Needle-felted chair and spiky ceramic egg feature in Loewe Foundation Craft Prize exhibition
Spanish fashion house Loewe has announced the winner of its sixth annual craft prize, currently on show as part of an exhibition presenting all the shortlisted projects during NYCxDesign.
The showcase at the Noguchi Museum in Queens features works by 30 artisans from 16 countries, including an intricate piece called Metanoia by Japanese ceramicist Eriko Inazaki that took home the top prize.
The sculptural egg looks almost furry or soft to the touch but is actually covered in hundreds of minuscule ceramic protrusions, rolled into shape between two fingers.
These tiny slivers are attached to an ovoid ceramic base in a painstaking process that took over a year to complete and required the constant use of a humidifier to keep the clay workable.
"It's a magical piece," said Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson, who sat on the 13-person jury for the 2023 Loewe Foundation Craft Prize alongside designer Patricia Urquiola and Pritzker Prize-winning architect Wang Shu.
"It's one of those things where you don't really know what it's made from until you really inspect it," he added. "It has an incredible depth of field, which I think is very unusual in ceramics. There's not anything out there that looks like that."
Many of the other works made use of similarly time-consuming processes. Among them is a chair enveloped in merino wool by Brooklyn designer Liam Lee, which he felted into shape over the course of four months using a large needle.
"I feel like needle-felting is craft with a lowercase C," he told Dezeen. "Children can needle, it's accessible to a lot of people. So it's crazy that it's being elevated."
Dominique Zinkpè from Benin received a special mention from the jury for his wooden wall relief The Watchers, composed of traditional Yoruban ibéji figurines that were individually hand-carved and decorated before being set in a frame made from an old canoe.
Another special mention went to Japanese weaver Moe Watanabe, who contributed a box made from a single strip of folded walnut bark, held together by simple fasteners reminiscent of the rivets used to join sheets of metal.
"The jury chose the work for its celebration of the sheer materiality of bark, and its use of rivets which references architectural construction and the tradition of mending," the Loewe Foundation said.
Also on show as part of the exhibition is a papier-mache basket made from materials found in Arizona's Sonoran Desert, including agave, wildflowers and ground volcanic rocks, mixed with jute to create paper pulp.
This slurry was then draped over a mould made of stones to create the final piece, designed by American architecture studio Aranda\Lasch in collaboration with Native American artist Terrol Dew Johnson.
"We've been working with Terroll for 15 years on a basketry project, so every few months we'll make a basket together," said the studio's co-founder Benjamin Aranda. "It's a way for us to have a material practice that questions how materials are sourced and what their meaning is."
A number of South Korean finalists also exhibited vessels that bear signs of how they were produced. Jaiik Lee created a modern interpretation of traditional Korean moon jars, formed not from ceramic but from sheets of copper plate that were spot welded together, and their joints highlighted with decorative gold leaf.
Similarly, Keeryong Choi deliberately created small air bubbles on the surfaces of his glass vessels, which he filled in with gold leaf to suggest a starry sky.
Another project that plays with conventual manufacturing techniques is Buisson n°2 by French ceramicist Claire Lindner – an abstract sculpture made using a repurposed post-war plaster mould from the pottery region of Vallauris.
"This piece was made out of a mould of a leaf, which used to be used to produce kitsch serving dishes in the 60s," she said. "For me, it was a touching thing to bring this leaf back to life."
This year marked the sixth edition of the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize, which Anderson founded in 2016 to give craftspeople the recognition and the global platform they deserve. The prize awarded to the winner is 50,000 euros.
"Contemporary art has so much exposure, and I really don't see the difference between the two," Anderson told Dezeen in an interview. "I wanted to elevate the profile of craft and get people to talk about the idea of making."
There are a number of events currently taking place in New York as part of the city's design week. Read our selection of 12 things to do and see during New York's design week here.
The Loewe Foundation Craft Prize exhibition is on show in Isamu Noguchi's Studio at The Noguchi Museum in New York from 17 May until 18 June 2023. For more information about events, exhibitions and talks taking place as part of NYCxDesign, visit Dezeen's 2023 guide to the design festival.