From Chelsea Craft Fair to its modern day successors
I began making my ‘wearable art’ painted clothes in 1986 and was soon introduced to the world of the craft festival by friend and artist Clare Johnson. Back in the day Clare generously shared a tiny stand with me in the Old Town Hall in Kings Road London, to show me the ropes.
This trailblazing event was Chelsea Craft Fair and ran for 32 years. It was imagined and organised by the wonderful Lady Phillippa Powell whose eclectic curation and boundless enthusiasm for the field of applied arts knew no bounds. She hosted press launches in her home, she was there for everyone – and she created an event which has never been rivalled in terms of its popularity and success.
Since her retirement the humble craft festival has grown into a highly sophisticated event – with shows such as MADE Marylebone, Handmade in Britain, and Craft Festival being three of my favourites. Craft moves forward with time and culture and we find marvellous objects of relevance and beauty in the world thanks to these beautifully curated and very special events.
Craft Festival is first, in Cheltenham in August 2021:
Visit Craft Festival in Cheltenham this August
I am delighted to be part of the Craft Festival in Cheltenham event this August. Entrance will be by pre-booked tickets only and lots of Covid safe measures will be in place. Finally there is the confidence to meet in public again after the surreal world of 2020, and we look forward to being able to see handmade objects in the real world and to talk to each other in the same space.
Organiser Sarah James has been curating the well known Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey for 18 years now and for 2021 is staging the event in 3 places:
• Cheltenham: August 13-15
• Bovey Tracey: September 10-12
• Bath: November 27-28
Find a Maker: discover the most beautiful handmade work
Sarah has also set up a wonderful public resource called Find a Maker which I recommend to you. It is a selected directory of over 200 makers and galleries and a business advisory service for its members. And whilst I’m at it here is my personal selection of 4 favourite jewellers and a gallery that can be found on the site.
Fine jeweller Daphne Krinos is known for her bold and architectural designs. She works with recycled gold, black oxidised silver and precious gemstones – and originates from Greece. When I first saw her work in the late 1980’s I had been living on a small sailing boat in the Greek archipelagos and recognised the colour and light of shallow Greek sea in her precise choice of stones for her pieces – She made my engagement ring and looking at it took me back there every day.
Daphne’s sculptural jewellery is instantly recognisable defined by bold use of colour form shape and texture. The graphic lines of oxidised silver offset vivid translucent stones dramatic articulated or layered compositions combine angular geometric forms in a mixture of metals.
Her own playful character shines through her work every year when we meet at shows I find her work refreshing exciting and increasingly powerful.
Here are her ‘Lime Tree’ earrings :
‘Come in the water’s lovely’. Helen Noakes work combines a resounding sense of fun with the power of a serious artist at work in just the right medium. Her pieces are monumental and poignant distancing us from a tiny world while emphasising the importance of man and nature. She uses carved resin to encapsulate and trap tiny animals and figures in still landscapes of ice-like quiet. Below is her ‘Solo Voyager ‘bangle.
I first saw the work of Alysa Freeman at the Bovey Tracey Craft Festival several years ago and the simplicity of her concept and subtlety of her work drew me in immediately. Alysa glues many many layers of old copies of Private Eye or The European newspaper together – dries the stacks for weeks – and then cuts and carves the new material into big simple shapes to make brooches earrings and neckpieces. The work looks like something from nature until you come very close to find yourself reading snippets of old news. She combines the material with eco silver structural elements to make lightweight and beautiful pieces of jewellery.
Bronwen Gwillim and I first met while she was working as an arts officer and her understanding of the role of ideas and practice are clear in her body of beautiful work in jewellery. Her role as maker combines with sharing through teaching to raise awareness about waste and the importance of ‘cleaning up’ our act. She collects plastic waste from the beach where she lives in Pembrokeshire in Wales and transforms these found soulless materials into colourful beautiful wearable jewellery.
As she says her work is ‘“Celebrating women who are playful expressive and thoughtful my jewellery is fuelled by a delight in the natural world and a desire to protect it.”This bracelet is made of plastic bottle tops found on the beach – and she teaches a workshop in how to make it.
Gary Wood and I opened Waller&Wood in Bath in 2015 when Quercus had their tiny and beautiful space also in Bath – and every jeweller I loved and approached to exhibit with us was already showing there! I am so delighted that Evie Williams reopened in Bradford on Avon in October 2020. She brings together fine art and contemporary craft by British artists and makers – seeking to champion interesting and affordable artworks by established and lesser known artists – and her selection is spot on.
Explore fantastic handmade work at Craft Festival Cheltenham
I hope you’ve enjoyed my mini-selection of incredibly talented craftspeople – and that you’ll join them (and me) at the Craft Festival in Cheltenham