Valentine's Exhibition

Northern Irish artist/designer/makers give the Valentine's theme a big, warm hug

The most polarising ‘holiday’ of the year is nearly upon us. In recent years, the big corporation, moneymaking aspect of Valentine’s Day has, for many people, overtaken the original idea and turned it into something infinitely less than appealing.

Whilst florists and chocolatiers are smelling the profits, the Craft and Design Collective has responded by inviting artists and designers to produce work in riposte to the word ‘Valentine’ for a one-off exhibition showing at Belfast's SpaceCRAFT shop and gallery space.

Prepared to take the risk of appearing commercially twee, the 18 featured artists have, for the most part, succeeded in thinking outside of the (heart-shaped) box. Featuring a wide range of materials including metal, textiles, glass, basketry and ceramics, the exhibition showcases work covering a substantial price range, from the more modest to the downright luxurious.

Without exception, the work is of a high quality. Heart shapes feature heavily, of course, but it is to all the artists’ credit that the exhibition is far removed from the Valentine’s Day imagery with which we are usually bombarded.

The most striking creations are those that break away from Hallmark-esque tradition, exploring a darker side, such as Angela Davison’s Heartbreaker collection. Featuring earrings, pendants and rings, Davison uses a steel needle to scratch surfaces. Her white ‘pure’ range uses pearls and a darker collection uses garnet.

One of the most stunning pieces is Delia Keeling’s ‘A Perfect Fit’. Four bronze hearts (all cut from the original) support each other, conveying the journey through life in search of a home, a search for that ‘perfect fit’. Keeling is interested in the idea of great beauty hiding great pain, and for her, evidently it is the roughness that is appealing.

Many of the pieces yearn to be touched, most notably the ceramic oeuvres of Shauna McCann, Red Earth Designs and Dundalk’s Sarah McKenna. Of the three, the latter’s work is the most obviously analogous to Valentine, with her range of Love Song ceramics, beautifully tempered by the utilisation of delicate colours and a superb attention to detail.

Red Earth Designs offers two pieces: 'Love Letters', a framed porcelain piece with type printed onto a porcelain booklet attached to scrolls of abstract lettering; and ‘Shallow Bowl’, perhaps the piece most obviously disconnected from the Valentine theme, but which also asks for a more thorough inspection of its quite beautiful, textured designs.

This is a chance to eschew the routine Valentine’s Day pressure to buy from big conglomerates by instead supporting your local crafters. All the pieces on display are for sale and all the exhibitors work to commission.

Valentine Exhibition runs at SpaceCRAFT’s until February 26.