Pairings Conversations and Collaborations acknowledges both uniqueness and togetherness.

The intention is to create dialogue between makers and material in order to learn and understand an alternative perspective and reflect back on one’s own.

This exhibition brings together partnerships of makers to discuss and share the experience of making without preconditions and in the spirit of improvisation. Collaboration raises questions of ownership, it tests recognised working methods and negotiates how voices resonate or clash together. It is the evidence of this mixed dialogue which has given birth to this work and ideas. The artefacts or collection of pieces, combine a marriage or parallel exploration of materials, of practices and creative identities which are shifting, moving and experimental.

Pairings places makers and designers together in pairs or in threesomes. Each participant has a distinct and established area of their own practice which they have shared with another. The exhibition shows the evidence of these playful duets and trios (much taken place through posting of work and email) where different approaches are combined and placed together in reflection or contradiction.

These cross fertilisations of voice and material may be a temporary shift of direction and a testing of other skills which can impact more permanently on individual practice. The courage of the makers to expose and expand their working methods must be acknowledged as they search for new territories which are joined and connected materially or indeed retreat. Ismini Samanidou and Sharon Blakey describe their experience as ‘like a whirlwind romance: a passionate affair of fleeting encounters and intense assignations.’ But one which,’ revealed a deeply rooted, mutual aesthetic in the impermanence and beauty of the everyday and evidence of the transitory.’ 1

Some have found possibilities in new technologies and in alternative processes and tools. They have applied these new discoveries to their own material. Duncan Ayscough and Heather Belcher discovered a ‘shared passion for material, process and words’ and an ‘opportunity for me to step outside my own, focused practice and to share my discipline whilst obtaining valuable and inspiring insights into a new material.’

The Pairings project originated at Manchester School of Art and has included approximately 35 makers and artists. It has created links with a variety of institutions, hosted an international conference and spawned the publication ‘Collaboration through Craft’ to be published by Bloomsbury in July 2013. Many satellite projects and exhibitions have been developed by individual partnerships as a consequence of their dialogues. It is a project which mutates and grows, directed through the enthusiasm and experimentation of its participants.


Gröppel-Wegener, A. (2010) Pairings: exploring collaborative creative practice.

Manchester Metropolitan University: The Pairings Project/Blurb 2010. P58