The past few months have seen many of us turn to making. Whether it’s perfecting a sourdough loaf, learning to quilt, carving wood, or crafting some loveably lopsided ceramic mugs, the rhythms of the handmade have frequently given solace and lent a sense of purpose during isolation and chaos. “When I’m actually physically making, it really brings me down into that moment,” says Adelaide jeweller Kath Inglis, “and it’s very present and quietens things down.”
It is this human desire to create objects that Obsessed: Compelled to Make explores. What drives artists to devote entire careers to perfecting techniques, pushing mediums, expanding material processes? What is it about the often mundane and repetitive practices of craft that hold people in their grip, professionals and amateurs alike?
Asking this question of 15 established craft and design artists, the exhibition sees Inglis’s striking PVC plastic jewellery sit alongside metalwork by Waradgerie artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey, slipcast porcelain by Honor Freeman and sculptural textiles byLouise Weaver. These works are joined by furniture, silversmithing, glassblowing, weaving and resin-casting by practitioners from all over Australia. The exhibition is anchored around a series of beautifully evocative short films that delve into each maker’s story, getting under the skin of their practice, shown alongside their physical work. “We really wanted to do something which focused on the maker, and focused on why artists do what they do,” curator Lisa Cahill explains.
Originally produced at the Australian Design Centre in 2018, Obsessed is now touring galleries across the country. Importantly, the exhibition opens up to include local makers in each of its touring locations: in Cowra renowned ceramicist Greg Daly features as a guest artist, while other galleries have put on makers’ markets and events tailored to the local community. Generous and poetic, Obsessed underscores, as Cahill says, “the value and power of making by hand.”
This article was originally published in the September/October 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.