The Harewood Biennial is a bold exhibition for our times, exploring the transformative power of craft and creativity, which connects people and empowers communities.
Jane Marriott, Trust Director
Harewood is an ideal platform to showcase craft and to explore how craft, and the arts more widely, can address the urgent social and political issues of our day. Back in 2018, Harewood House Trust set about planning an exhibition on craft and craftsmanship set within our truly unique 18th-century country house, designed by John Carr, with interiors by Robert Adam and the largest ever single commission of furniture by Thomas Chippendale.
The result was Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters, the first Harewood Biennial in 2019. Curated and developed by Hugo Macdonald, working alongside our own creative team, the exhibition welcomed 26 individuals, studios and makers and asked them all to respond to ‘why craft matters’. The inspiring stories that unfolded demonstrated why craft plays such a vital role in society today.
‘To craft something means to understand a material; how to use it effectively for a particular purpose. It means learning, practising and passing on knowledge of the mind, hand and heart. Craft is an approach, not an object. It can teach us crucial lessons for contemporary life: resourcefulness, respect, resilience, repair.’ Hugo Macdonald
Craft in a post-pandemic world
The Harewood Biennial was due to return in 2021, but inevitably the events of 2020 and the impact of the pandemic upon us as a charity completely inhibited our ability to be able to open a new exhibition by March. So with the support of Arts Council of England, we were able to amend our plans to launch crucial digital content in 2021 and then plan the Biennial with renewed vigour for 2022.
More than ever, it felt entirely appropriate that craft could have a powerful voice in how the world recovers from the devastating effects of Covid-19, not only supporting and restoring wellbeing for all of those that experience it, but also to inspire society’s response in how can move forwards to address the key issues of our time from the climate crisis, to combatting racism and help explore topics that can feel contentious or difficult to talk about at this crucial time. It also felt more appropriate than ever, that we could provide a platform to artists and makers to share their ideas, thoughts and provocations.
Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters
Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters takes its inspiration from Harewood’s collections, our work with contemporary artists over the past 30 years, and our stunning landscape. We will invite you to learn more about Harewood’s past as we continue to look towards its future and explore how craft and craftsmanship can make a significant contribution to the way we live and think about our lives. Harewood’s own difficult history, based on monies raised through the sugar and Transatlantic slave trade, and the physical landscape around the Grade I listed country house can act as a prism through which we can explore what we think and feel about many issues facing us today and perhaps may inspire us to take our own small, but important action.
The Biennial recognises that many of us had become increasingly disconnected with nature and thereby miss the opportunity to: connect and benefit our health and well-being; recognise the need for more regenerative approach to our energy and resource need in the future; and the chance to learn from the past in order to inform the future.
Radical Acts can help us reconnect, creating experiences which appeal to all of our senses, rather than just impart knowledge, and it will help us to appreciate how this can reconnect us to the natural world. By doing so, this connection through a regenerative craft and design approach and an opportunity to explore our own heritage, may influence a greater change in ourselves and in society.
We are incredibly excited to work with such a talented and diverse group of makers in the 2022 Harewood Biennial. To launch Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters, we have commissioned a series of short films and podcasts offering you a unique opportunity to find out about some of the exhibitors involved, to learn about their own stories, backgrounds and interests, and to set the context of the exciting exhibition to come next Spring.
Biennial introductions: short films
Patrick Grant launched Community Clothing to bring clothing manufacture back to one of the textile capitals of this country – Blackburn. In this film he describes how The Radical Act of Community can help to ensure that the people that make Community Clothing’s items can be better sustained and gain a larger proportion of income for their skills and craft.
Sebastian Cox and his partner Brogan have a passion for nature and working with wood. Committed to only using British grown wood, Sebastian’s film explores how it’s the ideal material to work with in a sustainable way, due to its capacity to lock-up carbon, and presents the case for giving more back to nature in The Radical Act of Environment.
Furniture designer and maker Mac Collins visited Harewood in his film, somewhere that as someone of half-Jamaican decent could feasibly have links to his own family and heritage. He wants to help open up conversations about Harewood’s history and its colonial past, in order to help society understand issues today in The Radical Act of Respect.
Delve deeper: podcasts – available from 1 November
For a more in-depth point of view and a greater understanding of some of the makers’ own backgrounds and stories, you can listen to and download our latest series of podcasts featuring four artists in conversation with Hugo Macdonald.
Celia Pym, a London-based textile artist, has already begun work on her project for Harewood. Her art is in exploring ‘stories of damage’, mending clothes in an inspiring way so that they not only have a longer life but tell a story.
Michael Marriott is a multidisciplinary designer, working to create products and exhibitions, alongside writing and curating. His work relates to the application of everyday materials and the processes employed in them.
London-based Mexican designer Fernando Laposse specialises in transforming humble natural materials into refined design pieces. He has worked extensively with overlooked plant fibres such as sisal, loofah and corn leaves.
Retrouvius are driven by the belief that good materials and well-made things are precious. Founded in 1993 by Adam Hills and Maria Speake, the destination salvage company and its acclaimed design studio are based in Kensal Green, London.
For the exhibition itself, opening on Saturday 26 March 2022, we are also delighted to welcome Ilse Crawford & Nanimarquina, Eunhye Ko, Margent Farm, Bobby Mills, Francisca Onumah, Potters for Peace and Robin Wood.
Opening Saturday 26 March 2022
We are so excited to bring you the work of these talented designers and makers and we look forward to sharing their stories, and perhaps even, to inspire some positive change in us all. I do hope you can join us for the exhibition, which opens on Saturday 26 March, and in the meantime please enjoy these films and podcasts as a taste of what is to come in 2022..
The Harewood Biennial is generously supported by Arts Council England
The Harewood Biennial returns in March 2022 with Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters. Following 2019’s Useful/Beautiful, curator Hugo Macdonald and the Harewood team have once again set to create a … Read more
Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters features 15 exhibitors from across the UK. Mac Collins Mac Collins is an emerging designer from Nottingham, committed to designing and making narrative rich … Read more
In Radical Acts, craft is presented as a bridge between our roots and our future. Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters is about craft with social and environmental purpose. We tend to define craft as a … Read more