Do you have a local craft event near you? We love visiting the big shows, but there are some fantastic small craft fairs around the country where you’ll find exceptional makers. We are very lucky to have a few here in Devon and one of our favourites is Crux Craft Fair, which takes place before Christmas in a little village called Rattery. There aren’t many craft fairs that can say they’re still going strong after 27 years, but Crux continues to go from strength to strength. Built on a wholly justified reputation for high quality crafts by local designer-makers in an intimate and welcoming setting, Crux Craft Fair is an absolute gem and a popular choice for makers as well as visitors here in South Devon.
Former Crux exhibitor Niamh Geraghty Morris.
Applications are now open for makers to exhibit (in fact they close at the end of this week on Friday 21st April), so we caught up with Crux’s longest-serving organiser, who has also exhibited every year from the very beginning, Amanda Critchlow. Here we discuss this year’s event and find out how southwest designer-makers can apply….
Katie: I know your event very well as it’s one I attend every year with my family. Can you tell us a little bit about Crux Craft Fair?
Crux Craft Fair 2019. Photo credit: Viola De Photography.
Amanda: Our focus at Crux is to share high-quality crafts made by local designer-makers in a cosy, intimate and friendly atmosphere.
Crux has always been a craft fair organised and run by practising craftspeople. It was set up as a space to support local designer-makers who didn’t have a commercial outlet or access to the public market. We wanted to create a space that simultaneously celebrated the best southwest crafts while sharing them with visitors who appreciated and enjoyed the craft behind the product. We’ve come a long way from the cruck frame building that gave us our name but the original ethos and space we set out to create hasn’t changed.
The first Crux Craft Fairs were held in renovated barns that created this wonderful homely and intimate atmosphere. We have now been at the brilliant Rattery Village Hall for eighteen years, but we still create that cosy, warm and welcoming environment for visitors.
Flyers from previous Crux Craft Fairs in 2001, 2010 and 2017.
Katie: You’ve had the opportunity to grow Crux Craft Fair but decided to keep it to 30 stalls. Why was that?
Amanda: A number of reasons really, but it was mainly about holding true to our original aims.
Crux is first and foremost about supporting the southwest maker community. Keeping stall fees low is a key priority – meaning that new and emerging craftspeople feel able to apply. Moving to a larger venue and increasing to more than 30 stalls would mean charging exhibitors more and losing that intimate atmosphere.
In our current venue, we can also keep things more enticing for visitors. Parking and entry are free so you’ll often find people returning multiple times across the three days to browse and buy.
Former Crux exhibitor Peter Lanyon.
And from a more personal perspective, Crux is organised and run completely voluntarily as a passion project. The five current organisers get a free stall at the fair in return for their efforts throughout the year. No profit is made – we more-or-less break even every year. It’s a labour of love for the designer-maker community. Growing Crux into a bigger entity would mean it becoming a bigger responsibility and the fun would quickly drain away.
Katie: Yes, completely understand. We feel the same about holding onto original aims here at madebyhandonline. I love that you are keeping the focus on fun and enjoyment as well, what do you think is the best thing about running Crux?
Amanda: Bringing together the local designer-maker community is always an inspiring and rewarding experience.
Artisan craftspeople are often working alone in their workshops so relish the opportunity to meet and connect with other makers. We’ve heard about many friendships and collaborations over the years that have only happened because two makers met at Crux. Stallholders often talk of missing their stall neighbours after Crux is over. This is why we work very hard to create a welcoming space, not just for visitors but for makers too.
Former Crux exhibitor Penny Little.
I would say another aspect that helps is the lower exhibitor cost. Stallholders are under less financial pressure to make a large return. This helps everyone feel more relaxed and creates a supportive environment that I love being a part of.
Katie: Can you tell us a bit about your audiences? I’m thinking about makers who might be considering applying. Who visits Crux?
Amanda: We get a huge range of people from the craft curious to the niche enthusiast. However, I’d say the core of our visitors are what I would call ‘craft connoisseurs’. People that are serious about buying handmade items from highly skilled artisans. They know the value of items made by hand and respect the skill and craft that has gone into every piece. They also want to chat with the exhibitors, find out the story behind the products and the inspirations behind the designs. Makers at Crux definitely can’t be shy!
Former Crux exhibitor Another Shed Production. Photo credit: Viola De Photography.
For many of our visitors, Crux is a regular event in their annual diary. A place to meet friends and enjoy a leisurely browse, chatting with exhibitors about the intricacies of their craft. Stopping for lunch at our onsite cafe and then working their way back around the stalls to pick up those pieces they just couldn’t stop thinking about. The Crux Cafe has become a well-known and enjoyed element of the event.
Katie: I can definitely vouch for the amazing cakes! I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with some of our makers who have exhibited with you over the years, as well as discover new makers. Can you tell us a bit about how you select exhibitors and do you have any advice for applicants?
Amanda: The selection process for a craft fair is like designing any composition. You want to include a diverse variety of designs, crafts and mediums that complement one another and appeal to all ages, genders and tastes. We do have makers that apply every year but like to keep an even rotation – as a general rule, no one does more than three consecutive years. It’s always a challenging balance to strike.
When selecting exhibitors, we are fundamentally looking for good design and a high-quality process and finish. To show this, good quality product images and thorough product descriptions are essential. Aside from that, we are looking for unique designs that you won’t see just anywhere. And a good range of prices so that you have something enticing for all visitors – so don’t just include your most expensive items in your application.
We are always ready to welcome both emerging and established southwest makers into the fold. The breadth of creativity and skill held within the southwest alone is so inspiring and I’m always so excited to reveal our selection each year. I hope that can include some Made By Hand readers this year!
Former Crux exhibitor Adam Cornish.
Katie: Thank you Amanda. It’s great to find out a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes of your event and we’ll definitely look forward to seeing your exhibitor list and planning our visit after you’ve made your selections.
If you’re a maker and you’re interested in exhibiting at Crux Craft Fair, head to their website here. You’ll find all the information you need, such as timings, pricing and stand size. The deadline to apply is Friday 21st April.
Crux Craft Fair will be held between Friday 24th and Sunday 26th November in Rattery, South Devon.
See you there!