Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Power of Making

This morning I went to the exhibition, The Power of Making, at the V&A. I kind of felt I had to - being part of Make it and Mend it. The four of us often bang on about the philosophy and psychology of making: why we feel compelled to do it and why we think it benefits us. In the words of Daniel Charney who curated the exhibition:
"For many people, making is critical for survival. For others, it is a chosen vocation: a way of thinking, inventing and innovating. And for some it is simply a delight to be able to shape a material and say 'I made that'. The power of making is that it fulfills each of these human needs and desires."
It's a small exhibition - everything's crammed into one big room and it's an eclectic mix. Shoes, cameras, saddles, musical instruments, coffins, animals, marzipan babies,  Lady GaGa's lippy headdress, wooden bicycles, surgical instruments. There's stuff that showcases incredible craftsmanship, stuff that represents the passions and dedication of the probably slightly bonkers and stuff that's a testimony to human ingenuity.

What it isn't, is universally beautiful. Some of the stuff here could best be described as kitsch or eccentric. As the museum describes it - it's like a cabinet of curiosities.

As well as the exhibits, there are films demonstrating how the things were made, with creators talking about their craft. This one shows the working lives of four of them - shoe designer Marloes ten Bhomer, crochetdermist Shauna Richardson (responsible for a giant crocheted bear), artist, curator and glass designer Matt Durran and flute-maker Stephen Wessel. 

Power of Making from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

The first thing you see as you enter the space is a giant gorilla, sculpted out of wires that resemble coathangers. Inside there's another enormous object - this time made from wood and steel - A Prosthetic Suit for Stephen Hawking (see left)

 Yet for me the most interesting things were not the spectacular. It was the real evidence of craftsmanship, born from years of practice. This was highlighted for me in one of the film clips - half a dozen men from Bangladesh sitting together beside a fire hammering out a metal pot. This required the most incredible coordination and synchronsiation. The rythym of the fast perfectly timed hammer blows was like music. They made it look easy - yet a fraction of a second delay and one or all could have had a smashed wrist. This long term traditional craftsmanship was also evident in the beauty of  the dry stone wall and the polished perfection of the dressage saddle.

The show is not devoid of quirky pieces - I liked this little sculpture - made from used pencils - the tips of the pencils are carved by hand into the letters of the alphabet.

The Power of Making is on at the V&A until 2nd January 2012. entry is free. More information


  1. Gosh, wish could have seen this firsthand, but you made it feel very present. Thanks...

  2. Really an interesting way to present the rebort.
    This type of the activities help the teacher to capture the attention of the children.