Feature Mondays - Somerset Guild of Craftsmen archive
Monday 9 November 2015
Derek Jones, along with Tom Kealy, was one of the judges for the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen Furniture Prize 2015 - he shares his highlights and tells us about the winnerError loading Partial View script (file: ~/Views/MacroPartials/cwsGalleryImages.cshtml)
I get asked to judge a lot of competitions each year and it's a hugely rewarding and often humbling experience when I'm able to do it. Three is about my limit as they generally fall around the same time of year, so they coincide with the end of the academic year. Competitions are really a mild celebration of triumph over adversity and allow us to get closer to the maker or artist. I have tremendous respect for anyone who offers their work up for scrutiny by a panel of judges; trial by jury may be the fairest way to reach a decision but it's often the public vote that will have the final word over the judges.
The Somerset Guild of Craftsmen's annual competition is one such event. The Guild currently have their headquarters and gallery based in Somerton, the ancient capital of Wessex and has a County-wide membership of over 160.
The competition is open to colleges and furniture making schools in the local area, namely Bridgwater College, Bristol College and Williams & Cleal. It was a pleasure and honour to team up with Tom Kealy to judge the competition this year. I've got to say I felt like a bit of an imposter travelling across three counties and, therefore, three Guild neighbourhoods - including my own in East Sussex - to get there. Those sort of distances give plenty of time to ponder and, naturally, I'm wondering if each Guild could/would be tempted to run a series of regional competitions culminating in a 'best of' show held on neutral territory.
The Somerset Guild is one of the oldest Craft Guilds in the country and has been promoting excellence in design and craftsmanship for 80 years. All their makers are skilled, dedicated craftsmen who have undergone a stringent selection process before becoming accepted as exhibiting members. At the time of writing, the Somerset Guild has plans to expand its catchment area beyond the Somerset boundary. It's an ambitious plan and not without some obvious logistical nightmares. Making the trip twice, one to deliver and one to collect, to display work is less tempting the further the distance. Ask anyone who's exhibited at the Celebration of Craftsmanship in Cheltenham or the Millinery Works, London. Both are great venues and typically feature some of the best bespoke made pieces in any given year.