The second London Craft Week proved to be even better than the first, if that’s possible. At the launch at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world-renowned great Chinese calligrapher, Wang Dongling, demonstrated his great art in front of hundreds of people. It must have been nerve-wracking! His ‘writing surface’ was a huge sheet of clear glass placed vertically, and he used some rather sticky paint and a large brush. Because it was clear glass the distraction of the movement of people through the glass and the flashes of the cameras as he wrote must have been difficult to overcome.
I managed to film the whole calligraphic artwork – The Way that can be Spoken – from beginning to end on my iPad. Here it is. It is a bit wobbly, and other people got in the way, but it’s pretty much the sequence from beginning to end. As someone who has also demonstrated calligraphy to the public, and been ‘the hand’ for film and television, I have some knowledge of how nerve-wracking this can be – making sure that the letter-forms are correct, lively and true, with no going back to make adjustments. However, I have to hasten to add that my efforts are nothing like the scale of this, nor at this standard (and, of course, not Chinese writing!).
Straight after the inaugural London Craft Week last year we were talking about the plans for London Craft Week 2016, and the contribution of the Heritage Crafts Association, taking into account the fact that the first anniversary is often thought of as ‘paper’. I suggested one of the great ‘performance art’ Chinese calligraphers, who I have seen writing with brushes as big as mops on huge pieces of paper on the floor. This would be such a dramatic event for the launch of London Craft Week 2016, especially as this year it had an international theme*. However, who to choose? Who was considered to be the best? I asked the person who I knew would know – Ewan Clayton MBE. I was delighted when I found out that it was possible for him to be invited to the event and I ensured that he was introduced to the great man – two renowned calligraphers, one from the east and one from the west. This is the photo I took of them both.
*It was a throwaway comment from The Prince of Wales at the launch of the very first London Craft Week back in February 2015 at the Art Workers’ Guild that gave rise to the international theme of this year’s event. Here he is with letter cutter Lida Cardozo Kindersley at that occasion. As he was leaving the event, The Prince of Wales turned to Philippa Hobson, London Craft Week Programme Director, and me (I was there for the Heritage Crafts Association, one of the four Strategic Partners) and he said ‘What about international craft?’, and Philippa replied in a flash – ‘That’s next year’, and indeed it was!