Clay artist Phoebe Cummings was named the winner of the inaugural £10,000 Woman’s Hour Craft Prize in a live broadcast this morning from the V&A, where she was awarded the prize by a judging panel made up of Rosy Greenlees, Executive Director of the Crafts Council; Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A; Martha Kearney, BBC journalist and broadcaster; Susie Lau, fashion writer and style influencer; and Jacky Klein, art historian.
Rosy Greenlees, Executive Director, Crafts Council, said: "Phoebe’s work is truly original. It encompasses performance art and studio ceramics and defies easy categorisation. Working exclusively with raw clay to create site-specific pieces that change subtly day-to-day, her staggeringly beautiful work asks us to celebrate rather than mourn the passing of time.
"She challenges ideas of what craft is with work that is almost impossible to possess but delights in the physical process of making and shows a highly skilled understanding of the material. And so despite stiff competition from 11 other exceptional makers, she has been awarded the inaugural Woman’s Hour Craft Prize."
Phoebe uses unfired clay to create temporary sculptures and installations that gradually disintegrate, challenging expectations of what craft is. Intricate and detailed, her work responds to the natural world and lasts only for the duration of an exhibition after which the clay is, where possible, reclaimed and reused on future pieces.
For the Craft Prize, she created a fountain that dissolves as the water flows, which has been on display at the V&A since early September alongside work by the other 11 finalists. The exhibition, which will embark on a UK-wide tour from early 2018, provides an important snapshot of how contemporary British craft practice reflects on and engages with, the world today.
Phoebe said: "I am overwhelmed to have been chosen from such a strong and diverse shortlist. The Woman’s Hour Craft Prize has done a huge amount to raise public awareness and discussion around contemporary craft and the breadth of practice it encompasses.
"Making work that is ephemeral and performative isn't always the most straightforward path to take, so the recognition and support of the prize will have a big impact in enabling me to continue pushing my work forward. I plan to use the money to make a usable work space at home - no doubt my family will be overjoyed that they can finally reclaim the kitchen table."
Following its display at the V&A until 5 February 2018, the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize exhibition will begin a UK-wide tour from March 2018 initially displaying at The Forum, Norwich (12 March – 12 April 2018), Mottisfont National Trust, Hampshire (28 April – 1 July 2018) and Bristol Museums (14 July – 11 Nov 2018). Further locations to be announced in due course.