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The Power of Making

“Power of Making” exhibition at the V&A.

6th September 2011 to 2nd January 2012. 

Stephen Wessel

Quite out of the blue earlier this year I was asked to show one of my flutes at this forthcoming exhibition. It will be the only classical musical instrument among just over one hundred manufactured objects drawn from around the world. Organised by the Crafts Council in conjunction with the V&A, the exhibition sets out to celebrate the remarkable diversity of hand making skills, range of materials and role of the imagination in creating the modern world around us. It seeks to inspire, perhaps educate, by demonstrating how some traditional craft skills, such as dry-stone walling, have continued virtually unchanged while others have been drawn, often compelled, into using new technologies. This is no stereotypical “arts and crafts” show, more a contemporary wunderkammer parading an extraordinary flowering of innovation in manufacturing of all kinds around the globe.

Alongside my flute will be a selection of ocular prosthetics, a handmade camera, a shotgun, a silver cup and various other objects, each a leader in its field. Elsewhere will be seen a spacesuit, a 3D printer, bio-implant embroidery, glass work and tailoring. In fact something for everybody, which means this is an exhibition not to be missed. 

For my work to be included is a great honour. The curator, Daniel Charny, was attracted by my use of contemporary materials, such as stainless steel and inlaid acrylic, within a traditional Boehm format. This has involved a major analysis of keywork design and a departure from many of the constraints imposed by a mixture of convention and conservativism within the trade. The result is a very modern flute, handmade certainly but now drawing on new technology such as water jet cutting and computer-aided design techniques too.