A couple of years ago we started a new project called Risk Makers which brought together a group of our makers for support and challenge… to play, take risks with their work and develop their practices together.
Our makers are based all around the UK and lots of them spend most of their time working in isolation, only coming together at exhibition launches or craft shows. In our project, we started to look at different aspects of a maker’s life, including health and well being, productivity and how we could help with supporting and developing new work at the same time as involving our audiences more.
The key outcome for us was that in order to properly focus on supportive challenge and to create new work we needed to have time to be together to learn from one another and work collaboratively.
We began with a small exhibition to present some preliminary collaborations. We didn’t aim to create anything commercial – this was purely to explore and be playful with ideas and skills. (Read more in our earlier blog posts).
It was a very exciting time for us and marked the beginning of new possibilities. The exhibition was presented at The Contemporary Craft Festival in 2018 and we were absolutely overwhelmed by the positive response. It’s something we definitely felt we wanted to continue and grow with more makers.
2020 and the arrival of Covid has meant that we are even more apart than we were before our project started. Although we never want our Risk Makers project to be a digital one (in fact the very opposite), we’ve started to pick things up again and come together as best we can online in order to try and recapture those feelings of potential and positivity.
And now, we’re really happy to announce that we have some new collaborations to show you. The first is an exciting collaboration between ceramicist Virginia Graham and paper artist Jennifer Collier.
They originally made an incredible tea set for our exhibition, and although it was made as an exploratory piece many people wanted to buy it!
Building on the success of the collaborative tea set, Virginia and Jennifer have worked together over the last few weeks to create some very special limited edition mugs.
The experience we’ve had of working with them, observing and sharing the design process, has been so uplifting during such tricky times! Everything has been done over Zoom, email and text messaging. Here’s what’s been happening behind the scenes:
Virginia sent Jennifer some colour swatches to match with threads and papers…
Jennifer chose papers, colour matched with threads and then worked into them with beautiful stitch in her inimitable style…
We then spent a long time narrowing down her selections to just 6 favourites and discussed different colours that could be used for the insides and handles of the mugs…
The chosen stitched papers were then made into digital transfers and sent to Virginia…
Taking shape. Virginia’s wonderful slab built, overlapped forms and signature black slip at the joins…
The mugs needed 3 kiln firings. You can imagine the nerves!
The big reveal over Zoom one evening last week…
Jennifer has also designed and made bespoke boxes for each mug and we have little cards to go with each one to show they’re limited edition, especially made for Risk Makers.
We are so proud of the mugs and we hope that you will like them too and enjoy the way we’ve combined both makers’ distinct styles.
We’ll be launching the mugs on our website here this Thursday evening and sharing them over the Digital Craft Festival (27th-29th November). We’d love to know what you think. There will only be a few of each design available as they are limited editions. If they go well we’d love to create more and extend the range.
Here’s a little teaser for you…
The idea of makers collaborating certainly isn’t a new one, but to us these mugs are multi layered with positivity and potential and fresh starts – just what’s needed at the end of such a challenging year.
All image credits Virginia Graham, Jennifer Collier and madebyhandonline
‘Craft Says Something’. This is the triumphant statement of the team behind The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in Manchester. It says that Craft has an impact, but it also invites us to question what that impact is. We caught up with the show’s directors to find out more, with just over 2 weeks to go until the 12th GNCCF…
Craft says… excuse me, listen up, I’m different. Be original, be curious, make a statement. Why not own something that nobody else does? It’s time to think beyond the ubiquitous vanilla of the high street, the curated comfort of terribly nice department stores, and be brave, trust your taste.
The Great Northern Contemporary Craft (GNCCF) returns to Upper Campfield Market from 10th – 13th October 2019. This annual award-winning show brings together over 150 specially selected designer-makers to sell their work to the public. The organisers Ann-Marie Franey and Angela Mann are passionate about supporting contemporary craft makers and challenging the safe, cosy image that Craft can have.
Ann-Marie states, “Park your preconceptions of craft at the
door; this is a very different kind of shopping experience. The range and
quality of work on sale will impress and inspire, and you’ll love what you
including retailers, galleries, interior designers, collectors and the general
public have the opportunity to buy work and talk to the designers about their
practice and influences, and to commission bespoke unique pieces.
The use of
traditional techniques certainly doesn’t have to result in safe craft! You’ll
find thoughtful, bold and playful designs created using exceptional skills
honed over many years.
The show is now in its 12th year. Expect a diverse range of talents and stories from professional makers including jewellers, ceramicists, furniture-makers, textile and glass artists, metalsmiths and printmakers. There will also be curator talks and maker demonstrations providing opportunities to learn about materials and processes.
Craft says individuality, longevity, skill, care, passion,
originality, it has an impact. Co-Organiser, Angela Mann says, “Contemporary
craft isn’t just a match for anything from a top-end retailer. It’s more
individual, more vibrant and has provenance; made for keeps, not just a
In just under a month we’ll be in Cheltenham with the team from Made By Hand Events who’ll be preparing to open the doors of the iconic Town Hall for the second time. Last year’s show was a great success, so we’re really looking forward to seeing all the selected makers, including lots of ours from madebyhandonline. We recently met up with the show director Sarah James and her team to find out more about this year’s line up…
I can’t believe it’s already almost a year since we were in Cheltenham. How does it feel looking back at the show last year?
Sarah: It was a lot of fun. The Town Hall is really beautiful and is a regularly used venue, right in the centre of Cheltenham. It look lovely from the outside and has a great layout inside. I didn’t know what would happen, but we had about a third more visitors that I had hoped and it was great to see visitors from our other events in Cardiff and Bovey Tracey travelling up to Cheltenham.
We spoke with lots of visitors at the show last year and they were so enthusiastic about the high quality and the variety of work. Tell us a bit about some of the exhibitors who’ve been selected for this year’s show.
Sarah: We certainly reached a new and appreciative audience who loved the quality of the makers exhibiting, which was great a validation of choosing Cheltenham to launch a new event.
Selecting the event is always such a great privilege. We do a call for entries about 6 months before the event, asking for 6 images of their work. We put a selection panel together and we had 100% too many applications for stands available. It’s wonderful to have such amazing choice and also that makers put so much faith in what we do. It’s also really tough making those decisions as many great makers only made it on to the waiting list.
We have an impressive range of makers at Made by Hand, Cheltenham. Some firm favourites are returning to Cheltenham and it’s also great to see new makers emerging. I have a passion for ceramics and I’m looking forward to seeing new-to-us potter Holly Bell’s tableware.
I love cooking and a beautifully made chopping board or carved spoon literally makes my heart beat faster. Takahashi McGil’s woodwork has the same effect. Just gorgeous, useful homewares, lovingly made in wood.
We first exhibited the jewellery of Claire Allain at Made by Hand, Cardiff and I wish I’d bought some thing from her then so I’m really pleased she is coming to Cheltenham so I can rectify the situation.
I can never resist treating myself to a bit of shopping at your shows! Last year I came home with a gorgeous pair of earrings by Mizuki Takahashi. Who do you all have on your shopping lists?
Nina: What am I most looking forward to seeing at Made by Hand, Cheltenham? Sorry I just can’t whittle it down to one! I love Emily Kriste Wilcox’s elegant painterly slab built ceramics and Claire Allain’s fresh and funky jewellery.
Karen Suzuki’s intricate textile and mixed media characters speak to me – they’re like slightly subversive rock and roll Staffordshire figurines. But if I have to pick just one thing to take home, I know that not for the first time I will be drooling over Takahashi McGils’s beautifully restrained and tactile hardwood homewares.
Fran: Ceramicist Eleanor Crane. Simply looking at these pieces makes me feel calm and tranquil. I’m very much looking forward to having the opportunity to feel these coastal inspired fine porcelain items that are truly timeless.
Sarah: I love Tanja Ufer’s Jewellery. Tanja made both my wedding and engagement rings. She uses beautiful stones in unusual settings and I absolutely adore her work.
Kate: I do like a lovely warm scarf so I’m looking forward to seeing the knitwear by Jules Hogan.
What else do you have in store for the Cheltenham visitors this year?
Sarah: Because last year was so busy, we’ve extended the event to 3 days. As well as lots of shopping, there are a great selection of workshops provided by Gloucestershire Guild and New Brewery Arts. There are also craft demonstrations in pottery, paper cutting, knitting, silversmithing, leather work and printmaking.
At the Contemporary Craft Festival here in Devon you really focus on encouraging young people and families to engage with craft. The Cheltenham venue is obviously smaller, but what have you got planned for young visitors?
Sarah: It’s very important for us that we have lovely activities for children to enjoy. I’m so pleased that we are working with some inspirational makers from the Unit Twelve Gallery at Made by Hand Cheltenham. Led by paper artists Jennifer Collier with Rachel Butlin and Fran Buxton, children will enjoy a range of paper construction workshops.
Rachel and Fran both joined us last year in the StartUP section, which supports emerging makers in the early stages of their career. You can meet a selection of new makers of jewellery, textiles and pottery in the Made by Hand, Cheltenham’s StartUP.
Thank you very much to Sarah and the team for chatting with us. We’re very happy to be joining the team and helping out during the show, and we also have the great privilege of presenting a maker award. See you there!
A year spread out ahead can be both exciting and refreshing and daunting and overwhelming. Lots of makers and artists are busy making exhibition plans, designing new ranges and developing their skills, whilst others are finding it hard to find that elusive post-Christmas holiday mojo! Whichever position you’re in, January is a time when we can all feel the pressure to have a clear direction, but this isn’t always conducive to a maker or artist who craves creative freedom. Running a business can get in the way of creativity. We’re also facing a year of uncertainty and change, and this is bound to make it harder to make plans. We’ve heard good things from some of our makers about The Design Trust’s ‘Dream, Plan, Do’ planner. It helps makers and artists put some structure into their lives in a supportive way, giving them a monthly focus in order to enable them to work on developing all aspects of their businesses. We caught up with The Design Trust to find out more…
The Design Trust is an online business school for small creative businesses. Set up in 1994, its key function was and still remains today, to support designers, makers and artists who want to set up in business but lack the necessary commercial skills. Creatives are taught the trade; making, techniques, design, but when it comes to selling the work and effectively running a business, training and education is most often lacking. The Design Trust, headed by Patricia van den Akker, seeks to offer business skills training for creative businesses via online learning, workshops and free resources through its website and social media channels.
Dream Plan Do is a planner written by Patricia in 2016. The book is based on Patricia’s 25+ years’ experience as a business adviser, trainer and coach to thousands of creatives, especially designers and makers. Dream Plan Do was the result of Patricia seeing so many creative businesses struggle. Stepping out of a creative education or trying to turn a creative hobby into a business is extremely difficult with no business training. Making something beautiful is one thing, selling it to someone is a whole other story. Patricia saw that many makers lacked business knowledge as well as focus. They weren’t setting clear goals, nor were they working on their finances or marketing. They simply weren’t making enough money for all the hard work they were putting in to creating.
Patricia says, “What started as an idea in my head has become this wonderful ‘adventure’ book for so many creatives on this journey. I’m so proud of what creatives across the world have achieved because of Dream Plan Do! They’ve made fundamental changes in their lives and businesses, launched new collections and better websites. They have dared to approach new clients and dreamed bigger dreams. They have truly grown. On their own terms.”
The planner contains practical planning tools and check lists with expert business advice to get creatives more focused and organised. New for this year, Dream Plan Do has organised accountability groups in Bristol, Worthing, Cheshire and Cornwall with more in the pipeline where owners of the planner can meet up every month to talk about struggles, celebrate successes and discuss next steps. A busy Facebook community offers a place to share stories, concerns and share advice on all matters relating to running a small business.
The online Dream Plan Do VIP CLUB offers members bi monthly online training from Patricia in topics connected with the chapters of the book. It gives members the opportunity to learn not only from Patricia but also from other creatives, to ask questions, to chat, to be accountable, and to feel part of something.
The Design Trust has received some very positive feedback…
“DPD VIP Club is the best value for money I have ever spent on my business. With just the planner, on my own, I know I would have fallen by the wayside (I know what I’m like!) instead I have had bi monthly support from Patricia who has been very generous with her time and information, in the form of webinars, one to ones and downloads. Coupled with an accountability partner (now friend,) I am still here good and strong.”
“For me it has been the Wheels that have really brought things home for me. That I don’t want to settle anymore and that I CAN change things for myself, that I CAN make a difference, and that if the first thing doesn’t work, to try another and another and not to give up.”
If this sounds like the tool you need for your creative business, you can find out more about Dream Plan Do and buy the planner, wall chart and join the VIP Club at: https://www.dream-plan-do.com/shop or search #dreamplando2019 on Instagram where the community has been busy sharing their images and stories.
And, as a little something for madebyhandonline followers, Patricia is offering 10% off the Dream Plan Do planner journal, the wall planner or the Dream Plan Do VIP club which includes two monthly online training sessions + a lot more accountability! All you need to do is go to www.dream-plan-do.com/shop/ and place your order. Then use this promo code: MBHELLO
Please note the offer code needs to be all in capitals. That’s it! The offer code is valid until 27 January 2019.
Many thanks to The Design Trust and we wish everyone a healthy and happy 2019, whatever it may bring…
Two of our makers, jeweller Libby Ward and ceramicist Alex Allday, are based at the historic Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent. They set up their studio called FourMakers back in December 2014… four graduates all based in the midlands, looking to create a platform for contemporary crafts in the area and a studio space where they could develop their practices. We caught up with Libby and Alex to find out more about their inspirational setting…
Image credit UKHBPT.
Libby: Middleport is one of the few remaining working Victorian pottery banks left in Stoke-On-Trent. With help from United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust back in 2010, the site was renovated and then opened to the public in 2014. The FourMakers Studio is an open workshop and gallery where visitors can come and watch us make, shop from us and chat to us about our work.
Pulling up at Middleport every morning is a dream! Walking to our studio along the Victorian cobbles is an absolute pleasure! Our studio is the only one that is actually attached to the bottle kiln wall. We have watched the site develop over the years and this has attracted other local businesses and so we now have a community of craftspeople here at Middleport studios.
Libby creates contemporary jewellery and works alongside Alex, who produces decorative ceramic ware. They predominately run the FourMakers workshop and gallery. Both work with completely different materials, but they find that this helps them to bounce ideas off one other and it allows each other to consider design from a different point of view. The pair saw a massive increase in visitors over the summer when Middleport played host to the weeping windows installation. This put them and Middleport in front of a local and national audience.
Alex: Middleport is the perfect location of my practice. My inspiration comes from historical English architecture and its intricate details, such as the Victorian window details and floor tile patterns around the site.
Libby also takes her inspiration from Middleport. She is drawn to manmade objects and buildings that have been weathered over the years. The rusty metals and textures around the pottery inform her need to question preciousness through her practice.
This December, as part of Middleport’s Victorian Christmas, the two will be running their popular Christmas workshops. Not only can you enjoy a visit to the historic potteries, but make something beautiful and festive for your home under Libby and Alex’s expert tuition.
Image credit UKHBPT.
The first will be a joint workshop, working in both ceramic and wire, on the 9th of December. Join Libby and Alex for a festive afternoon creating your own handmade decorations for your house and tree.
Then on the 12th of December, Alex will be running a porcelain tea light workshop using traditional slab building techniques to create stunning pieces for yourself or a personal gift for friends and family. Finally, on the 19th of December, join Libby to design and create your own Christmas wreath. Natural and artificial materials will be provided and you can also take your own materials to make it even more personal.
Contemporary jeweller Carol Hunt works entirely by hand to create strong, often sculptural, jewellery from silver, gold and precious stones. In our latest maker interview, we caught up with Carol to find out more about her background and inspirations…
Tell us a bit about how you’ve got to where you are today? I always loved making things but started off in the corporate world as a Business Consultant working all over the world for large companies. I started making again through taking short courses in jewellery during my holidays, then decided to work freelance so I could study for my City & Guilds in jewellery. At about the same time I started going to extra jewellery making classes taught by Martin Hopton. He is a mind-blowing designer/maker and fantastic tutor and I learned so much from him about design, detail, technique and quality. I then studied for my Masters in jewellery at the John Cass School of Art and Design in London, under Simone Ten-Hompel who really challenged me and encouraged me to really think about what I was trying to express in my making. I set up Carol Hunt Jewellery after graduating and have been making and selling my jewellery ever since.
In 2017 I was awarded the Goldsmiths Craft and Design Council Bronze Award for 3D Design Precious Jewellery (Silver).
If you were to describe your own work in just 5 words which words would you choose? Contemporary, Delicate, Complex, Linear, Strong.
From who or what do you draw your inspirations? I’ve thought a lot about this as it isn’t easy to put into words! For me jewellery is a form of self-expression and I am essentially exploring the complexities of life. There are particular memories and experiences that I often come back to, but I’m not trying to ‘make’ those, it’s more about saying something on the contradictions and complexities of life that we all experience. That’s why I often play with contrasts such as light/dark, strength/delicacy etc. in my work. I hope that this means that the wearer can decide what the piece means to them.
Can you tell us a bit about your studio/workspace? After I finished my Masters we moved out of London back to the West Country where my family live. Our town hall is managed by an arts trust and part of what they do is rent out studio spaces to local artists so that’s where I have my workshop. It’s not a big space but long and thin which works well for jewellery having lots of bench space down the sides! Its also nice being part of a group of likeminded creative people!
If you can, describe a typical day for you? I’m not sure there is a typical day really, apart from always starting it with a good coffee! At the moment I’m preparing for my next show, so I’m mostly making in my workshop. There is also a surprising amount of admin to do as a maker as you are your own marketing department, stock control etc, so I’m often in the middle of something else like cooking dinner when I remember I need to order materials or more business cards or something!
What are you working on at the moment? I’m working on two new collections – one is exploring the shapes, colour and contrasts of porcelain and silver. I’ve had this in my mind for a while but hadn’t been sure how to realise it. I spent some time with a local potter just playing about with porcelain so I could understand the material better which led me to thinking about how one particular form could be represented in wax and cast into silver. I’m hoping that when I bring the two together they will be more than the sum of their parts – its not quite there yet but I’m hoping it will be soon! The other collection is exploring fine mesh textures contrasted with silver frames.
What do you have planned in the build up to Christmas and where can people see your work? My next big show is Handmade in Britain at Chelsea Town Hall in London (8th-11th November) so I’m currently preparing for that. I’m also planning a couple of smaller local fairs and trying to get more of my work onto my online shop!
Whether you like to knit, stitch or get messy with clay, losing yourself in craft has become the go-to activity to combat the stresses and strains of modern life (see the recent article about this in The Telegraph). The ultimate opportunity to immerse yourself in all forms of craft is at this weekend’s contemporary craft fair, Made by Hand Cardiff. Returning for its 5th anniversary at City Hall, the annual celebration of craft returns to Cardiff hosting 145 of the finest professional makers from Wales and the UK. Are you ready to be inspired? We talked to the show’s director Sarah James and here are her 10 reasons why you should visit:
1. Meet the Makers! Made by Hand is the biggest and best craft fair in Wales with 145 of the UK and Wales’s finest makers. Makers are selected for quality and you can buy your unique Christmas presents from our collection of potters, jewellers, textile artists, glass makers, leather workers and woodworkers. Including Jennifer Collier from Stafford, Anvil Forge from Pontypool, Helen Brice (jeweller) from Tiverton, Katie Victoria (textiles) from Swansea, Virginia Graham (ceramics) from Corsham, Christina Hirst (jeweller) from Edinburgh, Claire Cawte (textiles) from Penarth, Cleo Mussi (mosaic) from Stroud, Fauxidermy (textiles) from Abergavenny, Anya Keely from Hereford, Babs Belshaw (pottery) from Derry, Northern Ireland, Michael Goode (printmaker) from Barry and Glosters (pottery) from Porthmadog. You can find out about all our exhibitors on the website.
2. Made by Hand wouldn’t be complete without our skilful demonstrators sharing their knowledge of their craft. These include pottery by Eluned Glyn from Cardiff, papercutting by By Charlie’s Hand from Pontypool, willow basket weaving by Hatton Willow from Caerphilly, plus needle felt making, eco fabric dyeing and willow sculpture.
3. Support small businesses from Wales & the UK. You can feel confident and rather proud that you are buying from a small, British business. Buying small has the added benefit of bringing money back into the local economy and the knowledge that you are supporting a hard-working, independent business. These include, Ruth Packham (textiles) from Borth, James Donald (textiles) from Edinburgh, Jaejun Lee (ceramics) from Cardiff, Sian O’Doherty (textiles) from Tenby, Selwyn House from Derbyshire, Reptile Ceramics from Whitland, Sara Lois (jeweller) from Pwllheli and Louise Hall (pottery) from Cardiff.
4. Join the Pottery Throwdown! Meet the potters from the hit BBC TV show-Tom, Clover, Richard and Jim and challenge them to a pottery throwdown, presented in association with Potclays. Billy Adams and Margo Schmidt from Cardiff will be keeping order and visitors can sign up to a potting challenge on the day.
5. Meet pottery legend Walter Keeler. All good Festivals have a living legend slot and Made by Hand is no exception. Walter Keeler from Penallt, South Wales will be showing visitors how his work is made and talking about his incredible career in ceramics.
6. Lose yourself in 2 hours of creative bliss. There are just a few workshop places left over the weekend. Hop onto www.madebyhand-wales.co.uk and book the final places now.
7. Kids Go Free! We want to do our bit to inspire the next generation of makers. Accompanied children Under 18 are free and they can enjoy free drop-in workshops provided by Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre.
8. Learn something new at Michelle Griffith’s Masterclass. Textile artist, Michelle from Llantrisant will be showing visitors how the intricate Japanese of shibori textiles are made. It’s a free event, included in your ticket.
9. Meet the StartUp makers. Made by Hand features a collection of emerging makers in their first 2 years of business. You are guaranteed to find something new and unusual. Have a look at our selected new makers taking part here.
10. Be Inspired! You can also take part in 2 hour workshops provided by Make it in Wales & Learning Cardiff. Make willow Christmas decorations, have a go at paper cutting or needlefelting. Grab the last few places via www.madebyhand-wales.co.uk.
The heady mix of makers, demonstrations, workshops, masterclasses, live music and café, set in the stunning surroundings of City Hall, is surely one the finest opportunities to start your Christmas shopping!
Many thanks to Sarah. We can’t wait to head to Cardiff! Lots of our madebyhandonline makers will be exhibiting. We’ll be helping out during the show, catching up with all our makers, enjoying a bit of shopping and we also have the great privilege of presenting an award to a new maker. See you there!
Made by Hand, 2018 will take place in Cardiff City Hall from Friday November 2nd – Sunday November 4th (10am-5pm Fri & Sat, Sunday 10am-4pm). Tickets (per day) are Adults £7 (£6 concessions) Weekend/3 days Ticket £13 (£11 conc). Accompanied children under 18 go free. For full details: www.madebyhand-wales.co.uk
We’re now well and truly into show season and last night we enjoyed a fantastic opening evening at MADE LONDON in Marylebone. Showcasing some of the very best and most original makers of high quality contemporary craft and design, MADE LONDON is a must for makers and craft-buyers alike. As always, this is a beautifully curated show and the quality of work is exceptionally high.
The show is set in One Marylebone, which is a beautiful converted Sir John Soane church in central London, directly opposite the Great Portland Street tube and right by Regents Park. There are two floors, linked by sweeping staircases, both offering a dramatic, light and luxurious backdrop to the makers’ displays. Yesterday evening the aisles were bustling with visitors, from friends and family, to press and curators, all celebrating making and, importantly, a good amount of shopping was being enjoyed!
At madebyhandonline we’re really happy to be sponsors of the show again. It’s a show we never miss! We presented a maker award last night (more about this below) and some of our makers are exhibiting, so we’ve had lots of good catch-up chats with them and really enjoyed seeing their amazing displays.
Lisa Slinn Ceramics.
Virginia Graham Ceramics.
We also caught up with Jon Tutton, one of the show organisers who can always be found greeting visitors and inspiring people to support his makers! We asked him a few questions about what it’s like organising the show….
We’re always so impressed by the style of your shows… they’re consistently inspirational and of a very high quality, yet have a wonderfully relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Tell us a bit about the Tutton & Young team working behind the scenes? Our ethos comes from the fact we’re makers and have experienced good and bad exhibitions in the past. I’m the organiser, Sarah Young heads design and artistic direction, Sam leads marketing, Melina is taking our social media to new levels and Maria is my assistant.
We know you’re often oversubscribed. How do you select makers for your shows? Our selection is based on whether we feel the makers have a passion for what they do and not necessarily what might be popular. The joy of the work shines through.
When I visit shows, I’m particularly drawn to ceramics and jewellery and I like buying textiles as gifts. Are you drawn to a particular type of work yourself? I’m drawn to sculptural work, be that jewellery, wooden objects or any other discipline. That’s what we look for when we select jewellery – as a sculptural object, something interesting with impact.
Tell us a bit about what visitors can expect to find here over the weekend. I think this is our strongest year. There’s a really good balance of work and some great new work. I’m really pleased that we have makers like Hope Springs Chairs here with their fresh look at the Windsor chair – they’re a great example of people we like to support. We have people doing and making what they like and enjoying themselves, and that’s what we like to show and encourage in our fairs.
And a very happy moment… we gave our Best in Show award to the brilliant Ken Eardley! We’ve been huge fans of his work for such a long time and are so pleased that he’ll be part of madebyhandonline very soon…
Drawing inspirations from nature and antiquity, jeweller Lucy Spink works from her small workshop in Cornwall. We saw Lucy’s work at The Contemporary Craft Festival in Devon last summer and we were really drawn to the contemporary forms and textures she creates, using very traditional techniques and old hand tools. These organic textures make light and its playful, manipulative nature with materials intrinsic to her work, and the marks from her tools are also an important part of the story behind each piece. We caught up with Lucy to find out more…
Tell us a bit about how you first started making jewellery and at what point you began to sell and exhibit your work? I began making jewellery under the guidance of Victoria Walker at Truro College. She was an incredible teacher and very inspiring, she was in the early stages of her career then and it is so good to see how well she is doing now with her beautiful jewellery. When I started making jewellery, I was also running my own retail business so it was a natural step to start selling my work in the shop. I spent two years living and working in Trinidad and had the use of Bruce Moutett’s jewellery studio, he taught me a lot of new skills and encouraged me to develop. My husband and I returned to Cornwall and I started to set up the current Lucy Spink Jewellery brand, which I am really proud of and working hard to grow.
What’s your studio space like? I have had a few studio spaces (including the utility room) since coming back to the UK. I currently have a very smart shed in the garden so my commute to work is fantastic. I have taken on a student who is developing her own style and it is great to have company as working on your own can get lonely.
If you can, describe a typical day for you? A typical day starts with a cup of tea and a long dog walk. It clears my head and I can think about new designs. I love being outdoors and Cornwall is full of inspiration for me. I usually spend some time doing admin and then the rest of the day is available to actually make work. No two days are the same, which I think is the best thing about what I do.
From who or what do you draw your inspirations? I love ancient landscapes. I find it fascinating how you can read a landscape and see how it has been shaped by people for generations. I mostly find the unspoilt places are my favourite. Ancient settlements on Dartmoor, lichen covered rocks and stunted oak trees, pebble strewn beaches and dried up seaweed.
Other jewellers are very inspiring too. I love the work of Bronwen Gwillim, the simple shapes and beautiful textures of the recycled material; Helen Noakes’ jewellery is gorgeous and makes me smile, I have been following her for years, and I take great delight in the incredible depth of work by the Precious Collective on Instagram. I am also in love with writing, from journals like Elementum to the books by Robert Macfarlane, words can be so powerful and incredibly inspiring to me.
There are lots of amazing independent jewellers in the UK and this makes for a strong team and a great supportive community, but it also means that makers have to keep on their toes to stay original. How do you ensure that you and your designs maintain your own identifiable style, but also keep refreshing? It can be really hard to define a style and maintain a growing collection. I use reticulation and hammering in all my work so the surface textures are always the same running through new designs. My Grandad’s old workshop tools are also a big part of my work and the marks they leave during the making process become part of the design, which I think helps the customer to see the handmade nature of each piece.
We think we know what your answer to this will be…Do you find that you’re always thinking about jewellery making whatever you’re doing? Yes, always. Whether it’s admin that must be done, designs that I am mulling over or searching for new stones to incorporate into my work. I always come home from a walk with bits of lichen and twigs, beautiful pebbles and shells. They get stashed away in corners of the garden and in piles in my studio.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment? I am currently working on incorporating large stones into my work, which is a lot of fun for me. I have found some great suppliers across the world who are sourcing and cutting their own stones, so I can learn the story behind each one from them. One day I might get to go and visit some of them!!
What do you have planned in the build up to Christmas and where can people see your work? In the build up to Christmas I will be building on the new collection, Mini Monolith, which is based around the smaller open rectangular links and more reticulation to create a different feel. Alongside this are the new one off pieces that you are starting to see in the rings I have been posting. I am adding necklaces to these and I am finding that it is exciting to work on and design one single piece that will never be replicated. I hope to do more of these over the next 6 months and look forward to getting feedback from my customers. In addition to this, I am doing a small group show called Creek Arts and Crafts (watch out on my social media for details) and I have been accepted into Cheltenham Made by Hand in 2019. There are lists of my stockists on my website including a new exhibition at the Victoria Sewart Gallery in Plymouth which I am really excited to be included in this year.
Many thanks to Lucy for answering our questions. We were very lucky to be part of the judging panel at The Contemporary Craft Festival in June and the award for Best New Business was presented to Lucy, so you can find her beautiful collection of jewellery right here on madebyhandonline. Thanks for reading!
It’s nearly time… The award-winning Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair (GNCCF) will very soon be opening its doors for a celebration of cutting-edge craft and design at the Upper Campfield Market, a Grade II listed Victorian building in the heart of Manchester.
This event will begin with a special preview evening on Thursday 11th October and will then be open to the public from Friday 12th – Sunday 14th October.
We love the curation of this show. The organisers are always careful to keep the show refreshed to ensure that regular visitors will discover new makers each year. Visitors can expect to see established makers of contemporary ceramics, jewellery, furniture, textiles, sculpture, print and more, alongside those who are just launching their creative businesses.
Thirteen new designers, who are amongst the UK’s best up-and-coming creative graduates, have been selected to exhibit in a special section called the Great Northern Graduates. This group of talented graduates are from nine different universities around the UK and they were selected by curator Elle Simms from their degree shows and from this year’s New Designers event in London. This is a great opportunity for this collective of new talent to exhibit alongside over 150 of the UK’s leading designer-makers.
We’re excited to see the range of new talent taking part this year, especially as we’re also very keen to support new businesses and will again be sponsoring the Best New Business award. This award is given to a maker who has only been in business for up to 5 years.
The Great Northern is supported by Arts Council England through Grant for the Arts. Angela Mann and Ann-Marie Franey founded the GNCCF in 2008 with the aim of championing and promoting contemporary craft and designer-makers in the North. The show is now firmly fixed on the craft calendar and is now the largest contemporary craft fair in the North.
Ann-Marie said: “We are looking forward to being back in Manchester after launching new events in Newcastle and Sheffield earlier this year. Visitors can expect a stimulating day out in an unusual setting, with interesting and beautiful work from new and established makers. Interest in contemporary craft grows year-on-year and we’re excited to be part of this, flying the flag for Northern craft.”
As well as being spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping, visitors can also enjoy attending an artist presentationand there will also be demonstrations throughout the weekend.
This was the beautiful yurt from Yurts for Life that framed the early stages of our Risk Makers project so perfectly at the Contemporary Craft Festival last weekend.
It was such an eye-catching structure, all handmade in Devon. The steam bent woodwork created a curved roof shape with fabulous light and headroom, and we were able to open up the sides of the cotton canvas to expose the beautiful wooden trellis and reveal glimpses of our exhibition from the outside. Sincere thanks to Yurts For Life for creating such a beautiful exhibition space.
Last Autumn we held a day of exploration and brought the skills and experiences of a high caliber group of makers together from our community on madebyhandonline to discuss ideas for a new model of workshop and to analyse the current challenges for professional makers. The day revealed a desire to play, to share skills, ask honest questions of one another and to bring high quality work and a spirit of collaborative play to as many people as possible.
Many contemporary craft makers work in isolation. Making is incredibly valuable for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, but making in isolation can also create problems, and these are often kept hidden. We believe that makers need both support and challenge and that with these two things audience engagement will increase and be enriched.
To begin, we’ve encouraged our makers to take some risks by collaborating with one another. Other than removing a commercial focus, we didn’t put a fixed structure in place. The results were brilliantly varied and based on different interpretations of what it means to collaborate. Some groups contributed to create one piece, others responded to another’s work, some exchanged materials and allowed one person to take the lead to design an end product, whilst others focused on playing with materials without any specific result in mind. Our exhibition yurt at the Festival was the perfect place for us to share these first collaborations and to talk to visitors about issues of mental health and wellbeing, the value of handmade items and makers’ livelihoods. This was the beginning, and these are our first Risk Makers!
A scorched birch bowl by Adam Cornish stitched by Jennifer Collier with contrasting turquoise thread:
Helen Noakes created a stunningly beautiful collection of brooches in response to materials sent to her by ceramicist Virginia Graham, textile artist Dionne Swift and paper artist Jennifer Collier:
Textile artist Dionne Swift and ceramicist Tone von Krogh presented the first initial experiments with pressing stitch into clay:
Marna Lunt stepped away from her 2 dimensional stitch to work in 3d with Suzanne Breakwell’s wire armatures:
Claire Read of Little Burrow Designs presented the beginning of a very personal piece about her father’s passing called ‘The Long Goodbye’. This piece will become a collaboration with Marna Lunt:
Helen Noakes’ cast silver figures have been relocated! Woodturner Adam Cornish has many ideas for these:
‘Guiding Lights’ Lampshades by Marna Lunt and Andy Poplar of [vinegar & brown paper]:
This tea set was devised by Jennifer Collier, Virginia Graham and Marna Lunt:
Transfers were made of Jennifer’s stitched papers and used to embellish Virginia’s ceramics, and Marna has brought the piece back to stitch again with her embroidered tray cloth. This was hugely popular, and is a great example of how a commercial end product can be made without intention, just freedom to play!
We met so many engaged visitors over the 3 day Festival. The collaborations were of course a visual draw, but they enabled us to have some really good conversations with visitors about vulnerability, levels of confidence and how they effect creativity; as well as pricing, the time it takes to make and the challenges of communicating value with potential buyers. We really didn’t know what to expect from our first public appearance, especially as we don’t exactly know where are project will lead us, but the feedback was quite overwhelming.
It was fantastic to welcome both the Chair and the Director of the Crafts Council into our yurt, and we also spoke with academics, medical professionals and countless craft enthusiasts who are excited to see what might come from our project.
We also had some short demonstrations and activities led by Adam Cornish, Tone von Krogh, Dionne Swift, Marna Lunt and Jennifer Collier. It was so good to see people chatting, relaxed, entertained and inspired. Thank you to our brilliant makers for leading these.
As we explained to our visitors, this is the beginning and we have lots of ideas to explore. We are very privileged and grateful to be working on this with Dr Nicola Thomas from Exeter University and film makers Richard and Arron of R&A Collaborations. We’d like to bring more of our makers into our group and we’d like to involve you along the way. Exciting pairings and combinations of materials and skills could lead to new products, new ideas and new ways to involve more people in making. Thank you so much to everyone who visited us, to the organisers of the Festival for hosting us, and huge thanks to our amazing Risk Makers for their bravery, passion and extraordinary talents!
It seems unbelievable that a week has already passed since the opening night of this year’s Contemporary Craft Festival here in our hometown of Bovey Tracey in Devon. As with every year, we were excited to catch up with all our maker friends, we were in awe of their incredible work, the town was buzzing with energy, and we were both elated and exhausted by the extraordinary Festival experience!
Now it’s all gone and we’ve had a couple of days to rest (and to avoid the onset of the ‘Bovey Blues’), we’ve enjoyed looking back at some of our pictures of our makers’ displays. This year we were mainly based in our beautiful yurt exhibiting a collection from our Risk Makers project (more of this in part 2 of our blog tomorrow). This meant that we didn’t have as much time in the main marquees as usual, but we did manage to zoom around early each morning to take some snaps to share with you. We saw exquisitely made furniture, colourful glass, joyful ceramics, imaginative and playful jewellery, beautifully textured textiles and so much more, all made by individual makers…
Lindsey Mann Jewellery
A joint stand of Tone von Krogh’s ceramics and Dionne Swift’s textiles.
Teresa Dunne Textiles – we were so proud that Teresa won the Best Maker in the South West Award!
Peter Lanyon Furniture
Virginia Graham Ceramics
Mizuki Takahashi Jewellery
Alice Heaton Glass. AAH Design
Suzanne Breakwell Paper Sculpture
Ruth Green Design
Justine Allison Ceramics
Lynsey Walters Jewellery
Anya Keeley Mixed Media
Hannah Dowding Furniture
Penny Little Ceramics
Little Burrow Designs
Fern Robinson Jewellery
Kate Evans Ceramics
The Festival was a true celebration of the rich, creative talent of the UK, and a lot of fun too….the makers’ ceilidh dance was a hoot, the wide variety of food stands kept everyone spoilt for choice and very well fed, there were activities for children, workshops, demonstrations, a mobile craft film cinema and the brilliantly hilarious Pottery Throwdown. Our director Katie took part and the challenge was to make a teapot in 10 minutes. It poured, but with that spout, this was made for tea in a hurry or for those who like it weak…
We’re very happy to announce that the winner of our Best New Business Award was presented to jeweller Lucy Spink. We’re looking forward to welcoming her and her beautiful work on madebyhandonline very soon.
Thank you as always to Sarah, Nina, Kate, Fran and all the team at The Contemporary Craft Festival for putting on such a show – definitely winner of the award of Best in Show of shows!
That’s all for now. Tomorrow we’ll share our Risk Maker project pics with you…
In just over 2 weeks it’ll be time for the fantastic Contemporary Craft Festival here in our hometown of Bovey Tracey in Devon. It’ll be the fifteenth year of the show! We’re really proud to be sponsors of this event and our director Katie will be joining the judging panel again for a very privileged look at all the stands before the show opens for the private view and maker award ceremony. It’s such a great social event too. Lots of our makers will be exhibiting over the 3 days and we can’t wait to catch up with everyone.
And this year, there’s more… we are excited to announce that we are going to have our very own exhibition space at the Festival to present the first stage of our Risk Makers project. We’ve brought together a group of our makers to challenge, collaborate and take and make risks with their work. Over the last few weeks our Risk Makers have been planning, sharing ideas and beginning to work collaboratively with one another. (Read more about the beginnings of this project here). Here are some behind the scenes pictures from their studios…
We’re interested in playing, teaching, sharing skills and providing the freedom to experiment with materials to make exciting combinations, and this could lead to new products, new ideas and new ways to involve more people in making.
We have Marna Lunt collaborating with Virginia Graham and Jennifer Collier, Suzanne Breakwell with Claire Read, Dionne Swift with Tone von Krogh, Adam Cornish with Jennifer Collier, Helen Noakes with Dionne Swift and more!
At the Festival we’ll present our Risk Maker’s work (some complete and some in progress) alongside their sketches and materials, providing Festival visitors with the first opportunity to see the collaborations (and the potentials) between these exceptional makers. This is just the beginning so we’d love your feedback.
Through this project we’re also interested in exploring wellbeing and the positive results of making for comfort, release and therapy, as well as the challenges of being a maker working in isolation. If you’re visiting the Festival please do come and see us – we’d value your thoughts and experiences.
We’re also very happy to have Andy Poplar of [vinegar & brown paper] with us. He’s been working with Marna Lunt to combine his emotive, etched glass with her contemporary embroidery. They’ve started to create a collection of extraordinary lampshades based on inspirational female figures and we’ll be exhibiting some of these in our yurt.
So, keep a look out for our beautiful Risk Makers yurt (from Yurts for Life) and come and say hello. We’ll also have demonstrations and talks in the yurt over the 3 days, and there will be opportunities for visitors to experiment with materials and meet us and our Risk Makers.
If you can’t make it to the Festival we’d still love to hear from you via social media, here in our blog or via email.
We loved hearing how Hannah Lobley became a paper artist by accident! Hannah originally specialised in wood working during her degree, but when she accidentally left a favourite book in the rain and was reluctant to part with it, she started to investigate how she could preserve the papers and celebrate their qualities. This led her to develop a new material which she calls Paperwork. Each page is layered and transformed back into a solid wood-like material, and from this Hannah uses traditional wood working techniques to create beautiful items for the home, including bowls and clocks. As Hannah says, “Ultimately, wood becomes paper becomes wood again.” We caught up with Hannah to find out more about her work….
We really love the way your making process reveals the texts and colours from the papers you use. Can you tell us a bit about how you manipulate your papers to create such wonderful depth and pattern in your work?
After working with paper and books for 15 years now I understand and can, to a certain extent, manipulate the colours and patterns that will appear. But what I love about my process is that, with many of the pieces, I don’t know what will appear. I can design and work the shape and form, but due to the many layers involved, the surface patination is uncontrolled. When I start wood working a piece, it is a capricious process that surprises me every time. The beauty of this element means that every piece I make is unique and each surface texture will never be produced again.
What’s your studio like? Do you have a favourite tool?
My studio is a converted outhouse in our garden. In the summer it’s great to get the doors open and feel like I’m working outside. It’s messy and dusty (just how I like it), but all my tools have their own special place, so I can find them easily!
My favourite tool would have to be the lathe, my Dad taught me how to use it. It’s where the magic happens and where this process all began.
A bowl on the lathe.
Where’s your ideal place to go for inspiration?
I love going for walks with my kids and clearing my head, but I would say I’m most inspired when I’m in the studio ‘playing’! I am a problem solver, so I like to get in there making. I don’t draw lots of designs, I need to see things three dimensionally. By making and seeing them this helps my designs evolve.
Turning a clock face.
If you can, describe a typical day for you?
Much like everyone else, my day is a day of juggling. After breakfast it’s the school and nursery run, then it’s straight home to make a cup of tea (very important to get me going!) Then, it’s either a day in the studio making orders and new pieces or in front of the computer answering emails and writing proposals.
We know you’ve been working on something new lately…tell us about your new oak shelves.
I initially designed them as children’s shelves, but the feedback I’m receiving is that many adults love them too. They were inspired by my 3 year old, who is crazy about dinosaurs. He and his brother have so many books and they always fall over on their shelves. I started looking at bookends, but they were all very predictable. Then I realised I was positioning the heavy books at the end to hold up the rest; it occurred to me that this one could be shaped and static, creating a decorative and functional aspect. Once I started working into the books, the patterns that were appearing were amazing, but you could still see that they were produced from books. I have so many different designs in my head now, but I just need the time to make them!
How do you begin to design new products?
The designs can develop in many ways. As I mentioned earlier, it could be through trying to solve a problem in daily life, through experimentation in the studio, by talking to other creatives, travelling, etc. I have a notebook full of ideas that, again, I just need time to develop. I will loosely sketch a design, but my wood working tools and Paperwork material are my pen and paper. I start working into the laminated paper and the design develops.
If you were to collaborate with another maker who would you like that to be?
So difficult to narrow it down, but I really love Michelle Mckinney’s work, it’s so delicate and light, completely opposite to mine.
What are your exhibition plans for the rest of the year ahead?
It’s building up to being a busy year… In May and June, I will be exhibiting at West Bridgford Library in Nottingham as part of a Marvellous Materials Exhibition.
In June I will be showcasing a piece of work with Design Nation at Eunique Design Fair in Karlsruhe, Germany. This work will be inspired by Nottingham and Karlsruhe, as they have been twinned cities since 1969.
The autumn will see a visit north to take part in Art& at York Racecourse for the first time. I will be exhibiting with a group of Derbyshire based Design Nation artists.
I am currently working with a Vintage Car Art company, recycling old Motor Sports Magazines. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we produce.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this interview. Thank you so much to Hannah for answering our questions. It’s always so interesting to see behind the scenes, especially when the smooth, beautifully finished end products have been through such an exciting and messy process! Head this way to shop from Hannah’s collection. Hannah’s turned bowls are beautiful as well as being functional because they’re all finished with a coat of varnish. We also love her clocks and her new shelves. Please do feel free to get in touch if you’d like to explore a bespoke commission with Hannah.
In September 2017 we brought together an amazing group of contemporary craft makers from our community on madebyhandonline to explore different approaches to sharing contemporary craft and skills with the public. We had a day of exploration and nourishment in order to discuss ideas for a new model of workshop and to analyse current challenges for makers.
Over the years we’ve often been asked to run workshops for the public and we wanted to explore this idea, but as we’ve always been concerned about the bigger picture for the craft industry and the makers we represent, we were also very keen to find new ways to create opportunities for our makers that would further their own creative practices. We’ve been struck by how many makers are struggling with working on their own and we see the negative impact this can have on confidence and creativity. The creative community on social media is so strong and incredibly supportive, but there’s nothing quite like meeting up with your tribe to boost one another and spark new ideas.
This research day came about after talking with different makers about the challenges they sometimes face with their work, a desire to create exciting opportunities for customers to see more behind the scenes, and a meeting with Nicola Thomas from The University of Exeter. Nicola’s a Cultural Geographer and she’s been working with makers and craft organisations for a number of years. She’s interested in makers’ livelihoods and how creative policy works in practice. Together, we planned our research day to explore ways to combine exciting new experiences for the public with stimulating professional development for our makers. The day was supported by Exeter University and held at Kaleider – an inspirational organisation and studio in Exeter which brings people together to design, promote and produce exciting creative live experiences.
It was an amazing day. We were nervous at first, even though we’ve known and worked with these makers for many years! It was a rare opportunity to have such a high calibre group of talented makers in one room and the potential felt so very great. We would have loved to have had all of our makers together, but of course this wasn’t possible. We invited a few from across the country who, between them, have a wealth of experience exhibiting, working with the public and teaching, are strong advocates for our madebyhandonline community, and who are all working primarily in isolation.
We also invited Richard Foot and Arron Fowler – craft film makers extraordinaire from R&A Collaborations. Although we didn’t know exactly where we were headed, we wanted them to start documenting the project. We also felt that their experiences from working with different makers and attending many craft shows would be valuable to our conversations.
Fascinating discussions in the morning quickly put workshop designs for the public on hold as we began to discuss ways of creating space to play, challenge and experiment and we looked at how we could facilitate makers to support one another with their work. We focused on the idea of developing collaborations in order for them to teach one another, share skills and create exciting new pieces of work, both collaboratively and on their own. This clearly had to come first and could then lead to us creating new work and opportunities with and for the public.
We explored the many positive impacts of makers collaborating with one another (emotional, social and professional). We’d already asked our makers to bring some of their tools and materials along for the day and as soon as we moved to these the energy and excitement in the room was extraordinary. It was hard to get them to break for lunch!
Questioning the effects of combining apparently jarring materials, experimenting with mark making on different fabrics and the sharing of experiences within the craft industry made it very clear which direction we were headed!
Our day was extraordinarily productive and also a lot of fun. It was such a privilege to be with everyone and we hope this was the first day of many. Together, we’ve now designed a pilot project and we’re hoping to start it this year. This isn’t just about creating support in a comfortable way. We want to nudge our makers to take risks with their work. Our day revealed that this is something that they don’t feel they’re able to do, due to working in isolation or a lack of confidence, the need to create ‘safer’ commercial products or having a work schedule that’s full, but not always in a satisfying way. This risk is now shared and it’s creating excitement rather than fear.
Our makers have already begun to discuss ways they can work together and we’re working with Nicola to look at ways we could share this project with everyone and invite our audiences online and at shows to get involved. We have lots of ideas, and this project creates potential for developing a new kind of workshop for the public or maybe collaborative courses within universities.
What happens when an embroiderer and a ceramicist are given the freedom to respond to one another’s work? What happens when a paper artist, jeweller and woodturner collaborate on the same piece? How does collaborative craft impact on an individual maker’s work and wellbeing?
We’d love to know if this is something you’d be interested in following or getting involved with, and we’d very much like to open this up to more makers as the project develops. Watch this space.
All image credits madebyhandonline & R&A Collaborations.
Lots of our makers will be exhibiting at a new craft and design show in Cheltenham next month, including ceramicist Katie Lowe. Katie uses slip casting to make miniature vessels with a focus on creating subtle gradients of colour. Her stands are always very attractive as she displays her vessels in ‘waves’ of colour, from pale to deep, dark blue. Like many makers, Katie spends a lot of her time working alone, so exhibiting at shows brings huge benefits. We caught up with Katie recently to find out about what she’s been working on in preparation for the new Made By Hand Cheltenham show….
“After finding out about the Made by Hand Cheltenham show when I was at the Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey last June, I knew I needed to apply! With it being the launch of a new show I do feel honoured and excited to be part of it. One of my favourite parts of being a maker is doing the shows. I love getting feedback from customers and it does give you an instant buzz when the public want to buy your work. I work from home in a shed in my back garden and when I’m in the making zone I have very little interaction with other people, so the shows definitely make me feel like it’s all worth while!
Since my christmas shows, I have been developing a limited edition orange to go alongside my current collections. There are always so many tests and experiments I want to do, but time definitely runs away! I personally love the colour orange. It’s such a bright and happy colour. I thought it would be perfect to use with my work because it’s blue’s complimentary colour, and it’s also quite bold and contrasting to the calm subtle gradients I usually use.
I have also been thinking about new ways to display my necklaces alongside my vessels. They have always been a topic of conversation when I wear mine at events or shows, but after making them I just haven’t had time to promote and market them as I would like. I’m looking forward to presenting them at the Cheltenham show.
Of course, alongside my experiments I have just been casting, casting and casting. With my work being so miniature it takes a while for me to fill my kiln, but seeing the blue waves inside after the firing is very satisfying!
Another aspect of doing shows that I love is networking. I’m so interested in other makers’ practices and love making those connections with fellow exhibitors – making friends and learning from one another. Since the Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey, I have had my eye on Kate Hollowood’s lighting, so I’m particularly looking forward to catching up with her and bagging one of those! I have also admired Helen Noakes’ jewellery for a long time and always love inspecting her stand.
Lighting by Kate Hollowood and Polar Bear Ring by Helen Noakes.
I will be in the Start Up section at Made By Hand Cheltenham, alongside 9 other talented emerging makers. I am definitely looking forward to seeing their work. I am particularly excited to be on a stand next to jeweller Rachel Butlin. We’ve been friends since university and she has definitely helped me from the beginning. We shared a stand at the first show I exhibited at, so it will be like old times!
Enamel earrings by Rachel Butlin.
When it comes to planning my stand I always tweak it a little from the previous show. Looking back at the first one I did, I definitely feel more confident each time to make slight changes and take note of what catches the public’s eye. I like to look at my stand and feel that it flows from one side to the other, just like the gradients within my work. When thinking about new props I always take that into consideration. I’m hoping to make a feature of the new orange without taking away from my blue waves (maybe by using a different way of displaying the vessels in clusters), so keep an eye out for them when you visit!’
Many thanks to Katie for writing this for us. We’re really looking forward to seeing the new orange collection at Made By Hand Cheltenham. The show will take place in Cheltenham Town Hall, 10th-11th March. We’re very happy to be one of the sponsors of this new event and we’re excited to be joining fellow judges over the weekend to present awards to some of the exhibitors. For full visitor information and advance tickets please visit the show’s website here. We hope to see you there!
The new year often inspires changes, but jeweller Sue Gregor has been working on a significant change to her practice for some months now. Sue is based in Bristol and she’s been making contemporary jewellery using acrylic, silver and real plants since 2005. This year is a kind of renewal. Her process of embossing remains the same, as does her exciting use of colour, but her focus lately has been on materials and her own impact on the environment.
These cuffs are clearly recognisable as Sue’s work, but something’s different. We caught up with Sue last week to find out more…
You’ve been making jewellery from glass quality acrylic for many years now. Can you tell us about the significant changes you’ve been working on over the last few months?
After becoming more and more concerned about plastic waste I have spent some time researching alternatives, and now all the acrylic I use is made from 100% recycled materials. It’s also free from volatile organic compounds and hydrofluorocarbon, making it more environmentally friendly as well. It is important to me that I am not contributing to the increase of plastic waste, but am doing something to re-purpose some of it.
What was it that impelled you to change your materials?
I felt that up-cycling some of the plastic waste would mean that I was not contributing to more plastic in the world and, in a very small way, could stop some plastic being dumped.I say small as my work is handmade and not mass produced, so my total production for the year could fit on a table top.However, I feel that by raising the issues and letting people know recycled acrylic exists means I might inspire larger companies who use acrylic to do the same.
Was it hard to find the materials?
To find the materials I did some searches on Google and had some samples sent from various companies.I wanted to look closely into which ones had the most recycled material content. I was delighted when I found Green Cast acrylic, which is made from 100% recycled materials.
What’s the recycled acrylic like to work with? Are you pleased with the results?
The first samples I tried did not give me the same results, but I did a number of test strips, altering my heat timing and pressure, and I’m now very happy with the results I can achieve.What else are you doing to lessen your environmental impact?
I have a number of bins in my studio which I use for sorting out different types of materials for recycling. I have spent some time researching biodegradable packaging. I have green jiffy envelopes (padded with paper not bubble wrap) and brown paper tape (rather than plastic tape), cardboard boxes to pack my items in, both individually and for sending to galleries, and ribbon made with wood pulp!This means my packaging will biodegrade quickly and could even be put on a compost heap! Some gardeners recommend adding these materials if a compost heap is too moist, so I am happy about that.
I work from home and walk everywhere in Bristol, so do not have to run a car.
In January I am showing my work at the Bluecoat Display Centre in Liverpool in an exhibition called ‘Journeys In Mind’. It is about raising awareness about mental health. This is another subject close to my heart and one that I feel passionately about.I have decided to be open about my family’s experiences in a hope that it will give others strength to know that things can change.I feel it is time that mental health was not something we hide and are ashamed of, but something we discuss openly and support each other through.
I am also in talks with Garsington Opera about an exciting project with them.They want me to make a special range of jewellery using leaves from their grounds.I have done this before for weddings so am exited to see what I can create for them.I love making more personal site specific pieces – they seem to have a real meaning for their wearers.
Many thanks to Sue for the interview. We really appreciate the efforts that she’s gone to and admire how she’s proven it’s possible to maintain high quality, whilst lessening environmental impact. Head this way to view Sue’s online collection with us. You can also use our commissioning form on Sue’s page to contact her and order a bespoke piece of jewellery….
Are you a maker of contemporary craft based here in the UK? Applications are open for the multi award winning The Contemporary Craft Festival June 2018 and the deadline is fast approaching! This event in Devon is one of the UK’s largest and much loved craft events, and the friendly, festival feel makes it a popular choice for makers. The sun shines most years too! Approximately 200 makers are chosen to exhibit their work and many of our makers here on madebyhandonline are selected each year. Selection is a tricky process though, as so many makers want to take part. This means that an application that really shows off your work and makes you stand out from the crowd is essential. We caught up with Festival director Sarah James to find out a bit about the show and to see what she thinks makes a strong application…
2018 is a biggie…15 years of the Contemporary Craft Festival! Can you tell us a bit about how it all started?
It doesn’t seem such a long time ago but when you see my son towering over me, and he was 7 months old when we did the first Festival in 2004, I know we have come a long way. I’ve got a few wrinkles and grey hairs, but it’s been a wonderful experience and the years have flown by.
The Contemporary Craft Festival came about when three Bovey Tracey craft businesses joined forces and formed a non-profit making company with the aim to use craft as a catalyst for rural regeneration. The Festival was to showcase the very best in British craft, create a new, sustainable and strong market place for contemporary craft, but also to bring greater prosperity to the town of Bovey Tracey. Some European funding was secured and they looked for a Project Manager to put everything together and luckily, they chose me. I was made a director a few months later and I’ve been at the helm ever since. The Festival is now run by a small and lovely team and we also run 3 other events (Made by Hand Cardiff & Cheltenham and the Nourish Festival).
You always have such a great variety of makers at the show. How do makers get involved and how do you choose between them?
The makers are the backbone of the Festival and the reason why 10,000 visitors make their way to Bovey Tracey every June. We put a call out for makers from September the year before the Festival. We have an electronic application form, which is easy to navigate. We ask for 6 images in two files sizes. The smaller file size is for the selection day and we only use the bigger file size if the maker is selected. The larger files are used for PR and possibly used in our leaflets, posters, adverts and banners. We don’t have a budget to commission photography so if you have great pictures, you have a better chance of being used in our marketing campaign.
We receive hundreds of applications from makers from all around the UK and so we put together a new selection panel comprised of 3 industry specialists every year. We might ask a curator, a maker, a design journalist, a craft retailer, an educator from higher education and leaders of craft organisations to be part of the selection panel. We gather soon after the deadline and sit in a darkened room and choose the Festival.
Can you tell us a bit about StartUp?
StartUP has been a successful, new area at The Festival. For a number of years, we had a section called One Year On, but we noticed that one year wasn’t quite enough time to produce a decent body of work. So, we re-branded the area as StartUP and makers in their first 2 years of business can apply. These makers get the same great opportunity of being at the Festival, with the added bonus of a dedicated area for StartUp businesses, the only difference is that you pay less to take part. We want to encourage as many new businesses to take part and give them the confidence to continue with their practice.
So, we know you don’t select the makers yourself and, like us, you’ve seen many applications and images of makers’ work over the years, so what would be your top tips for makers to help their applications stand out?
The application process focuses almost entirely on the images of the work. We do ask for details about the makers’ practice but, as we have hundreds of applications, we do not look at websites and so images are the key to the success of the application.
If you’re a maker considering applying, it’s important that you choose a recent collection of work for your application. The collection you photograph must form a coherent group, whether it be by style, texture or colour. For example, even if you have a number of different collections, if you are a jeweller, we only want to see one collection. This helps the selection panel, who may be seeing your work for the first time, have confidence in your visual language and that you can translate that into a knock-out stand at the Festival.
For selection, it is best to photograph the work with minimal or no background props, non-styled shots work best for selection.
Make sure the pictures are in sharp focus and please photograph the whole object, no detail shots are required. The images we look for are really quite plain, no need for arty angles or creative shots. We are looking for good clear images of what you do. Also, unless you are 100% certain that you can take excellent pictures yourself, I highly recommend that you invest in a good photographer, it will be worth it.
When is the deadline for applications and when will makers know whether they’ve been selected?
The deadline for the main section of The Contemporary Craft Festival is 6pm Friday December 1st, 2017. For StartUP, you have a little longer, 6pm January 26th 2018. You will be informed within 7 days of the deadline date. You can find the online application forms here.
Outside the main marquees you always curate a really interesting mix of activities, including makers demonstrating, workshops and delicious food and drink. Can you tell us a bit about your plans for 2018?
I love putting together all the other areas of the Festival. We work with a huge amount of interesting and amazing businesses who make it happen. The gorgeous Audrey, our Craft Cinema bus, will be returning, as well as the Pottery Showdown and our latest feature ‘Out of the Woods’.
We’re delighted that The Boat Building Academy from Lyme Regis will be bringing a beautiful display of handmade boats and will demonstrating boatbuilding, a first at the Festival. Otter Surfboards will be demonstrating for the first time, shaping their wooden surfboards, so there is a theme emerging! We are also developing an area for our teenage visitors and we are working with tech agencies and makers to put together activities that we hope will encourage young adults to take part. Accompanied Under 18s are free to enter the show next year with a hope that we can encourage more teenagers to engage with the Festival.
The full programme of activities, workshops and demonstrations will be uploaded onto the website in January and we are really excited to celebrate 15 years of making in Bovey Tracey next year. I’ll see you there.
In just over 2 weeks’ time Cardiff’s prestigious City Hall will be hosting Made By Hand Wales for the 4th year. Organised by the team behind The Contemporary Craft Festival and formerly at Tredegar House near Newport, this contemporary craft event just keeps getting better and better. 135 selected makers will be exhibiting their work, including lots of our madebyhandonline makers (Suzanne Breakwell, Helen Brice, Hannah Dowding, Virginia Graham, Helen Round and Su Trindle to name just a few). We’re really looking forward to catching up with everyone.
We’ll be at City Hall for the whole event and we’ll be sponsoring a maker award again this year. This means that we’ll be joining the judges and enjoying the privilege of seeing everything set up before the show opens to the public.
As well as seeing all the exhibitors, there will be workshops and demonstrations for visitors to enjoy and the popular ‘Pottery Showdown’ will be returning, featuring some of the 2017 finalists from the BBC’s hit TV show. Here are some pictures from the event last year to give you a flavour of what to expect…
A treasure trove of a stand by Katie Almond Ceramics!
Fabulous shapes and colours from Katy Luxton Jewellery.
Anya Keeley demonstrating how she makes her wondrous creatures.
Gorgeous knitwear and accessories by Sian O’Doherty.
Vibrant, layered screen prints by Print Garage. He’ll be demonstrating at the show this year.
Our display in the foyer of City Hall showcasing a selection work by our makers.
Expressive stitch by Cath Peet of Loosethread.
A beautiful display from Hannah Dowding.
Ruth Green’s wonderfully colourful and happy display.
Precious metals, gems and vitreous enamel perfectly combined by Cathy Newell Price.
Our director Katie was invited to write a blog post for the Made By Hand Wales website, with a special focus on some of the exhibitors. She was asked to select five favourite makers who’ll be taking part in the show this year. A tricky task! Head this way to see who she picked.
We’re really pleased to support this event alongside fellow sponsors Cardiff Council, Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Potclays, Make it in Wales, Kings Monkton School and Learn Cardiff.
Made by Hand will be at City Hall, Cardiff, from 3rd to 5th November.
Paper artist Jennifer Collier has been a maker and advocate of makers for many years. Jennifer works with papers, transforming them into textural forms, often led by their original narratives, and making exquisite everyday objects from stitched vintage maps, books and envelopes. She’s seen, loved and bought craft at shows and in galleries all around the UK and overseas, and her own work has been featured in over 60 magazines and 15 books about craft. Her wealth of knowledge and experience is hugely respected by contemporary craft organisations, her customers, her fellow makers, and by us here at madebyhandonline. We’re really happy to have her relaunching our Maker’s Choice blog series, which takes a very privileged look at a maker’s personal craft collection, providing insight into their own work at the same time as enabling us to celebrate lots of makers in one go…
Can you remember the first piece of contemporary craft that you bought and what it was that attracted you to it? Having been in business for 18 years now I cannot remember the first piece I ever bought, but the piece that I still have, and enjoy every day, is a pair of felted red slippers by Suzanne McCulloch (now of The Dolly Tub). We were both on the North West Arts Boards ‘Setting Up Scheme’ when we graduated, and at the time she was doing contemporary felt making, and also making non-functional garments. Even though these are meant to be functional children’s slippers I was drawn to them as the scale made them non-functional to me, and the colour reminded me of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
These have moved house with me many times over the years, but are always displayed somewhere that I can enjoy them every day.
When you’ve exhibited your work at recent events, which other makers’ work have especially caught your eye? Whilst exhibiting at NY Now in New York I ALWAYS adore the beautiful bright work of Lynsey Walters. Last year I treated myself to one of Lynsey’s beautiful mustard and grey necklaces and even bought a cardigan in NY to match it. I also adore the work of Gilly Langton; I don’t wear much jewellery, but like Lynsey’s work, this is incredibly wearable and comes in bright bold colours. The necklace of Gilly’s that I got at NY Now in January is made from hand dyed elastic finished with a piece of silver, and I wear it all the time.
Tell us about some of your favourite purchases (or gifts if they were given to you). For years I have always coveted the work of Samantha Bryan and I always wanted to own one of her fairies. 3 years ago I co-curated an exhibition at my gallery Unit Twelve called ‘madebyhandonline presents….’ with Katie, the director of madebyhandonline, to showcase some of the best on this beautiful site, and Sam’s was some of the work we showed. I adored seeing the fairies every day and was so gutted when the exhibition came to an end that my husband bought me one as an anniversary present.
I adore the work of Anya Keeley and was lucky enough to get one of her brush sculptures for Christmas a few years ago, which now sits on the microwave with the beautiful work of Jessica Thorn, who I also love, and the beautiful glass work of Vinegar and Brown Paper.
I only ever wear contemporary jewellery and just love the work of Lindsey Mann, and I bought a necklace from her a few years ago. I was lucky enough to also get a pair of her earrings last year on my wedding anniversary.
My husband Iain of Print Garage is a fellow maker, so as well as having excellent taste he never begrudges spending money on handmade, and is brilliant at taking hints!
What other sort of work are you drawn to? Are you attracted to work that has a familiarity or connection to your own practice? I am always drawn to the simply breathtaking work of Julia Jowett, as I adore the combination of materials, the brave use of white space and, most importantly, the incredible attention to detail and minute stitches. I am lucky enough to own this beautiful framed piece and it is on the wall right near where I sit in the lounge so I enjoy it daily. Julia, and her incredible work, have made me fall in love with hand stitch again and made me remember to relish the making process and enjoy every piece I make…
Do you feel there’s a theme to the pieces you own? The main theme is that the work has to be handmade, have its own unique voice and that there is integrity to the maker practice. We own A LOT of ceramics, and I think it is because it is something I have never done, so it feels like a magical process that I do not understand. I think I am also drawn to the idea of functionality too, though many of the pieces I own are intended to be functional I do not use them in this way. We have so many ceramic pieces that when we were redecorating the kitchen we put in an ‘objet d’art’ shelf to house them, with work by Virginia Graham (including a one off piece she made as a birth gift for my son), Lisa Ellul, Rebecca Callis, Cath Ball, Tone von Krogh and work from Ruth Singer’s ‘Interlace’ project.
Where do your purchases live? We have craft on every available surface and wall in our home. Necklaces that I own are hung over my mirror, so even if I am not wearing them I can still enjoy them. Every window sill houses work, so a Jo Pond brooch sits in its opened box on the window sill on the landing, alongside other favourite pieces, including a Katie Almond cup.
A Libby Ward brooch was bought for the sole purpose of completing a collection on the bedroom wall.
And a beautiful stitched framed artwork by Emily Notman sits in the lounge window next to a vintage sewing machine and both serve as a constant source of inspiration. We also have framed artworks going all the way up the stairs, so it always takes visitors ages to pop up stairs to the loo!
Do you have a favourite piece and what’s the story behind it? My current favourite is by Richard McVetis, and was a 40th Birthday present earlier this year. I adore the intricate simplicity of his work and the meticulous nature of his tidy stitches. We have shown his ‘Units of Time’ series at Unit Twelve, where each is titled by the time it takes to make (this is 50.29, so a bargain no matter what my husband paid for it, given the amount of time spent on it!).
I have since been following Richard’s career with interest, as not only is his work stunning, but he is a thoroughly lovely chap, and I was gob smacked when I received this piece as a present.
Do you buy contemporary craft as presents and if so what sort of work do you choose? I love the colourful work of Rachel Butlin, as it is very affordable and wearable and she has work at all different price points. I often go for ceramics as they are functional, which is great for the harder to buy for in the family. And the beautiful print work of Ruth Green is always perfect for gifts as it never fails to make the recipient smile.
What’s your most recent purchase? My favourite place to buy is at the amazing Contemporary Craft Festival, because as well as the festival atmosphere, great food and sunshine, you have all the best makers in one place to choose from. We bought even MORE ceramics this year; my favourite of which was by Harriet Elkerton who makes her maquettes from paper to create her moulds, so you can see the creases and folds the paper has formed, which I cannot help but adore. We were lucky enough to have some amazing wins at the raffle in aid of the Bovey Youth Café, that Sarah the organizer supports every year, and I am now the proud owner of a 4 leaf clover piece by Suzanne Breakwell and a trug by Jane Crisp, both of whom I have been coveting for a few years now.
If you could write the ultimate wish list which makers’ work would be on it? First is Kasasagi, whose work in paper intrigues me. I also love the work of Katie Lowe, especially pieces like ‘Eleven’ where one of the vessels break the confines of the frame.
I love the bright bold geometric jewellery of Tracey Falvey and simply adore the stitched elegance of Liz Cooksey’s work, who I have managed to just confirm for the ‘Cuts the Mustard’ exhibition at Unit Twelve, on 11th Jan- 21st April 2018.
Well that’s a wish list we share! Thank you so much to Jennifer for writing for us about such a beautiful, personal collection. You can follow the links above to find out more about all the makers she’s featured and head this way to see and buy Jennifer’s work with us here on madebyhandonline. Thanks again!