Just 1 month until Made By Hand Cheltenham…an interview with the director & team MBH!


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!

Find all the makers mentioned in this interview (and more) in the Made By Hand Cheltenham exhibitor list.

8th – 10th March 2019: Made by Hand at The Town Hall, Imperial Square, Cheltenham, GL50 1QA

Opening Times: Friday 10am – 5pm, Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 10am-4pm.

Tickets (per day): Adult £7 (£6 concs), Adult Supersaver Weekend Ticket £13 (£11 concs), Accompanied Children Under 18 FREE.

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