Writing for Exhibitions
I get very excited when curators and makers commission me to write for their exhibitions, which I love doing. I can create bespoke text for your exhibition website, gallery information panels, or publications. I have a background in Museum Education so you just know this is right up my street. Do you have a funding application for the project? I’m happy to help with that too!
My method is based on conversational collaboration, where I discuss the work with the curator/makers involved to gain insights into the process of creating the exhibition as well as the final work on display.
Laura Mansfield - independent curator & writer
Precious Collective – an online community forming relationships and challenging perceptions
Precious - adj ‘of high cost of worth, not to be treated carelessly’
Precious Collective began with the desire to challenge traditional craft perspectives and to promote art jewellery within Cornwall, but it has grown, through the magic of Instagram, to become a global community. With 94 members from over 27 countries and representing all stages of a jewellery career (from students to world-renowned artists) Precious Collective is all about connection and conversation.
The driving force behind Precious Collective is Lynne Speake, herself a creator of wearable art jewellery. Maintaining the forward momentum on social media, she sees her role as facilitating – posting and re-posting the work of the collective’s members. She is keen to point out that she is not a curator, it’s not about her voice or vision; it’s about showcasing and highlighting others and connecting with people - “it’s inspiring and expanding my own knowledge of what everyone’s making within the contemporary jewellery field.” Lynne initially sought out members through industry websites and shows, contacting people directly, but now people are finding her and responding to the work the collective is doing. With a steadily growing audience and a social media reach of around 50k this group is certainly meetings its aims.
Precious Collective’s members represent many and varied approaches within contemporary jewellery, whether materially, technically or conceptually. What links them is their ambiguous relationship to notions of what is ‘precious’:
“Jewellery that is precious is often thought of as such due to a financial market value or a society’s norms. However, ‘precious’ can also depend upon personal taste and emotional attachment.
The Precious Collective is where the idiosyncratic, extraordinary ideas live; where you can encounter the unexpected. Unusual materials, mixed with creative minds, fuse into joyous imaginative work expressing individual ideas of what precious could mean. The enduring ‘norm’ of gold & diamonds is challenged by this group’s witty interpretation of body adornment, process & materials.” – Precious Collective
Together with an exhibition committee of four other jewellers (Val Muddyman, Rebecca Walklett, Lucy Spink and Anna Rennie), Lynne is currently organising the Precious Collective launch exhibition at Ocean Studios, Plymouth, in April 2019. With open applications and minimal costs for the exhibitors, they hope to create a relaxed and affordable opportunity for artists to reach a new audience in the South West.
Precious Collective website
Makers & Tools project
Visit the Makers & Tools website to see examples of text that I’ve produced as a curator.
Entering the space, this feels familiar. Objects engaged with domesticity - eating, grooming, cooking & cleaning - set up in a display that has a ‘front room feel’ without being too cosy. Laid out, prepared, waiting; vessels and combs, brushes and forks. The evidence of domestic activity, a shared experience for everyone, everywhere. This ubiquity makes it the perfect place to destabilise the ordinary, the mundane routines, to ask us to look at the tools we take for granted, the invisible implements of our everyday existence.
Travel around the room, doorway to walls to tables to alcoves. Conversations are established between craft, art and design objects, and connecting the conversations are drawings. Comb-lines follow and pick up elements around the room, horizontal and vertical movement in motion, drawing the strands inwards, culminating in a printed curtain. This design print is a thread running through, tactile lanes, a track of sorts, linking the interaction between the disciplines. There is a sense of being ‘on display’ to the groups of objects, like the setting out of combs, brushes, mirrors on a dressing table, or of the best china for special occasions. Setting out as an act, setting out for a purpose, scenes of interaction where something could be about to begin. Who is the table laid for, what is about to happen?
What we discover is a breadth of work that questions the notion of an implement: some objects hint at ‘normal’ tasks, others are seemingly created for imaginary activities. There are objects with no function at all, deliberately denied their purpose or created too fragile or clumsy to work, and objects referencing such varied associations that they are difficult to pin down. Pieces that challenge the process of designing and making, that play with expectations of how materials should look, of how objects should behave.
I want to touch everything. It is frustrating not to be able to handle the implements. So much of the work feels like it will come alive once it is touched, engaged with, the connection made physically between object and purpose, acted out by my involvement. The presence of the body is everywhere - materially, formally and functionally - we are the invisible element that completes the objects. I imagine the objects in the world: how I might use them, or could not, how it would feel. Repeatedly, I encounter moments where I have to re-view the work. I have to readjust, perhaps to change lanes on the track. Is it craft, is it art, is it design? Does it matter?
I enjoy this uncertainty: objects that are not obviously ‘implements’ or ‘tools’, yet still prompt me to find the function within, the imagined narrative of the objects. A show that specifically gathers work from across disciplines allows for interpretations we may not normally consider. I construct my own narrative for one of the objects that seems completely reasonable within the definition of ‘ambiguous’ and within the context of the display. It doesn’t occur to me that my idea for the use of this tool might not be the function the maker intended, until I speak with her later and discover the object is simply a hybrid spatula/spoon. It pleases me that I could misunderstand so easily, that this show allows the possibility of imagination and wondering on my part, and offers an openness of interpretation which I don’t always experience with craft-only exhibitions.
I used to work in a museum that was, for many people, the quintessential cabinet of curiosities, considered to house the weird and wonderful from around the world. Working there, I soon came to understand that most of the objects were just normal things, objects designed to solve a problem or fulfil a role in people’s daily lives. Ordinary stuff, just not necessarily ordinary to me. But the similarities, the flickers of familiarity in them, were sufficient to allow me to connect and find my way in, and to help others do the same. Perhaps this is what is happening here, with these ambiguous implements. They feel familiar enough for me to wonder: if the context were different might I understand them? Are they hinting at a domestic reality that is not my experience, but which exists somewhere out there? A speculative context where everyone can find something that makes sense to them. Egalitarian, democratic domesticity.