The Crafts Council’s annual acquisitions fair, Collect, is opening its virtual doors this week. For the first time, Collect is partnering with Artsy, the global online art platform, to showcase online the latest in ceramics, glass, metal, wood and textiles.
Through this collaboration, the contemporary craft fair convenes makers and artists with collectors and curators.
Ahead of its opening, Museums Journal spoke to fair director Isobel Dennis and market consultant Daniella Wells on the impact of the pandemic on craft and Collect’s first virtual fair.
What have been the broad impacts of the pandemic on the craft industry?
ID: There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a negative impact on the craft industry, not least because makers and artists have been unable to travel to their studios and further their work. Having said that, there have been a great number of positive impacts as well.
Some makers and artists have had the most incredibly productive period as they have had more time and space to be creative.
Galleries are inherently creative institutions and we have seen them be innovative in re-designing their websites. They have spent time creating new ways of navigation and making their websites more user friendly. We have also seen galleries improve their use of social media, such as Instagram, and adapt to selling craft online by working with art platforms, such as Artsy.
Galleries have also had the opportunity to tidy up, move things arounds and refurbish – an opportunity they never really have had the chance to do.
What trends have come out as a result of the pandemic?
DW: We are in the early days of seeing what trends might emerge as a result of the pandemic but, combing through over 200 artists, one of the predominant themes is strong textile works.
There has been a growing interest in the marketplace for fine art and design in textile works.
Artsy has reported a 109% increase in followers in their textile art category. We are not too sure why this is, but it may be because people are at home more and there is a greater desire to add that warmth of wall hangings to rooms.
Collect usually deals with very obvious 3D pieces of work and so we are working with galleries to showcase these textiles online. We have an amazing selection and are excited to showcase these at the fair.
How will you recreate the enthusiasm among audiences with a virtual fair?
ID: One of our key strengths has always been in producing some incredible photography of the pieces. This year, more than ever, we need to ensure that the photographs are taken under good lighting, from different angles and zoom in on the textures and colours of the pieces. We are all about the three-dimensional experience and will do our best to recreate that for the audience.
We will also use the new Crafts Council Gallery as a television studio. Whoever is hosting a talk or discussion, will be in the gallery and discuss craft to a live audience.
For the VIP sessions, we will work with various people who have a specialism, or curatorial experience, in a certain material. We will bring them to the gallery and film them walking around, picking up pieces and discussing them. Again, we want to ensure the cameras can zoom in on that colour, texture and scale to capture that 3D element.
I am keen on servicing our amazing curators who come to the fair. As such, we will do something different so we can give them access to that imagery and drive them to the galleries’ work. We want to make the fair inclusive and allow international galleries take part.
Has the pandemic changed the way craft has been sold?
ID: Absolutely yes. Artsy reported that between December 2019 and December 2020, the number of e-commerce sales increased by 280%. We are letting galleries know how these changes will affect them because we know face-to-face interaction is so important when making sales.
It is bit a leap of faith for buyers to purchase online but where it works so well is when buyers are dealing directly with the gallery. The gallery can give them that confidence about the piece’s quality, its provenance, and the artist’s background. So long as you have that lovely conduit where the gallery adds that level of knowledge and expertise, that purchasing connection continues.
Collect runs from Friday 26 February until Tuesday 2 March