Jewellery that melts. Trompe l’oeil weeds. Paint-splattered stepladders. If ever a show is calculated to shock traditionalists out of their comfort zone, it’s Out of the Ordinary/ Spectacular Craft, staged in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s new Porter Gallery designed by Block Architecture. Put aside any ideas of carefully thrown pots: this is extreme craft – exciting, intriguing and challenging. Curated jointly by the V&A and the Crafts Council, the exhibition showcases eight makers from around the world who use meticulous craft as part of their artistic process. As curator Laurie Britton Newell says, it is ‘contemporary art with craft in the mix’, rather than a show that fits any particular category. Some play with notions of what is ordinary and what is precious, using precious materials to create mundane effects, or creating beautiful objects out of the everyday. Certainly, most of the work defies easy pigeon-holing. Susan Collis’s stepladder is fascinating – at first sight decorating equipment, but, on closer inspection, those splatters of paint are painstakingly inlaid mother-of-pearl, coral, shell, white opals and diamonds. Ice and chocolate are the unusual materials for Naomi Filmer’s beautiful, ephemeral jewellery – designed for unorthodox locations such as behind the ear, the gaps between the fingers, or the small of the back. Yoshihiro Suda’s weeds and flowers, seemingly growing out of concrete walls, are, in fact, hand-painted magnolia wood. Their incongruity, he hopes, will make people smile. Weird and wonderful, or just plain weird? You decide.
Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft, runs from 13 November until 17 February 2008, Victoria & Albert Museum, London SW7