Friday, June 08
Beauty in the Making – in retrospect
BY Gerard Ivall
The fact that GFSmith's Beauty in the Making event was held in Victoria House Basement, only helped to emphasise the point of the show: Just like this largely unknown subterranean venue, the artistry in creative processes is normally hidden from the eyes of many.
In fact, it took us a while to locate the entrance, and this, in a small but significant way, added to the intrigue. And as we descended into the vast underground space, the air of expectation was indulged by a carefully thought-out and stage-managed experience that opened our eyes to a world of otherwise invisible creative workings and makings.
An interest in the handmade, the craft of making and traditional artistic techniques is rising. And paper being one of the most ubiquitous, yet mysterious, tools of the trade, it made sense that GFSmith should be the ones to produce an event to properly 'celebrate the artistry in creative processes'.
Even in our increasingly digital world, paper is an everyday commodity that is such an important part of lives, and one that we take for granted. So to be shown the process of papermaking in its simplest form, was a revelation. As the demonstrator deftly formed a sheet from a layer of wet pulp, we felt like children watching a magician – the involuntary whispered chorus of "wow", saying it all. Also on display in this area, arranged like exhibits in a gallery, were the many tools of the craft: basic, scientific and downright peculiar.
Computers are fascinating, granted, but there is something about mechanical devices with their balletic movement and hypnotic repetition that captures the imagination. The working letterpress machines brought together an elementary combination of muscle, simple mechanics, ink and paper, and it was hard to resist having a go. Equally popular was the envelope making table, where the GFSmith girls were performing paper-folding art, and where we made ham-fisted attempts to mimic them.
Collaboration is the current buzzword of the creative world and this event only goes to prove why. The partnership with Monotype and the British Council added another dimension to the proceedings; among the illuminating displays of the internal workings of graphic and typographic design, we were treated to a selection of Eric Gill's original drawings for his classic font, Gill Sans.
Also helping to ensure the success of the event were talks by an impressive line-up of creative luminaries. But rather than dry lectures, the evening talks proved, happily, to be an entirely unpredictable parade of random ideas. Limited to eight minutes each, speakers took the event's theme as a starting point and let their minds roam free, leaving us inspired, divided, confused, but always thinking.
A creative audience is a tough one to please, with critical eyes and limited attention spans, but GFSmith have made a name for themselves by pulling off quality industry events. However, this one significantly raised the bar; Beauty in the Making was far-reaching in its vision, engaging, educational, well-executed and stylish to boot.
Beauty in the making was a free, five-day event hosted by GFSmith. It was held in London's Victoria House Basement and ran from 23—27 April 2012.
Beauty in the Making
Creating bespoke envelopes