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A new talk series at Sir John Soane’s Museum, in partnership with Luke Irwin, in which leading figures from across the world of design discuss their practice through a single object. In our fifth talk, Will Gompertz talks to internationally acclaimed artist and writer, Edmund de Waal.

In this new series, Sir John Soane’s Museum invites a range of practitioners from various design disciplines to select an object that has inspired them in some way, and through it discuss and dissect their own design practice. Inspired by Sir John Soane’s own extraordinary collection, and co-hosted by Will Gompertz, Arts Editor at the BBC, and Alice Rawsthorn, design writer and critic, the series will reflect on the power of objects – large or small, mundane or exceptional, aesthetic or utilitarian – to spark new ideas, and act as a spur for different forms of creativity. Speakers include Peter Saville, Martino Gamper, David Adjaye, Es Devlin, Edmund de Waal and Olga Polizzi.

Edmund de Waal is an artist and writer, best known for his large-scale installations of porcelain vessels, often created in response to collections and archives or the history of a particular place. His interventions and artworks have been made for diverse historic spaces and museums worldwide, including the V&A Museum, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna. Recent exhibitions include a collaboration with Ai Weiwei for Kunsthaus Graz, Austria; an exhibition with the Walter Benjamin Archive titled Irrkunst for Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin; and ten thousand things at Gagosian, Los Angeles. For his latest project, de Waal collaborated with the choreographer, Wayne McGregor, on a set design for a new ballet which premiered at the Royal Opera House, London, earlier this year. An internationally acclaimed writer, de Waal is also known for his bestselling family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, which has won many literary prizes, including the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize and the Costa Biography Award. His other titles include The White Road, The Pot Book and 20th Century Ceramics. De Waal was made an OBE for his services to art in 2011. In 2015 he was awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction by Yale University. 

Will Gompertz is the BBC's first Arts Editor, a senior journalistic role he took up in 2009. As well as regularly reporting on the arts for the main BBC News bulletins, Today Programme and numerous other outlets, Will hosts his own radio show on BBC 5-Live, and has written and presented numerous primetime series fir television and radio. Before joining the BBC Will spent 7-years as a Director at the Tate Galleries where he was responsible for its BAFTA-winning website, and the UK's first Performance Art festival. Will is the author of What Are You Looking At?, 2012 and Think Like an Artist, 2015 and has written for the Times, Guardian, and Vanity Fair among many others.