Hugo MacDonald on why craft matters

Hugo MacDonald on why craft matters

Hugo MacDonald is a talented journalist and curator; the Harewood Biennial—opening on the 23rd of March—is his latest venture.

The biennial takes place at Harewood House, a beautiful Georgian building constructed in the 1780's, in the heart of Yorkshire. The property boasts some of the finest Robert Adam interiors and the largest commission of Chipperfield furniture in a private house. The house is managed by Harewood House Trust, led by Jane Marriott who joined the trust from Hepworth Wakefield.

What connected Hugo and Jane was a vision of using Harewood House and its interiors and exquisite layers of craftsmanship as the canvas for a contemporary cultural programme. That’s how the 'Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters' exhibition was born.

The exhibition opens a dialogue between the old and the new. Visitors will find each of the rooms within Harewood House transformed with contemporary craft displays; such as Kate Holland’s handmade books and Andy Singleton's ethereal paper sculptures in the Library, spun iron pans from Netherton Foundry, Michael May’s bespoke knives in the Old Kitchens, and garden tools forged from reclaimed ammunition from 1st world war battlefields.

There are also three site-specific commissions for visitors to enjoy; Faye Toogood’s fashion, furniture and object archives, Max Lamb’s Harewood rugs woven from the surplus wool from a local Yorkshire mill, and Anthony Burrill’s 6-metre tall scaffold sculpture located outside the house, covered in daring statements.

Importantly for Hugo, each display is accompanied by a statement from the artist about why craft matters to them. It was his mission for the exhibitors’ voices to be heard loud and clear, defining why craft matters to them. And whilst these personal statements are varied and bold, they also share recurring themes. All of the craftsmen and women discuss resourcefulness and having a sustainable approach to the consumption and preservation of knowledge and skills. They also appreciate craft as an employment opportunity for those who struggle to find work in a traditional sense; whilst also exploring its role in occupational therapy, highlighting the cognitive power between the hand and the mind as a healing process.

And as for Hugo’s thoughts on the craftsmen and women taking part in the exhibition, he admires their courage, commitment and integrity in choosing craft as their life purpose. For him, craft is not only about making, it’s about inhabiting a mindset and a cultural practice that can tell stories about who we are and how we live.

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