Three by One: A Selection from Three Public Craft Collections by Alison Britton
‘Three by One’ was an exhibition, curated and installed by Britton, of 100 objects drawn from three important public collections, the Crafts Study Centre (CSC), the British Council and Crafts Council. It ran throughout 2009, and was seen by 8,288 visitors.
Britton’s view that craft cannot flourish in isolation from art and design was conveyed by the inclusion of objects often described as fine art, e.g. Bruce McLean’s Jug (1987), or design, e.g. Eric Ravilious’s Garden Implements Jug, Wedgwood (1937). Britton’s research aim was to investigate a view of craft history through objects, expressed through the idiosyncratic development of three complementary craft collections, built by coalitions of curators and artists over 70 years. As this was the first time these collections had been exhibited together, photography was commissioned to record the rare appearance of mixed groups from the collections, and was reproduced in a related book.
The object-reading basis of Britton’s personal selection was outlined in the exhibition’s wall text; the display explored the aesthetics of grouping unrelated objects that share a common provenance, emphasising strong visual juxtapositions. As well as co-editing the book of six essays by authors including Tanya Harrod, Britton contributed the Introduction (pp.8–16) where she described her fluid methodology for selection and display.
One exhibit was the original artwork for Edward Johnston’s typeface for the London Underground. This was used in the book designed by Sara de Bondt. The book follows the exhibition in demonstrating that a visually oriented beginning can be brought to a rigorous conclusion in a specific, well-defined historical record. Related outcomes included a public symposium at the CSC (December 2009) where Britton spoke on her curatorial methodology. Previews and reviews featured in Crafts Magazine, Design Week, Ceramic Review (all 2009); and The Times Saturday Magazine ran a photo feature (2009).
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