovebirds, a pair of Nepal kalij pheasants, two male critically-endangered Edward’s pheasants as well as a female burrowing owl to join our male.

But the main highlight of 2018 in the Bird Garden was the successful hand rearing of two Brown Lory chicks by keeper Lisa Bath. The two girls were removed from their nest at just two days old and raised for over two months, syringe fed on specially made formula every few hours. Goldie and Blue, as they were very soon to be known, had to be removed from their nest as the parents have been prone to feeding their young unsuitable food items, such as leaves and feathers. You will be able to meet Goldie and Blue when they move next door to the lovebirds in the spring.

The newly added Ferry across the Lake and its adjoining jetty, has proved extremely popular with visitors linking the Bird Garden on a scenic and restful route across to the Walled Garden, and many of the free-roaming birds have enjoyed this new space.

Whilst the House and grounds are closed for three months until March, what’s going on behind the scenes?
Over the next two and a half months the keepers and volunteers will be working hard to prepare for another breeding season, pairing up birds, making new nest boxes and providing suitable habitats to help the birds feel safe and secure in their environment. We also take this opportunity to carry out essential and routine maintenance work on aviaries and enclosures.

This is the time of year I look to move any young birds that we have bred at Harewood onto new homes in other zoos, as well as bringing in new birds to pair up with our own.

What’s on the agenda for when Harewood reopens in March?
We’ll be bringing in one or two exciting and fascinating new species ready for re-opening in March, watch this space for further announcements!

Jane Marriott, Trust Director, looking forward to 2019

HarewoodBiennial19_GlassWe are all now great Mary Berry fans at Harewood. Over Christmas over 2 million people watched Mary at Harewood House on the BBC.

But what we particularly enjoyed was showing Mary and the wonderful crew at Shine TV, the many stories that have developed here over two centuries, and give an insight into how the future might look.

Starting the year with so many political and economic uncertainties in the face of Brexit, it is perhaps not surprising that we look to the comfort and steadfastness of spending time at home, surrounding ourselves with our treasured and familiar objects, spending time with friends and family. The holiday industry is also anticipating that it will become a sector driven less by exotic spa-breaks and overseas far flung holidays, and more by a growth in accessible, affordable ways to take time out and enjoy what is on our doorstep.

Interestingly, everything is now seemingly based on buying local, supporting great makers and surrounding ourselves with beautiful, tactile objects, from thick wool rugs, to velvet throws and gorgeous objects on display – this is reassuring and helps us feel as though we have some control in how we look after ourselves. Our homes are a place to retreat to and replenish ….I’d like Harewood to feel the same as you drive through the gates into another world, which is just as familiar, warming and enjoyable.

Craft and design will always be affected by what is happening in the world and this current moment is no exception. We will celebrate great makers this year with ‘Useful/Beautiful: why craft matters’, the first exhibition of our newly launched Harewood Biennial. We’ll pose questions about craft in a digital age and our yearning still for something physical and sensory. To explore objects that give us a thrill to look at, touch and ponder. To wonder how something was made, who was involved and why they chose to make it. Our ambition is to create the most significant craft and design show outside London every two years.

We are clearly moving towards a rejection of a throw-away society and a pace of life so fast that it is exhausting. This year at Harewood we’ll continue to help visitors find their oasis of space, perhaps by wandering through the engaging sound installation of the Pleasure Garden, sited in the Walled Garden this summer, or by celebrating 30 years of working with great contemporary artists at Harewood, in a new exhibition in the autumn called ‘Postcards to the Future’.

For now, after a day of meandering through the glorious work of great craftsmen from the past at Harewood, from expansive Adam ceilings to intricate carvings on Chippendale furniture, I am happy to be inspired to create my own corner of luxury at home. Let’s not kid ourselves, my house is far from an architectural gem, revealing a mix of Georgian, Victorian and 20th century additions…but I can’t deny the thrill of pulling back old carpets and chipboard to reveal striking slightly battered floorboards yearning to be restored. My husband and I may yet be our own versions of great craftsmen ….!

Parroting on about it…

Loro Parque ParrotIn a recent visit to Loro Parque, Tenerife, Harewood Bird Garden specialist Lisa Bath recounts behind the scenes of her trip.

Last year was a big birthday for me and so I made it an aim to visit all the places and events I had been meaning to go to but never got around to. Top of the list was the International Parrot Convention, which is held every four years at Loro Parque in Tenerife. Fortuitously for me 2018 was the year of the 9th convention so I took this as destiny and booked my tickets. It also coincided with my 10th anniversary of working at Harewood Bird Garden. I began working here in 2009 with parrots and penguins after completing a BSc in Animal Management. My dissertation focused on Amazon Parrots, hence my motivation to travel.

The convention attracts delegates from 47 countries who all converge on the island to discuss everything parrot related, with three days of talks by some of the foremost parrot experts in the world. Participants from zoos, private collections, biologists, veterinarians and conservationists working in the field are given the chance to connect and share information.

For anyone interested in parrots, a visit to Loro Parque is a must. The Collection houses around 4,000 individual birds from 350 different parrot species and is one of the biggest collections in the world. The Loro Parque Foundation also supports projects to conserve parrots in their natural environment and is regarded as the authority on all things parrot and not only that one of the best zoos in the world.

For me it was a chance to gain knowledge and make connections with others who work with parrots. Not only was this in the form of the lectures and workshops but also just walking round the zoo looking at the exhibits. I attended a workshop on hand-rearing parrots run by the curator of birds at Loro Parque, which helped hone the skills I had developed over the summer when hand rearing two Brown Lories at Harewood. I also looked at the enclosures and gained some good ideas about aviary layout. As I result, I will be trying some swinging perches and different ways of feeding the parrots in my care that will add more entertainment for them.

The highlights of the trip for me were seeing lots of different species of parrot that I had always wanted to see. My favourite was the Pesquets Parrot, pictured. Also meeting new people was an amazing experience, especially as there were people there with so much knowledge to share – I learnt as much valuable information over the dinner table as I did in the lecture theatre.

Loro Parque in Tenerife
Being a bird keeper and working with parrots is a dream for me. At Harewood we have ten species of parrot, some of which are pets which have been donated to us, and others are rare and unusual such as the Palm cockatoos and the Greater Vasa Parrot, the latter species has an unusual breeding behaviour whereby the female goes completely bald on the head. Every day is different and you are interacting with birds every day. I think it is a privilege to be able to work so closely with them and there is no greater job satisfaction than seeing happy healthy birds in the environment that you are providing. This is why I feel it is very important to continually learn and communicate with other aviculturists to ensure that the birds that you care for can receive the best life possible. The Loro Parque International Parrot Convention was an ideal opportunity for me to do this and I am already looking forward to attending again.

My Christmas – Edward Appleyard, Head of Marketing & Communications

Harewood_House_ChristmasBlogContinuing our behind the scenes series of those working at Harewood House Trust, here’s an insight into the festive season for Christmas-lover Edward.

What is your earliest Christmas memory?
Christmas 1988. My sister opening her big present which was a pram disguised as best as any one could disguise a pram in metres of wrapping paper. I really believed Father Christmas had been!

Do you have a Christmas tradition?
I’ve recently taken on my Mum’s baton of Christmas Cake Baker… I don’t do mine the same way she does hers, but doing it at all feels like we’re carrying on with family traditions. And all my Christmas dinner skills have been passed down from her too! I like to go to Nine Lessons and Carols, which really kicks off Christmas for me (which, FYI, is from about the week before at the earliest until after the 12 days!!).

And no, Yorkshire puddings are NOT an acceptable Christmas dinner accompaniment. No, no, no.

Is there a period of history you would have liked to spend Christmas in?
Well that depends on whether I was rich, middle class or just poor at the time! But I’d probably like to be an adult at the time of my Christmases as a child.

What music gets you in a festive mood?
Hmmmmm #guiltypleasures
Aside from the aforementioned carolling, my most played Christmas tracks (whilst doing another of my favourite past times, wrapping presents!) on iTunes are probably Christmas Wrapping (The Waitresses), Step into Christmas (Elton), This Christmas (Mary J Blige) and ultimate Christmas karaoke track goes to…

Once Upon a Christmas Song by Peter Kay (as Geraldine) and Gary Barlow!! (I know… appalling choices).

What’s the nicest gift you have been bought?
I’ve been very lucky, there have been many…

Follow HarewoodHouse on Facebook, instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with the latest stories and news from the Trust.