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Art project revisits Loughborough University’s craft traditions from the past

The tradition of students helping to build and create Loughborough University’s campus is being revisited as part of a new art project by LU Arts, the University’s arts centre.

From the 1930s to 1970s, Loughborough’s students were expected to contribute to the production of furniture and stained glass on campus, and even designed and built the current cricket pavilion. Famous craftsman were employed to teach the students woodworking skills, which led to them producing beds, tables and benches, many of which remain in use today.

Amsterdam-based artist Maria Pask is now reviving the tradition in a new art project, Elementary Activities, commissioned by Radar, LU Arts’ development programme for contemporary art. Pask is teaching practical making skills to Loughborough’s current intake of Fine Art students from the School of the Arts which they will then use to create items for use in the University’s day-to-day life.

Maria Pask explains: “Students will learn new skills but more importantly they can investigate the place of craft and making within their art practice. They will learn to use an outdoor, wood-fired kiln in order to fire ceramics and have access to trees from campus woodlands, both oak and walnut, to learn carving and woodworking skills.”

Amongst the visiting craftsmen are Peter Leadbeater, a chainsaw sculptor and furniture maker, and Benedict Brierley, an expert in wood firing and ceramics. Their work extends the traditions put in place in the 1930s, when cabinet maker Peter Waals acted as consultant in design to Loughborough College, the University’s predecessor. His designs for furniture at Hazelrigg Hall were then built by his students. Similarly, the arts and crafts furniture maker Edward Barnsley worked on the production of furniture for student bedrooms.

Nick Slater, Director of LU Arts, commented: “This project has arisen from Loughborough University’s academic research into value. At the same time as teaching important traditional craft skills, this project allows an academic insight into value in relation to labour and craft. It builds on a previous project we developed with Norwegian artist Marianne Heier which focused on economic value.”

Workshops will take place in October and will be followed by a publication which will offer both documentation of the historic workshops as well as some of the theory behind the project. 

For more information, interviews and images contact:

Helen Stallard (PR on behalf of Radar)
M: 0774 033 9604
E: helen@helenstallard.co.uk