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The craft&design Selected Awards 2011 - Specialist Judges

craft&design Selected Awards

Robert Chapman
Robert Chapman
Wood & Metal Category

Robert Chapman

Following a brief encounter with woodturning at school, the desire that some day I should like to work with wood had begun, and by the early 1990s woodturning had become my full time profession. 1999 saw the publication of my first book “Woodturning: A Fresh Approach”, and with invitations to demonstrate and lecture overseas, my work became much sought after by collectors both at home and abroad. In 2000, having become disillusioned by some of the craft events I was exhibiting at, and in an attempt to reinstate the high quality image of ‘British Craft’ among the public, I launched my own Craft Fair at Guildford, under the heading of Craft in Focus, with around 80 like-minded makers. Such was its success, that over the next few years Craft in Focus expanded to launch more events around the South East. In 2004 a sister company was formed, The Craft & Design Experience, which now stages one of the largest contemporary craft events in the UK. But all this time that I now spend organising events, a total of ten a year, has meant putting my woodturning on the back burner for a while, although I do still enjoy making a few items when time permits.

Judge’s Statement

When Paul & Angie asked me to judge the Wood & Metal category I thought, yes OK. And while I enjoyed the task, it was just so difficult, as apart from the very high standard throughout, you cannot just start by trying to compare a wooden table to a metal bowl and so on.
The quality of work was equally high throughout the six finalists, so there was no way to rule anyone out on that score. My short list of six was stuck at six for ages! In the end it came down to looking at the sense of identity, i.e. if I saw ten different pieces of work and then later saw another I had not seen before, it would be clear who it was by. I looked at the techniques, how individual they were, and whether the maker has improved or adapted traditional skills for better effect, or to better suit their own product. Has the work/design style broken away from the mainstream enough that they can now definitely call it their own, rather than a recycling of what has gone before, and what makes their work different from other similar makers in their field.
In the most part, all six still had close to equal merits. Then I looked what would happen if any one of the makers suddenly gave up creating, and how an exhibition would suffer from the lack of their work in the market place. Did they have the ‘Wow Factor’? Is there scope for further development within the existing techniques and style? Also was the cost of the items in keeping with today’s market? There is little point in producing wonderful work if it’s not commercial, you will not survive long enough to move forward.  “Anyone can make a Rolls Royce given enough time” used to be the expression when I was an apprentice. The same applies in the crafts world, you have to be able to make the masterpiece, but still within a given timescale to keep it viable.
Once I had chosen my top three, selecting the Gold Award came down to just this. It is not on The High Street, the public ‘get it’ straight away, all ages can understand it, and most of all, cannot help but smile when they see it!  So well done to all the entrants, all of whom have many worthy points, and especially to Jeff Soan.   SMILE!

British Craft Trade Fair 2018

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