Hands-on at Canary Wharf for Made London craft fair

Art and auctions, Events, Exhibitions, Paintings and Sculpture — By on March 22, 2017 at 7:50 PM

Belgin Bozsahin.

Hands-on at Canary Wharf for Made London craft fair

By James Brewer

Artistically creative hands have been gracing one of the world’s leading financial centres, Canary Wharf, thanks to a temporary, contemporary design fair installed at its core.

Moreover, the very symbol of “hands” was a notable theme portrayed by one of its exhibitors, the ceramicist Belgin Bozsahin, who has been making hand-shaped flower vases and even hand-imitation bathroom cord pulls.

Made London Fair at Canary Wharf.

She was promoting her Porcelain Creations as one of the 60 participants in the Made London Canary Wharf Design and Craft Fair. It was the first time that the Made series of fairs had staged an event in the high-powered banking and investment district in Docklands, where more than 100,000 men and women strive in finance and retail enterprises.

The fair opened in a marquee in Canada Square Park, under the shadow of massive buildings including the first to open in 1991, One Canada Square, which with its 50 storeys was long the UK’s tallest until a construction spree in the rival and much more ancient City area outdid it with the 95-storey Shard and others.

In their pavilion, the stallholders were hoping for trade as brisk as that which favoured the original function of Canary Wharf — which takes its name from No 32 berth of West Wood Quay built in 1936 to handle Mediterranean and Canary Islands produce for Fruit Lines, a Fred Olsen company.

Vases created by Belgin for single-stem flower.

At the fair, it was all creative hands on deck, with Belgin participating in the second round of exhibitors from March 22-25 2017, the first having been from March 17-20.  The vast range of offerings, from woodwork to Panama hats to jewellery to tiles that recalled Portugal’s golden age of navigation, confirmed that the UK harbours as much artistic bounty as it does financial clout.

Belgin Bozsahin, born in Istanbul but who has spent much of her life in London, turned to fashioning porcelain hands in the latest reinvention of her practice. She seized on sculpture, looking for the three-dimensional exuberance she considered lacking in oil painting, even though she had such success that her canvases are in many private collections, were exhibited in several capitals and were once on show in the QE2 cruiseship. “Painting did not fulfil my need to convey my passion of capturing and satisfying some deep inner experiences,” she says. Then came ceramics inspired by the 16th century tiles and mosaics of the city of Iznik (a successor to the Byzantine settlement of Nicea); and that has been followed by textured ceramic wall pieces, body casts and objets d’art.

Belgin with hand-formed porcelain pieces.

Inspiration for her to craft white porcelain flower vases in the contours of a hand was “wanting to create a small flower vase for my table. It was a gesture of offering which is to hold a single stem flower.”

Her hand-formed, abstract porcelain wall pieces have an unexpected history. She developed the technique to make good use of a box of left-over hand-formed scale fragments. Subsequently she made pieces to bespoke sizes and thicknesses. She begins the abstract piece by making a mark in a slab and works the pieces “intuitively” onto the fresh clay. She colours the porcelain rather than glazing with oxides and the result can take up to seven hours to finish. She prefers to finish them in one sitting to make the most of the natural flow. The piece is left to dry slowly for at least a week before it is fired again several times.

Playful pull-cord designed by Belgin.

She says: “I take the opportunity with abstract pieces to show how beautiful it is to feel free as a human being.”

One of her latest abstract panels is in cobalt blue tones, another in tones of teak, another the colour of milk chocolate. All this was her “introduction in creating colour in ceramics. Having come from painting, I wanted to retain the colours.” She likes muted colours, though, in what might be taken as a nod to the popularity of Nordic style.

She has branched out into making quirky home accessories such as the porcelain cord pulls for lights, in a design which she characterises as “British bathroom humour.” Belgin thought it would be fun to replace the utilitarian plastic button with a more attractive one in the shape of a little child’s hand. Now she has adapted this for light, bell, curtain, blind, lamp and ceiling fan pulls. The design inspiration came from her sculpture installation Sweet Dependence which involved casts of more than 30 hands.

Helaina Sharpley.

She says that throughout her newest work, “I cast the hands of close friends and family. My husband’s hand has produced one of the most beautiful pieces.”

She reflects that life shapes us like a sculptor, and her work may epitomise “the dynamic force inherent in all of life’s many layers weaving its magic, allowing textures to morph and create anew.”

Westminster view. Wire work by Helaina Sharpley.

Whether hand carving, incising, press moulding and slip casting, everything she does is fired at 1260C in oxidation.

Belgin herself is fired by her commitment to immersing herself in the fabric of her labour. She declares: “I do all my work by hand. I love using my hands to create work.  Alongside the discipline of my figurative work, I also enjoy allowing my hands to express intuitively what I feel without preconceived forms.”

The artist’s marketing strategy includes the online sales platform for crafts Etsy (www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BBCeramicArt), and more of her work can be seen on www.belginbozsahin.com

Elsewhere in the fair, Helaina Sharpley proved that she is a “wirework wonder” by manifesting the way she twists florist’s wire with pliers and hands into delightful shapes. These works of art are made to hang on walls of homes, shops and galleries.

With a studio in the Huddersfield area, Helaina advances the slogan “wired in West Yorkshire” for her work which is sold and commissioned in the UK and overseas.

London pioneer flight stamp. Wire work by Helaina Sharpley.

Her accomplished, slender creations and illustrations in two and three dimensions remind connoisseurs of fine art of elegant ink and pencil drawings rendered by masters of the last two centuries.

For the last nine years, she has been an independent artist, after earlier gaining a BA in Design Crafts at Hereford College of Art and Design, and pursuing business studies.

She started on this path after a chance assignment at college.  A lecturer handed her a piece of wire and challenged her to make something three-dimensional. “From that point, I just kept on ‘drawing,’” she says. “The rest is… ‘wirework history’.”

Her love of tea, and of the elegance of Edwardian architecture, combined to become main inspirations of her work: this includes cups and saucers, tea trays and one composition in that series called “William and Kate go together like tea and cake.” Separately featured are buildings, nature, lamp posts, utensils and clocks. The language of stamps is another theme, witnessed by a wire representation of a rare commemorative issue marking an ill-fated London (Canada) to London England flight.

Carlo Briscoe with caravela tiles.

Helaina has on three occasions won ‘The Wow Factor’ award at the British Craft Trade Fair; David Hockney owns two pieces of her work; and in November 2016 she was invited to Tokyo by a major store to run workshops.www.helainasharpley.co.uk

At the stall of husband and wife Carlo Briscoe and Ed Dunn there were echoes of the great ceramic tile-manufacturing traditions of Portugal, the Netherlands and elsewhere. The duo has spent considerable time in Lisbon and touring Portugal, soaking up ideas for the individual, hand-painted tiles they produce in addition to fulfilling contracts to furnish entire walls for commercial clients.

Prominent among the smaller blue-and-white tiles – known to the Portuguese and Spanish as azulejos – are many depicting the caravela. This was the type of fast, manoeuvrable sailing ship which Portugal built from the 15th century to explore the West African coast and the Atlantic. Such ships were favoured by Henry the Navigator, Christopher Columbus, Bartolomeu Dias and others for their great ‘discoveries.’

Carlo and Ed began producing caravela tiles after a private client asked them to make just one to fill a gap of matching designs in an old fireplace.

The couple trade under the name Reptile, partly a pun on the word ‘tile’ and partly because Carlo once had lizards as the subject of her paintings. They have been making tiles since 1988, the year they married. For four years they worked from London, but when business took off, with large panels for Waitrose fish and meat counters, and sales of tiles and plaques through many retailers, they decided to relocate to a more spacious, purpose-built studio in West Wales.

They say that they have been commissioned to provide tiles for food halls, swimming pools, restaurants, hotels and hospitals as well as many bathrooms and kitchens.  Underwater scenes, animals, birds, plants and landscapes all feature on tile, usually in tin-glazed ware (often known as maiolica, faience or Delftware), fired up to 1070°C.  Website is www.reptiles.co.uk

Made London Canary Wharf: The Design and Craft Fair continues until March 25 2017. www.madelondon-canarywharf.com


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