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Trust Director Jane Marriott

Bold, ambitious and exciting shows, says Trust Director, Jane Marriott

Why Craft Matters, Harewood House

Picture Credit – Charlotte Graham

When we are going through such turbulent political and economic times, we clearly seek reassurance, that hope, and indeed joy, can still be found in our own backyards.

Once more, we seem to be placing a greater importance on supporting local communities; buying local and supporting those who endeavour to make objects on our doorsteps in order to keep skills alive, or indeed supporting industries that seek to resurrect whole communities. It is this and many more questions we would like to pose, in the opening of our first Harewood Biennial and one of our most ambitious shows to-date.

‘Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters’, opens on 23 March to present and explore the work of 26 makers, including three very special commissions for Harewood. It was really important that we did not restrict our choice to those who work by themselves, but rather, that we included the widest range of craft from studios to manufacturers, all taking pride in creating beautifully crafted objects. By doing this, we can exhibit everything from beautiful glass pieces, to denim jeans, to paper sculptures, to handmade ballet shoes and glorious copper pans. We hope this will inspire debate on why craft matters. Why have we become so interested in these objects? We seem fascinated by the way they are created with care and thought, often using materials in interesting ways and celebrating, or indeed, supporting our very local communities. We want to understand how they were made.

Our ambition for Harewood is to create bold and exciting shows that our visitors and members will never forget. To do this, I realised very early on, that I needed to partner with the best people to make this happen. Hugo Macdonald is one such person, whom I met over a year ago, and was clearly the right person to curate our show on contemporary craft. He is a writer, curator and I would argue a great philosopher of our times. He is also clearly making excellent choices, as in the last two months alone, one of our exhibitors, Yinka Ilori, has just won New Designer at the Elle Decoration Design Awards.

Likewise, as a charity, none of this would be possible without the support and foresight of our supporters, including the Arts Council of England, the Crafts Council, Art Fund and our Harewood House Members. Indeed, one of the most innovative ways to support us, has come from a great Yorkshire based firm; G.F.Smith, based in Hull, known for their passion for paper and ‘a belief in its beauty and possibilities’. It is the innovative use of a seemingly very simple material that has allowed us to shine a light on these great craft pieces, without detracting from the magnificence of the surroundings of Harewood House – a balancing act we’ve all thought long and hard about.

I hope you come and see the show and let us know if we have succeeded in igniting this debate, and shown you some of the most beautiful, and yes sometimes even useful objects, as well. We don’t expect you to all feel the same about the pieces, nor indeed that you all explore this show in the same way….I suspect some of us prefer the twilight private tours with a glass of bubbly in hand, whilst others will want to roll up their sleeves and learn new skills as part of our brand new workshop programme. Sometimes though we may find ourselves with our kids who want to run around the house and grounds delighting in what they see and perhaps even be inspired to look at objects they see every day in a very different light. We really don’t mind as long as you get the chance to explore and perhaps to dream…..”

Read more about The Harewood Biennial 

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 ….!

We will remember…Trust Director Jane Marriott writes…

HarewoodHouseSeedsofHopeSeeds of Hope at Harewood this summer, reminded us that, whether you were home or fighting overseas, everyone was affected by the First World War. Our hope was to tell the story of those who stayed at home, contributing to the war effort by growing food and cultivating the land. The sense of community and mutual support came across strongly through the letters, diaries and stories we unearthed from that time.

There were moments of hope, as the soldiers recovered in the convalescence hospital sited in Harewood House, the opportunity women had to develop new skills as Women’s Land Army in the Walled Garden, and the Naval Award recognising Harewood’s gardeners’ contribution to the war effort. To reinforce this sense of hope and renewal, we purposefully chose to plant 1,269 sunflowers, representing all of those recovering at Harewood. Sunflowers even in decay, promise new life, as the seeds emerge when the flower dies, and can then be replanted.

We worked with an incredibly talented team; Lord Whitney, who treated the subject with such sensitivity and wonderful storytelling, that you could truly imagine the Bothy Boy’s daily toil, or Mr Leathley, the Head Gardener’s reluctant acceptance that his roses must give way to a productive garden.

Human resilience and the power to renew ourselves, even in the darkest of times, is what keeps us all going. I like to think that Harewood today can still add to this sense of peace and rejuvenation. We may only be 7 miles from Leeds city centre, but when you are here, it can feel as though you’ve completely escaped from the stresses of everyday life. Next time you visit, take a moment to gaze across the lake, watch the Red Kites swoop over the walled garden and walk through the trees of a landscape created by Capability Brown over two centuries ago.

We hope our contribution to the commemorations of the end of the First World War and the community spirit here, was a just, sobering, but also uplifting moment of reflection and insight for every generation of visitor. It seems fitting to end with part of Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Futility’, which my 10-year old has been reading at school this week;

‘Move him into the sun –
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.’

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Creating Space and enjoying the changing season – Jane Marriott, Trust Director

CraetingSpaceBlogHsrewood_HouseYou may mourn the passing of the glorious summer weather, but autumn is definitely my favourite time of year. There is a special clarity of light across Harewood, as the leaves turn colour and people return, to enjoy long, lingering walks around the lake. This year we wanted to focus on that much used term ‘health and wellbeing’ and what that really means to us and how Harewood can play a part.

I suspect many of us are feeling the pace of life picking up again. My boys are back to school, my work diary is a complicated patchwork of meetings, events and talks. In the past 7 days alone, I’ve been to the opening of the Turner Prize, seen the extraordinary Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy (yes with Meghan Markle on her first solo engagement!) and am in the midst of the annual art frenzy that is the Frieze Art Fair. Next Monday I’ve been invited to see Rachel Whiteread’s specially commissioned piece in the beautiful Dalby Forest. What strikes me in all of this, is our constant need to create – to fashion works out of materials, to celebrate what others have created and take a moment to wonder at beautiful and sometimes challenging pieces.

That need to create, to renew ourselves and to stop the daily grind of life just for a moment is really powerful. Ironically in a time when we are more connected than ever, we often feel quite disconnected and feel the need to take time out.

I would love everyone to take a moment here at Harewood to appreciate that new crispness in the air, to relish wearing our favourite jumpers again and tuck into some heartier fare. Hot chocolates, cheese toastie and waffles have all crept on to our menus and I for one, will need to resist the need to eat, as though I am going into hibernation! I am rather useless at baking, but that doesn’t stop me appreciating the wonderful produce from our walled garden, turning into bakes, crumbles, stews and steaming soups to tempt us all…..taking time to make things, rather than just talking about it.

The next Autumn Glory Festival: Craft & Colour, takes place on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 October.

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