As two graceful, sliver-clad giants showed visitors into a brightly coloured entrance lobby where a couple of Marcel Marceau twins were larking about, it was quite obvious this was not going to be your average ‘Official Opening’. Somehow they set the tone for the inspiring focus of the National Centre For Craft and Design in the ancient village of Sleaford, Lincolnshire.
The centre, previously known as ‘The Hub’, is in a refurbished seed store – a plaque by the door states simply “This used to be a Seed Warehouse – IT STILL IS.” There are four floors dedicated to showcasing the best of international craft and design. On display at the opening was funky Formula Fashion where “art, motorsport and leather collide”. Conceptual fashion-designer Jo Cope explained how she had created a Ducatti-yellow ‘transmorphic’ outfit with the sleek lines of a Formula One racing car. Aasen Stephenson demonstrated the exacting cutting techniques needed to create the delicate filigree leather jacket decorated with the names of past Formula 1 winners. Bespoke shoe design by Marloes Ten Bhömer reflected motor vehicle engineering and Silverstone Racetrack inspired the stunning red, black & silver dresses by Kei Ito.
In another enormous space was Four Seasons, by artistic trio Metro-Boulot-Dodo. It’s part of an “interactive, 4-part multi-media installation, composed to reflect the 4 different stages of life”. An old car rusts away in a wood, a piano plays haunting music, the TV comes to life, a dressing table reflects fading light … so evocative.
Of course there is the now obligatory ‘retail space’ which has some gloriously quirky pieces for sale. My eye was caught by Gillian Lee Smith’s haunting fabric and clay figures and also some very OTT gilded ceramic crockery. Bright woollen scarves, Make-Your-Own Dinosaur Tee shirt kits, shimmering crystal vases and a myriad other objects tempt the visitor to take home a unique example of modern art.
The opening took place on the hottest October day in history and the sun helped to create a party atmosphere. A saxophonist added a bluesy note, a juggler enthralled everyone with smoothly flowing glass globes and a feeling of dynamic creativity pulsed throughout. The official ceremony was brief and delightfully unstuffy – some heartfelt thanks to all who had made this dream a reality and then a simple sheet was pulled down to reveal the colourful nameplate.
Nearby is Navigation House on the old River Slea Wharfe telling how the Centre evolved and also the development & building of the waterway. After a quick look round the exhibition I walked down the attractive towpath to Cogglesford Mill. This is one of the country’s oldest working mills and Michael the Miller demonstrated how they still produce stone-ground organic flour. Returning along the river to the NCCD I could hear the sound of a band playing, people laughing and glasses chinking. Rounding the corner there were those elegant silver giants still graciously ushering in more visitors for their first glimpse of this quirky and inspiring venue. Go see it someday – you never know what you might discover!
For more information contact Visit Lincolnshire