This will be the third annual London Craft Week. What inspired you to start it?
The easy answer is, there was a gap. We’ve had London Fashion Week for many years and we’ve had a design festival—but there had never been a moment dedicated to exceptional craftsmanship, so it seemed long overdue, really. I’d worked in the fashion retail sector for years, and I was very aware that affluent consumers are as passionate as they ever were about beautiful, special things—but at the same time increasingly bored with seeing the same old brands and the same old shopping streets. There was definitely an untapped desire to understand the landscape of exceptional things: how they’re made, and how you judge their quality. The idea was to create a showcase of both heritage brands and new and upcoming ones.
How is the craft scene in London at the moment?
I think it is buoyant, but that’s not all we’re about. Of course, it’s wonderful that we have things being made in London again, but what we really want to do is bring in people from around the world and, crucially, from other regions of the UK as well. Post-Brexit, I think it is important that we prove that London is working hard for the rest of the country, not just looking inwards.
Why is Marylebone one of the focal points for the week? What should we look out for?
What’s interesting about your part of the world is that it feels really special, but it doesn’t come across as exclusive. What makes London so interesting is its network of villages, each of which has its own flavour, all of which are dynamic, changing and developing. I have always thought Marylebone is a wonderful and underappreciated part of London, full of interesting shops and restaurants.
Seymour Place in Marylebone is the festival’s official dining destination. How does food fit into it?
We have set up our stall as being about exceptional craftsmanship and exceptional creativity—just making something by hand is not enough, it has to have that magical quality that comes from a combination of inspiration, talent and creativity. That is what we stand for at our core. The idea behind incorporating food and drink is that it is an absolutely brilliant way to bring a lot of these themes to life, and avoid being too worthy about it all, being too serious. We’re branching out to include not just events that fuse food with exceptional craftsmanship but also wonderful places like Lurra, Donostia and Vinoteca, where visitors can just stop and refresh.
What exactly is the difference between craft and art?
I slightly wimp out on that question, because I believe very strongly that all of us get too preoccupied by words. They come with such baggage, especially in this country. You have the glamourous fashion people who are like, “Ew, crafts”, you have the crafts people who say that luxury brands are the devil, you have contemporary artists and fine artists who insist upon not puncturing the bubble, and you have quite remarkable artists like Grayson Perry or Edmund de Waal working in ceramics and glass to create objects at a fraction of the price. What we want to do is enforce the notion that seeing is believing. We don’t want to create categories. The Japanese have grown up with craft and heritage alongside newness: they don’t create boundaries, and they don’t overanalyse things, and in my experience, they are some of the most sophisticated consumers in the word.
What should we be looking out for?
In terms of Marylebone, one of my favourite events will involve a third-generation maker of Spanish guitars, Felipe Conde, appearing at Home House. He’ll demonstrate making them, then there’ll be a performance on one he’s made by an amazing flamenco guitarist. On Chiltern Street, we’ve demonstrations on textiles, jewellery and the perfect pair of boxer shorts. My advice is, if you have a fixed interest, then go by discipline: we have filters on the website. Otherwise, choose an area and explore things that way. We have a great map online.
London Craft Week
Interview: Clare Finney