Yinka Ilori
Yinka Ilori

On the Street

London Craft Week Stories: Q&A with Yinka Ilori

Discover the London-based designer’s craft story

To mark London Craft Week, we are providing insider access to some of the experts involved in curating the 300 Objects Exhibition located in Quadrant Arcade. Discover their role in helping to create the largest showcase that London Craft Week has hosted to date and how craft has inspired and shaped their lives. We spoke to colour-obsessed designer Yinka Ilori about his craft journey, encompassing multi-cultural London, west Africa and more. Read his Q&A below.

What drew you to the 300 Objects Exhibition?

I worked with LCW last year on a project for Apple, so I have a strong connection with them. When the opportunity came about again this year, I was super excited. I think craft is something that we don’t celebrate enough, so this is a great opportunity to celebrate craft in London with the some of best designers in the world.

What is your stand-out piece from the Exhibition?

Everything in the exhibition is incredible so it’s hard to pick. However, a standout piece for me was a really cool sculpture by Dawn Bendick. I love the narrative behind her sculptural pieces, the use of colour and light feels very warm and there is something quite calming about the piece when you look at it.

What is your go-to craft brand in central London?

I always go to St James’s Market. For clothes it has to be Dover Street Market and for food, I also go to a restaurant called ikoyi London, which is the most wonderful West African cuisine.

What makes British craftsmanship so unique and how does the exhibition reflect this?

London is so multi-cultural and so special that there are so many spots of culture that are embedded within everyone’s experiences, that transcend into everyone’s work in their own way. They have different stories, different techniques, they use colour differently, they use different textures, and I think most of the work encourages a different way of thinking. I think that’s very obvious from the 300 Objects, they are all very different, making it such an eclectic and dynamic show.

What first drew you to a love of craft and design?

The power of it really and how craft and design can speak to you. How it can reach so many people and can be used as a tool to tell stories. It can be used as a catalyst to inject love and happiness into people’s lives and in their homes. Objects can communicate, or make you feel a certain way, or tell a story, and this is what captured my love of the craft and design. Its why I love it -because you can create a beautiful object in your studio and share it with the world. I love how a piece that you create goes into someone’s home which then becomes part of the life and treasured possessions.

What is it about London that you think makes it an inspiring place for craftspeople?

London being such a multi-cultural place means that there is inspiration everywhere. Everything that is handmade and crafted comes from a place of love, it has a meaning and a narrative. I think we are so lucky that we have so many resources around us that can help us create such incredible work. We have a great network of people; everyone is so open to collaborate and share ideas or stories and I think that’s quite special.

Do you have any advice for someone eager to learn more about craft? Favourite books, artists or points of inspiration?

When I think of craft, my first point of reference is craft in Nigeria. There are some amazing craftsmen; they make amazing furniture and bowls, ceramics, rattan bowls, raffia bowls. There are so many natural resources in western Africa. For me, inspiration has come from travelling; not just to places like Africa but travelling to places like Greece, Bali or India and seeing their different ways of working. I think that is the beauty of travelling; you get inspired by different ideas and different materials and different ways you can use colour within craft and design. For anyone starting out, if you can make sure you travel as much as you can. Some architects that I know get their ideas and inspiration from travelling. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by a particular technique, it’s incredible and I think that adds more layers to your practice and to your craftsmanship. For me, travelling is key for anyone starting out to get inspired.

If you were able to take one of your pieces of work with you to a desert island, which one would you choose?

I’ve got a chair that I created, it’s called Let There Be Light. I love chairs, it has a candle on it, and it tells a very personal story from my childhood. If I ever did make it to 100 years old and I’m on the island this chair is what people find when I’m dead! This chair will hold so many stories, that will hopefully allow my legacy if I will have one to carry on! Also to add, the chair also has a candle embedded within the backrest so , if I’m having dinner island after I catch some fish, I can cook , light a candle and have dinner on my chair! It would be a dinner for one!

Who or what is your biggest influence?

I’m actually thinking about an exhibition I went to a couple of years ago. Yayoi Kusama she’s a Japanese artist, her work is very trippy and always find myself immersed in her world whenever I see her show in London. I think the reason why I like her work, is she really knows how to really capture your imagination and take her into your world, for me that’s really powerful; that art can take you away to a different place. You can really feel like you’re inside her world and inside her head. She’s obsessed with dots, colour and mirrors and really find her obsession really thought provoking and interesting. Additionally, Ai Weiwei, he uses art to talk about serious issues, whether it’s sustainability or global warming. He is a political artist who really questions the things that we deal with every day or things that we don’t want to talk about, he expresses it through his art.

You can also discover another guest curator’s Q&A here. Read how Alice Fisher balances craft and style and learn about her favourite London influences. Or learn how designer Martin Brudnizki took inspiration from his childhood in Sweden to create brilliant spaces here.

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