Collecting Craft

We sat down with Allan and David Hudson lenders of Claire Curneens work currently in gallery 5 to ask how they started their collecting journey.

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David and Allan Hudson with artist Claire Curneen in Gallery 5

Allan: I'm Allan Hudson
David: And I'm David Hudson
Allan: And we are installing three pieces by Claire Curneen that we own.
David: …and some plates by Paul Scott as well.

When did you first start collecting?

Allan: I started collecting first, didn't I? About 38 years ago?
David: Yeah, something like that
Allan: We've been together 35 years, so it was just before I met David. I used to do voluntary work at the Bluecoat gallery and in my lunch hour I used to go across the courtyard into the Bluecoat display centre, knew nothing about ceramics, it was just a shop to me, after a while I got to like certain things.
David: I started first collecting through Allan really, because when we met, I started working at the Bluecoat as well for a little bit and I used to go into the shop with Allan and we would look and decide what we liked. A lot of the time we couldn't afford things so we would use the Craft Council scheme 'Own Art' which is a 0% loan payable over several months.
Allan: We just didn't have enough money, we were young, we were buying a house and that.
David: We established that was the way to start a collection, was just to pay things off. 
Allan: Well... well we were completely unaware that we were collecting, because funnily enough I've got a story. We were in our house a few years back and David just said to me 'What would you consider that you collect?" and I said 'Ooh Fine art paintings, I like paintings' and he said 'Seriously?' and I said 'yeah... paintings' he said, 'Look around ya at what you've got!' and it wasn't until that point that I'd realised what I'd been buying because I didn't realise it was a passion, I just used to pick things up because I liked it, but I had no clear idea of what I was collecting. I was seriously in denial I did not genuinely realize...
David: That he was collecting ceramics. 

So, could you tell me about the first thing you bought?

Allan: The first thing I bought was a small bowl by Julia Carter Preston, I'd been going into the display centre for quite a while and I'd seen her work and I didn’t know but she had a studio next to the display centre, I'd seen her around without knowing who she was, and I liked her work just because it was pretty, I knew nothing about ceramics, and I just thought oh that's nice I like that. I'd seen her larger pieces; I really like them, but I couldn't afford them, so I bought a piece that was like £29, this was in ‘84 or something so that was my first piece.
David: My first piece was a Saki bottle by Akiko Harari, wasn't it?
Allan: No!?
David: That you bought me?
Allan: No! it was Catrin Howell!
David: Oh yeah!! it was Catrin Howell yeah! Catrin Howell's horses, wasn't it?
Allan: It was Kelpy Horses, he doesn't talk much I do all the talking...
David: It was two Horses by Catrin Howell, they're lovely and they just interested me because of the colours of them, one was bluey-green but very dark and the other one was black, the interplay between the two of them was what I really liked, I'd forgotten about that!
Allan: That was the first thing he bought.


Allan and David Hudson with a piece of Claire Curneen's work

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start collecting? 

David: Only buy what you like, I wouldn't advise anyone to buy something because they think it might increase in value because I don't think that's the right way to collect really.
Allan: None of our pieces are worth anything because we would never sell them. It's a slippery slope to buy something for an investment, be careful because you have to really like it as you have a responsibility to that artist to look after it. 

How long do you spend looking at a work before you buy it?

Allan: We're both different...
David: I tend to be quite immediate, I'll say, 'I really like that, I want that now' and Allan will be more thoughtful about it and go home and think about it and check out who the artist is.
Allan: So, he'll say, ‘I like that, we'll buy that’ when the price is quite reasonable. I like to follow them, look at their career and see where they've been, what college they've been too, where they've exhibited and just when the price is that high that I can only just afford it, that's when I'll buy it.

So, what is it about collecting that you enjoy the most? 

David: Just being able to access beautiful objects all the time, I think that's how we think about it isn't it?
Allan: Yeah... and the way that it educates us.
David: Yeah!
Allan: We love everything, if there is something that I don't get, I think that's my fault, I don't think it’s the artists fault because the artist is expressing something that means something to them and it’s down to me to educate myself to see it, appreciate it, read about it and see where they are coming from. So that's why everything's valid and important and we don't see it as just a pretty object, we see it as educational as well and cultural.
David: We collect quite a lot of work with political messages, don't we?
Allan: Although we're not political.
David: Yeah, but we found that we do quite like that don't we.
Allan: Like Stephen Dixon, Paul Scott, Matt Smith. We aren't political people but we like ideas and I like to see other people’s viewpoints, just again to be educated, to learn, to be open, we may not agree with a lot of things, but they are valid, we live in a democracy where everyone is allowed to think what they want and say what they want (within reason) so that's why we enjoy it. We don't know the artists, we don't go to private views, we avoid all that stuff like the plague, in some 40 years we've only met three people.
David: And Claire's one of them. 

Sounds like your collection is very varied in style then?

Allan: It is! And what we like is, introducing a new piece into the collection, because then it forces us to look at what we have in a different light, because when you put something next to it, it has a different relationship. What we have found which is really important, is that Claire's work for us, is so powerful that it's very difficult to put something next to it, we have struggled with introducing something near it. There's an artist called Sam Lucas, she's the only person that can hold her own with Claire's work. Funnily enough we found out that Sam was Claire’s MA student, it's a small world.


David and Allan Hudson with Paul Scott's work

Do you have plans for the future of your collection?

Allan: We just want to keep collecting. There are people I would like to collect, and this year we're doing that. The thing is you get side-tracked, you see a new work by artists you don't know, and you think 'oh my god that's really good' so you buy it and because they are usually expensive it sets you back a bit. So, this year it’s my 60th and I’ve decided I want to own a piece by Clare Partington, because her work when she first started wasn't too expensive and of course I waited and now it’s very expensive! So, I have to kick myself. When David says 'I like that' I just say buy it, I don't even question it now because he's ahead of me you see. It’s really funny because I'm not cautious in life, but he is, however in buying it’s the other way round!

We just want it to continue growing really... you've got to be committed, you have to have nerves of steel to be a collector. In terms of where we see it going, when we are dead hahaha it would be nice if a museum or gallery had the collection for other people to see. We would love to do more things like this as it’s just a validation of our taste, I guess, that we are doing something right. We're gay, we don't have any kids, our family just laugh at what we buy so they aren't getting it, so that's why we want it to be seen. 

What drew you to buy Claire's works?

Allan: She's got links to the mafia, so we have to....
David: hahaha
Allan: What is it about Claire's work? It's completely emotional, it's not surreal, its emotional. We sometimes have different responses for different things, don't we?
David: Yeah, we do...
Allan: Something like the political works is cerebral, something like Claire's it's so emotional, its pure emotion, it's disturbing, like David Lynch films, he will show you a beautiful, lovely day and it will have some 1950s pop over the top of it, but it scares you and that's how I can explain it. There is something about her work that is visceral, and you want to learn more. 
David: It's like a feeling isn't it...
Allan: Yeah, Claire’s work is like that, it’s something that just goes in. She once sent me a picture of one of her works, it was just in the background it wasn't the main focus and I said, 'What’s that?' and she said, 'Oh that's Azrael' and I just said, 'I'm on my way down how much is it?', I just knew in an instant that I wanted it.