Exhibition Spotlight: The Power of Making at the V and A

Blond Lips, Charlie Le Mindu using Hairdreams. Image by Manu Valcarce

Just in case my post on the V&A’s Postmodernism exhibition left anyone feeling that I left the museum disgruntled or dissatisfied, I offer this post as evidence to the contrary. Before the museum closed its doors last Sunday (and after the unceasing novelty of having tea and scones in the V&A cafe’s William Morris room) I spent an hour enraptured by the current V&A and Crafts Council exhibition, The Power of Making. With a cacophany of objects displayed at all eye levels, and multitudes of text information to read, this exhibition risks overwhelming.

However, the common thread, of “making” as a thematic, and the pure wonderment conjured by the well curated examples make the display a delight. Moreover, it entices by showing a possible future world where science, art, and human labour co-conspire to create a wealth of intelligent and aesthetically pleasing objects, and products. There are a significant amount of works that are wearable, textile based and very fashionable.  3D printing plays a starring role in the exhibition, as a technology that is on the cusp of being widespread, and with the potential to radically re-shape our relationship with products and product design.

A 3d printer similar to those exhibited

During my MA, I attended a lecture by Philip Delamore of the London College of Fashion’s Fashion Digital Studio and 3d printing laboratory. Rapid prototyping is used extensively by the fashion industry, particularly in shoe design for the creation of molds. At the lecture, Mr. Delamore described a possible future world where  home 3d printers are widely utilised allowing product design to happen at home, making designers of everyone, and where the possibilities for complex design made by 3D printing could usher in a “new Baroque Age.”

This hypothesis completely overtook me, and made me an enthusuiast of this new technology – and intensely curious to see how it will develop in the near future. As an exhibition designer, I fantasize about the display forms and formats this could bring about.

The Power of Making displays a series of working 3D printers and ample information to introduce the machines to a wider public. But, the dazzle of future-tech is not the real heart of the exhibition.

E-shoe (high heeled shoe guitar), © Chicks on Speed

What makes it an uplifting experience is the parallel focus on handicraft, clever use of materials both new and traditional and above all, the sense of time. The feeling I left the V&A with was that “making” is indeed powerful, and that the time and energy spent in making is the force behind that power.

See text excerpts from the Exhibition Page below:

About the Exhibition

6 September 2011–2 January 2012

The Porter Gallery
Room 48
Admission free

The V&A and Crafts Council celebrate the role of making in our lives by presenting an eclectic selection of over 100 exquisitely crafted objects, ranging from a life-size crochet bear to a ceramic eye patch, a fine metal flute to dry stone walling. Power of Making is a cabinet of curiosities showing works by both amateurs and leading makers from around the world to present a snapshot of making in our time.

The exhibition showcases works made using a diverse range of skills and explores how materials can be used in imaginative and spectacular ways, whether for medical innovation, entertainment, social networking or artistic endeavour.

Making is the most powerful way that we solve problems, express ideas and shape our world. What and how we make defines who we are, and communicates who we want to be.

For many people, making is critical for survival. For others, it is a chosen vocation: a way of thinking, inventing and innovating. And for some it is simply a delight to be able to shape a material and say ‘I made that’. The power of making is that it fulfills each of these human needs and desires.

Those whose craft and ingenuity reach the very highest levels can create amazing things. But making is something everyone can do. The knowledge of how to make – both everyday objects and highly-skilled creations – is one of humanity’s most precious resources.

Guest Curator, Daniel Charny

Exploring the exhibition

Power of Making is an exhibition about the breadth and depth of craft’s presence in modern life. The featured objects have been selected to highlight both age-old skills and contemporary techniques, from traditional stone walls to machines that can make other machines. Each exhibit demonstrates refined craftsmanship, meticulous control or ingenious application.

The exhibition is structured in groups of objects that share certain attributes. Some have been created using related techniques or materials. Others are connected by their appearance, or by their makers’ motivations.

There is no set path to follow. Power of Making is intended to encourage exploration and imagination, in the open-ended spirit of the works on display.

Michael Rea, Prosthetic suit for Stephen Hawking with Japanese Steel. (c) Contemporary Art Museum Virginia Beach.

An exhibition catalog detailing all works in the exhibition is available from the V&A shop for discounted price of £7.99..

See the events program for the Power of Making.


Related Articles

Leave a Comment

Monthly Archive


Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at : Amazon.com, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.