Cockpit’s Chair, Davina Mallinckrodt, is an established collector and champion of contemporary craft. In the run up to Collect, opening 25 February at Somerset House, we catch up with Davina to get an insight into what drives her as a collector.
Q. Davina, you’ve been a collector of craft and design for many years. Where did your interest start?
I have always felt connected to sculptural and tactile objects. For more than 30 years I have had the privilege of working in the design world and so exploring that intersection between design, art and craft in the pieces I collect was not only a natural evolution, but also often provided an enduring connection to the people and experiences in my life.
Q. Are there themes or materials that link the works in your collection?
Materials, their properties and the emotions and cultural connections they evoke, fascinate me. The early works I acquired were in ceramic, a material I continue to find endlessly tactile, evocative and beautiful. There is something particularly resonant in clay, a material of the earth, from which man created the earliest objects in human history. I also have a great love of both wood and glass as materials for art works. I think that there is a certain “lightness” or refinement to many of the pieces in my collection, even those crafted from “heavier” materials that link the works.
Q. What draws you to a particular work?
I am more intuitive and emotional than overly logical in selecting pieces. Sometimes it is the scale and form, or the interesting use of a material, or a piece that is exceptionally resolved. Often I am drawn by a sense that I have to touch the work … always with the artists permission of course! I do look for pieces that bring new techniques and further expand the stories that weave throughout the collection. These are sometimes linked to specific makers where finding later works illuminate their process and evolution as an artist.
Q. You’re passionate about supporting makers at the start of their careers. Are there any ‘big names’ in your collection who you spotted in their early years?
I suppose right now the obvious one is Eleanor Lakelin – an artist at Cockpit studios. I have an early piece of her work in white chestnut. I have an early work by Hitomi Hosono and pieces by Nic Webb. One of the newer makers I have recently purchased is work by Nico Conti whose work will also be seen at Collect.
Q. You have broad connections in craft, design and architecture – as Chair of Cockpit and as a Trustee at the Design Museum and the London School of Architecture. What do you see as the links between design and craft?
That is a complex question. I see the design world as intrinsically linked – architecture, design and making are all different facets of design – albeit disciplines in their own right and presenting their own challenges and rigours.
The Design Museum’s permanent collection expresses this well in its exhibit Designer User Maker as a connective thread.
Craft can be artisanal skills so necessary in the creation of the buildings and things that surround us – but it can also be pure artistry – essentially not “functional” but providing us with that indefinable something that elevates the everyday.
Discovering the artistry, culture and the connective narratives that link design and making is endlessly fascinating.
Q. What advice would you give to an art collector looking to broaden into contemporary craft?
Collect pieces that you are personally drawn to and like. Meet the makers and understand their experience and process – it makes everything you collect more meaningful and personal. Many Galleries do a great job and often have a deep knowledge base – so get to know the experts, ask questions and seek their guidance. Do not be afraid to make ‘mistakes’ – there is no such thing – your tastes change and evolve and sometimes even come around full circle.
Be bold and commission pieces from makers.
Q. What are you most looking forward to at Collect this year?
Seeing everything in its physical form, in rooms where you can understand the relationship of the three dimensional object to the space it inhabits. Finding new artists whose work I have yet to discover – so much new work in one exhibition will be pure joy.
Photos from top: Davina Mallinckrodt by Bibi Basch, Eleanor Lakelin, Nico Conti.