This month Selected on-line talks to Manchester collective Makers Dozen
Photo credit: Vinny Ratcliff
Makers Dozen is a Manchester-based collective consisting of people who make things. What they make ranges from furniture and functional objects to film, fine art and fashion and the aim is to extend the public’s understanding of what the term ‘made’ means.
Founded last year by a core group of six diverse makers – Joseph Hartley, Laura Negus, Vinny Ratcliff, Eleanor Simms, Jessica Swallow and Rory Thompson - who met while they were studying at Manchester School of Art, Makers Dozen began as a way of enabling the founders to continue their cross-disciplinary exchange. However, this proved so fruitful that they decided to extend the group, inviting guest makers to join them in a programme of exhibitions. ‘We invite six new makers to join us for each exhibition,’ explains Joseph Hartley, who describes himself as a ‘Butcher, Baker and Designer Maker, ‘They then become members so the group is growing all the time.’
‘What we are doing is offering makers the chance to collaborate,’ says Eleanor Simms, a narrative and material-led maker who creates small scale objects and wearable pieces that encourage interaction, ‘because what are the benefits of working solely in one discipline and never exposing yourself to new and varied ways of thinking or making?’
Makers Dozen currently boasts 32 members. The ‘guests’ tend to be recent graduates who haven’t exhibited before and what unites them all is that each of them works things out through materials in three dimensional forms. For example, Hartley uses mainly wood, clay and cloth, Simms work is currently very textile based, while Laura Negus is an artist whose practice is based around ceramics but also encompasses video and installation.
Ceramics is the starting point for Makers Dozen latest exhibition Cup North, a two day coffee party running over the weekend of 1st-2nd November (www.cupnorth.co.uk). Furniture and lighting designer Vinny Ratcliff, who is acting as Project Manager for this show (each member takes a specific role for every exhibition) has asked the group to create a collection of objects that respond to a large set of pink and grey 1980s coffee cups they stumbled across. ‘Some of us like them, others think they are hideous,’ says Negus ‘I am making ceramic pieces based on the effect coffee has on my state of mind. I will be using the cups and adding to them in various ways.’
Eleanor Simms has taken the colours of the cups as her starting point. ‘I am responding to the objects through materials that link to the colour palette,’ she says, ‘working with high-fired porcelain to make the forms. So far, they are just objects which sit separate from the body but some may become wearables.’
Cup North takes place in Manchester. This is significant because Makers Dozen is a proudly North Western organisation. ‘We want to show that London is not the only place in the UK for creative opportunity,’ says Negus ‘and we feel that it’s important to add to the thriving art and design ecology the North West has to offer.’
The members of Makers Dozen also feel that it’s important to change the public’s perception of what craft is. The makers themselves all engage with craft and design processes and many of them also overlap into Fine Art principals. Demonstrating the connections and interplays between these three areas is one of the main purposes of the exhibition programme.
‘The word ‘craft’ has such a lot of baggage attached to it,’ says Simms, ‘and many of the things it has meant over the years are the things that we at Makers Dozen wish to shed. What we are trying to show is that craft covers Art, Design and Process. It’s a practice that involves thinking through making, not making for makings sake.’
Anyone who visits one of Makers Dozen’s exhibitions will see immediately that its members do a lot of thinking and take their diverse practices very seriously. The objects they create are considered and celebrate the integrity of their materials. However, they are a young group and their exhibitions are playful, often featuring interactive elements – as part of Cup North, for example, they are asking various creative acquaintances to alter some of those 1980s cups in any way they choose. ‘We want to the public to be involved in what we do,’ says Simms. ‘We are leaving the hierarchy between Art and Craft behind.’ One fascinating exhibition at a time.
Cup North is at Artwork, Greengate, M3 7NG. www.cupnorth.co.uk