Celebrating Boxes brings together the work of over 60 craftspeople from a dozen countries, in a sumptuous display of breathtaking skill and inventiveness. Originally the idea of Peter Lloyd, a Cumbria based boxmaker, with the assistance of fellow boxmaker Andrew Crawford and in partnership with Tullie House Museum, the exhibtion is a major international survey of a much neglected but marvellously rich and varied area of craft production.
The idea of an international box exhibition had been a seed in the back of Peter Lloyd's mind for a long time, and grew out of a strong sense of curiosity about what was happening elsewhere.
"Box-makers are fairly thin on the ground in Britain", he says, "but it didn't take a great deal of digging around to find out there were a great many in America..." Research trips to the States and Europe discovering and visiting box-makers revealed a stunning quality of fine craftsmanship.
The United States provides the largest contingent in the show with 35 makers, and, in the work of makers such as Po Shun Leong, Christopher Cantwell, Joan Carson, and Michael Brolly, some of the most fantastic and extravagant definitions of the box as a concept.
The 21 UK makers include Samantha Gorman, Robert Ingham, Nicola Henshaw, Nigel Bridges, Peter Lloyd and Andrew Crawford. Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, France, Holland and Israel are also represented.
Tullie House Arts Development Manager, Mick North says: "If you thought a box was nothing more than something with four sides and a lid - think again. Celebrating Boxes is a wonderful range of variations on a theme, from incredibly elaborate constructions to objects of simple beauty. Some have been created with a function in mind - for keeping jewellery in, or writing materials, or a musical instrument - whilst in others you'll find nothing more than space for your imagination to play in."
All the boxes in the exhibition are made primarily of wood, and often demonstrate the kind of virtuoso skills associated with cabinet-making - delicate, complex joints, marquetry, the use of veneers and fine woods of contrasting colours and grains. Woodturning and carving are also in evidence, and there are boxes that combine wood with other materials like metal, stone, ceramics and even concrete.
The opening of the exhibition at Tullie House coincides with the publication by Stobart Davies of Peter Lloyd and Andrew Crawford's book "Celebrating Boxes".
After Carlisle, the exhibition begins a nationwide tour which so far includes the.gallery@oxo on London's South Bank (14 December 2001 -13 January 2002), Croydon Clocktower (8 February - 6 May 2002), Collins Gallery in Glasgow (25 May - 29 June 2002), with more to be confirmed. The tour ends at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery in Exeter in May/June 2003.
There has never been an exhibition of international boxes on this scale before, and the show looks certain to be a revelation - opening the eyes of thousands of people to the endless possibilities that can be found inside the apparently humble box.