Author Archives: Mike

  1. The Great Northern continues to champion new makers!

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    The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair celebrates its 10th anniversary when it opens its doors this weekend. Amongst the 150 exhibiting makers, there’ll be some familiar faces – some of whom have supported the show since it launched back in 2008 – and a host of new-comers. Once again the Great Northern Graduate Showcase will feature some of the best emerging talent to come out of the summer’s degree shows (see more about this below!).
    We love the inspirational atmosphere of the GNCCF for visitors and exhibitors alike – the standard of makers exhibiting is always exceptionally high, and of course we always love catching up with familiar makers as well as learning about new makers, in particular those selected by the GNCCF team each year to receive the invaluable opportunity to exhibit in such a respected setting.
    We’re very keen to support new businesses too and have been pleased to sponsor the Best New Business award at the show for the past 7 years. This award is given to a maker who has only been in business for up to 5 years. We’re excited to see the range of new talent taking part this year, with eye-catching and inspiring work by Anna Lisa Smith (textiles) and Alice Heaton (glass)

    as well as Rosie Deegan (metal) and Amy Elizabeth Design (glass)

    just these four show what a difficult decision we have to make! Do visit the GNCCF site for a full and very tantalising list of exhibitors:

    Great Northern Graduates
    Twelve new designers, who are amongst the UK’s best up-and-coming creative graduates, have been selected to exhibit in the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair’s Great Northern Graduates showcase.
    This handful of talented graduates, from seven different universities around the UK, were selected by curator and lighting designer Claire Norcross from their degree shows and from this year’s New Designers event in London, enabling them to showcase their work to the GNCCF’s audience of around 6,000 visitors across four days.
    Commenting on the selection, which includes furniture, lighting, ceramics, textiles and jewellery, curator Claire Norcross said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring together this diverse and exciting group of new graduates, whose work demonstrates that the traditional notion of craft, through recognised forms, handmade techniques and material experimentation, is as relevant to the commercial design world, as it is to the contemporary craft market.”

    There are several ‘home grown’ graduates from Manchester School of Art, including furniture designer Jesse Cracknell, who has created a stunning body of hand made and CNC manufactured furniture inspired by the tradition of Japanese rock gardens.

    Jesse is joined by MMU ceramic artists Ryan Gauge and Marged Owain. Ryan has developed a ceramic and film installation for the show, which is a physical visualisation of the correlation between modern youth cultural identity and their involvement with brand and marketing. In contrast to this, Marged’s collection of handmade objects commemorate and celebrate traditional Welsh craftsmanship, specifically the craft of the butter maker and the quarryman.

    The GNG showcase also includes the work of two textile designers from Manchester School of Art, Florence Pinsent and Sarah Tommins. Florence will show one of her many quilts which are an abstract interpretation of everyday life in glorious pattern and colour, while Sarah has created a collection of knitted clothing exploring the scale, textures and minimal structures within architecture and urban living.

    Also within textiles are two further graduates, Emma Boyd-Madsen from Glasgow School of Art and Tor Ewen from Edinburgh College of Art. Emma’s collection of sculptural knitted objects, inspired by Scandinavian architecture, suggest functional seating solutions, while Tor has created a body of printed and three dimensional textile objects, which take their inspiration from the urban architecture of Indian cities.

    Pushing the boundaries of jewellery design are Ruth Elvira Gilmour from Glasgow School of Art and Hayley Grafflin from Sheffield Hallam University. Ruth’s cross disciplinary approach exhibits wearable objects made from porcelain, steel, plastic and gold that explore our relationship with the earth. Hayley creates highly tactile jewellery which communicates the hidden beauty within gritty urban landscapes.

    In contrast to the urban environment Tara Squibb is influenced by her surrounding landscape of the Powis Castle estate, to create ceramic forms which are snapshots of sedimentary erosion, created by water or the wind and its effects on surfaces.

    The work of two talented furniture designers completes the GNG showcase in the form of Mark Laban, a graduate of the MA from Central St Martins and Alexander Hay, a graduate in 3D Design at Northumbria University. Mark creates digitally crafted rustic furniture, exploring the relationship between the natural and artificial through a hybrid aesthetic, while Alex takes inspiration from nature and Scandinavian design influences, to create simple, functional and beautiful pieces that will stand the test of time.

    This 10th anniversary show promises to be an unmissable landmark in a history of presenting inspiring work by the country’s finest makers, and is open to the public on:
    Friday 13th October, 10am-6pm
    Saturday 14th October, 10am-6pm
    Sunday 15th October, 10am-5pm

    In the heart of Manchester at Upper Campfield Market, Campfield Arcade, Manchester M3 4FN.
    For further information on the show, visit
    Twitter @GNCCF

  2. Corrinne Eira Evans’ research trip. Part 3

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    Jeweller Corrinne Eira Evans is just home from Canada researching First Nations artists – we’ re really looking forward to seeing their influences in Corrinne’s new jewellery collections, and an exhibition she will be curating in the near future (see below!). In this third and final part of her blog, she describes meeting First Nations Kwakwaka’wakw artist Francis Dick in Victoria, BC.

    “After the time away at Alert Bay we had a few days rest in Victoria BC, gathering our thoughts and inspiration on the beautiful place.

    Contact continued and a meeting with Francis Dick, a well known local First Nations Kwakwaka’wakw artist, was confirmed. We met in an amazing pub, ‘The Swans’ in Victoria: inside were large sections of carvings, paintings, a framed Chilkat blanket and a ‘copper’ (a large almost shield like piece of copper that has a T shape within it representing wealth within their culture).

    Francis, a very lovely bubbly lady chatted about her varied work mediums, carving, engraving, paintings and prints all with the North West coast influence. She spoke about her culture and the political issues regarding the Canadian government and the First Nations peoples. In fact wherever I travelled and spoke to First Nations peoples the past inflictions and suppressions on their culture were strong and a part of the art they create today. As with all cultures, art is a way of expressing, communicating and dealing with current and past issues and all around the Island more understanding of what has gone on is being communicated from exhibitions, museums and First Nations artists themselves in the movement of reconciliation.

    As we chatted regarding collaborative work things got exciting and she invited us to her apartment come art studio around the corner. On the walls were beautiful prints she had created and a desk set up with engraving tools. Francis showed us how she did her North West coast cultural engraving on a piece of copper and then invited me to have a play, such great fun, but my first attempt was pretty poor. A lot of practice and expertise has gone into all the art she creates.

    Dick talked about their salmon preserving: salmon was the main source of protein for aboriginal peoples to eat. During the salmon season they would catch enough to store and eat over the winter months. Smoked in specialist smoke houses with Alder wood for a number of days they then store them: they still carry out this scared ritual as it’s a big part of their culture and depicted widely in their art. Francis was very kind and let us try some of this beautifully smoked salmon, it was delicious.

    We arranged to meet later in the week to carry out some more art work before we left but unfortunately Francis became really busy and so we didn’t manage to get back together in time before our departure.

    During our stay it was the anniversary of 150 years of Canada, so when going around galleries and exhibitions within Victoria we were very lucky in that they were showcasing a lot of local First Nations art work. The carvings are just so beautiful and the scale of some of the items takes your breath away and is extremely awe inspiring. All of the art works had meaning from cultural stories behind them. Different creatures and shapes depicting different emotions, characteristics, journeys, directions and stories of the Thunderbird (a supernatural creature coming to earth from the sun to start the first tribe) and the finding of the ‘whole person’.

    This trip has been invaluable to the direction of my work, not just the meeting with the amazing Kwakwaka’wakw peoples but also in experiencing the wildlife and nature connected to their art and confirming an understanding of how everything is connected, you can’t separate the art from natural surroundings or from everyday life and objects. Art is used in passing down their history, ancestry and cultural understanding. Passing techniques on from generation to generation, techniques of creating for survival, blankets, boxes, baskets, techniques to share and create together as families and tribes using materials around them, given to them from the earth. Meeting and being there made me realise even more that art isn’t a separate entity, art is life itself for everybody to enjoy – a tool to express, a tool to invent, a tool to build, a tool to educate. I’m very much looking forward to getting back in the workshop and using all this inspiration and education and the continual connection and collaboration with these lovely people, working together to create.

    I hope in my travels I have ignited your interest in this magical place and culture and very much look forward to showing you lots more in the exhibition I will be curating at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen at the Riverside Gallery in 2020.”

    All photographs by Andrew Oliver.

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