- Date: 13 September 2012
- Artform: Museums
- Area: National
museumaker was a prestigious national project involving 16 museums across the country. The programme encouraged museums and makers to collaborate by providing financial support and expert advice, which enabled them to draw on each other's rich resources, take creative risks and trial new ideas.
This museumaker project was conceived as part of Richmond's celebration of the Cultural Olympiad, Heritage Now! Orleans House had recently created artist in residence space as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund capital project, and made a commitment to bringing in contemporary artists (makers) to help the public engage with the heritage.
Place setting by Eleanor Pritchard was shown from June to September 2010. The installation consisted of a six metre banqueting table set for a fantasy guest list spanning four centuries. It referenced plasterwork, sugarwork, blackwork (an embroidery technique used to decorate clothing) and damask. Quilling (paper filigree) reflected the plasterwork ceilings of Orleans House and Strawberry Hill.
Miranda Stearn, Arts and Heritage Development Co-ordinator, thought the process worked well. She felt well supported at each stage. She had a lot of experience with artists but less with the contemporary crafts. She valued the national profile and structure, and the opportunity to provide a paid pitch, so that makers could develop their ideas. The selection process took a long time but the curator came away from short listing session inspired. The original plan was that the maker, Eleanor Pritchard, would work from the studio, so that the public could see her work in practice. This proved impractical because Eleanor needed equipment in her own studio.
As part of their retail development project within museumaker, Orleans House worked with two retail consultants to develop new product lines for their shop. They commissioned Lush Designs, a design collective, to make a bag for the Museum. Orleans House ordered 1,000 bags, which will retail at £6 each. In addition, Kit Grover designed a set of small wooden building ornaments representing this part of the Thames. 2,000 sets have been produced and will retail at £10 a set. The retail consultant was very good at combining the crafts objectives of museumaker with the commercial realities.
'You write a brief and have a picture in your head of what might happen. Nothing was exactly what we had anticipated, which was quite a good learning point. Then you work through the implications of that.'
The museum had assumed the brief would lead to a series of works, each individually reflecting a historic property in the area. Instead Eleanor took her inspiration from the different places, but made one large work, which had a strong impact in the space. Her proposal stood out. However, the larger piece is more difficult to show again, and more difficult to store. 'You can't pre-empt what someone will make. The whole point is a maker carrying out your brief in their way.
'Working with the maker was great. We were not just impressed with the idea and craftsmanship, but also trusted that it was well thought through and planned. She was brilliantly reliable, and brought a colleague to help on the community engagement.'
The main challenge was the way the project was structured. The maker held the budget for all items except the retail work. She was therefore responsible for the printing costs for a brochure, invites to the private view etc. If the project had been running over, the maker might have saved money on issues of importance to the museum. In the event this was not a problem.
The legacy from the museumaker project was:
You can download the full case study by Annabel Jackson Associates Ltd, which includes feedback from participants here.
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