Seeing Things: Collected Writing on Art, Craft and Design
This book gathers together a selection of Britton’s writings, including new, previously unpublished pieces, in an investigation of what the crafts have meant through the last three decades. Britton has mainly published in the ephemeral forms of exhibition catalogues and magazines. Her intention with Seeing Things was to assemble not simply an essay anthology, but rather an historical narrative of the development and the new conceptions of craft, as revealed in the threads of one person’s commissioned output throughout the period of Postmodernism.
The particular slant of insider/outsider writing was key to the project for Britton as practitioner and critic. Despite her roots in ceramic practice, much of her writing has been about other disciplines. Britton’s close relationship with two leading galleries in London (Contemporary Applied Arts, 1984–95, and Barrett Marsden/Marsden Woo Gallery, 1998–present), led to her contributing short introductions to new work by a wide range of exhibitors.
Britton argues that craft is not a discrete category with its own rules, but an ingredient across the spectrum of art and design, making it more dynamic, exciting and complex than is often assumed. The overlaps and ambivalent borderlines, especially in the rapid evolution of the 1980s, broke with the past and brought new ideas to light. Her situation as a maker, teacher and curator, and the complexity of changing cultural definitions in the past 30 years have been a continuous stimulus to writing and making.
The innovation of the book comes from combining initial response and retrospective reflection. Using the material written when the work was just made, and evaluating the perceptions of that time through new writing that introduces, and comments on, the text selections made, Britton aims for a particular combination of immediacy and distance, the coal-face and the bird’s eye view.