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Exhibitions

Collect 2020: Cox London with Rachel Chudley

The trio of creatives have conjured up the Collect VIP room through combined imagination – and the transformative alchemy of the Cox London foundry and workshops.

International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design
Somerset House, London

27th February – 1st March

By Emma Crichton-Miller / 18th February 2020
In the studio at Cox London: Nicola Cox, Rachel Chudley and Christopher Cox PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

In the studio at Cox London: Nicola Cox, Rachel Chudley and Christopher Cox
PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

TO CELEBRATE THE move of Collect, London’s international contemporary craft and design fair, to William Chambers’s neo-classical palace on the Thames, the Crafts Council has invited the London-based design team Nicola and Christopher Cox to create the VIP room for the fair. Both Nicola and Christopher are sculptors. They create their bespoke and limited edition pieces in their studio and workshops in North London, marrying their imagination to a wide range of craft skills. For the VIP room in this eighteenth century building, however, the Coxes felt “we needed the creativity of somebody else somebody like Rachel Chudley to bring it all together.”

Concepts for the VIP room PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

Concepts for the VIP room
PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

Thus was born a creative partnership between the object-making of the Coxes and the space-making of Chudley. Chudley, originally an art historian and curator, has become renowned for her artful interiors, pulling together classic and new furniture with beautiful objects and fine art. This has been a true collaboration, with all three involved at every stage of the project.

The Design Edit went to visit the team at Cox London’s sprawling headquarters. “The thing that really inspired me about the foundry here is how gritty and industrial it is – and yet they produce these amazing, gilded objects,” comments Chudley, “It felt right for Collect to explore the duality of what it is to make something, especially in metal, and for it then to become an object of desire. So there are lots of different textures in the room and contrasts between rough and smooth.” Another inspiration was the nautical history of Somerset House: “We were thinking of ships coming in and paying their taxes,” explains Christopher Cox, mentioning in particular two sofas made of bronze with rope details.

Pouring molten bronze into a mould at the foundry, Cox London PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

Pouring molten bronze into a mould at the foundry, Cox London
PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

Nine new unique pieces are being made by Cox London for Collect, including a spectacular light and a new cast ‘Gunnera’ table. As we wander through the workshops – where Cox London’s craftspeople are involved in a range of different processes – Christopher Cox elaborates on how they have mixed forged iron with cast bronze, made plaster mirrors, created tables with cast glass tops, and lights with shades fashioned by dipping fabric into resin and placing it into sculpted clay moulds.

Pouring wax into a plaster mould at the foundry, Cox London
PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

“For visitors to Collect, the VIP room will be a reminder of the myriad different craft skills …”

Tapping to remove the plaster mould from the newly hardened bronze at the foundry, Cox London
PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

“… that lie behind the most beautiful handmade decorative objects and furniture”

Another novelty for the Coxes has been the creation of two deconstructed sofas: “Sofa-mans we are calling them. We are getting into upholstery for the first time.” Even the paint on the walls is made by a craftsman, Donald Kaufman, who creates each deeply pigmented paint uniquely for each project. “I use him on all my projects,” explains Chudley.

Nicola and Christopher Cox in the workshop at Cox London PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

Nicola and Christopher Cox in the workshop at Cox London
PHOTOGRAPH: Sarah Weal

Christopher Cox says, “It is so exciting for Nicky and me. We are already immersed in the world of makers, and then this project has brought us into contact with all these other people talking about techniques and processes.” Chudley has enjoyed the same immersion: “It is such a privilege to have been part of the object-making … and I am delighted to have contributed to the room coming together so well.” As Nicola Cox phrases it, “Rachel has been the trigger to release us to go in the direction we wanted to go anyway. We pushed each other.”

Caption: Cox London for VIP room at Collect 2020, 'The Rig Table' COURTESY: Cox London

Cox London for the VIP room at Collect 2020, ‘The Rig Table’
COURTESY: Cox London

For visitors to Collect, the VIP room will be a reminder of the myriad different craft skills that lie behind the most beautiful handmade decorative objects and furniture.

Cox London, 'Nelson's Sofaman', 2020, 'Magnolia' chandelier; 2020 COURTESY: Cox London

Cox London for the VIP room at Collect 2020, ‘Nelson’s Sofaman’ and ‘Magnolia’ chandelier
COURTESY: Cox London

Collect  – the only gallery-presented art fair dedicated to modern craft and design.

Article By

Emma Crichton-Miller
Emma Crichton-Miller is Editor-in-Chief of The Design Edit.