Readers of our weekly newsletter, The Thread, may remember us recently mentioning the Made by Hand fair, which, for the first time in the event’s history, added Cheltenham to its programme of venues for 2018 (the show is also held in Cardiff and in the Devonshire town of Bovey Tracey). Having spent a little time reading about the event and taking a sneaky peak at the list of exhibitors, we were keen to see for ourselves what the fair offered.
We went on the first day of the show and spent the afternoon looking around, making notes and snapping pieces that caught our eye. I reckon that one of the loveliest things about visiting fairs is having the chance to meet the makers: a few actually commented on how their working week can be quite solitary, with them squirrelling themselves away in workshops and studios with only Radio 4 for company and, therefore, having the chance to meet people at shows was something they looked forward to. It was certainly interesting to gain some insight into the inspiration behind their work and the design process, from the first tentative sketches through to creating the finished pieces. Some of the designers were particularly industrious during the course of the show by running demonstrations, or just working away on new designs during the quieter moments: as onlookers, this offered a fascinating insight into how their work is created and a reminder of how much skill is involved in their craft. At times, I definitely got itchy fingers and longed to have a go myself!
We saw so many things we loved at the fair, and met so many friendly exhibitors, that it’s hard to choose who to highlight. However, we’ve managed to select some of our favourite makers and products to share with you.
Early on, we found ourselves gravitating towards Sue Brown’s stand to see what had attracted a number of people to gather round. It turns out that this charismatic and engaging artist was was mid-way through a demonstration of a fascinating process called collagraph printmaking, which results in prints with deeply textural surfaces. Sue is hugely inspired by birds and layers her work with pattern and texture; it is easy to see why her work was a big hit at the show. suebrownprintmaker.blogspot.co.uk
Ruth Green makes limited edition screen-prints which fuse together her passion for mid-century design with a love of the British countryside. Once her eye-catching prints have sold out, Ruth adapts some of her designs to print onto tote bags and brooches. I love her use of colour and the highly stylised designs which have a very of-the-moment Scandinavian look about them. www.worldoffox.com/ruthgreendesign
I confess that a few things drew me towards Lauren Aston’s stand: in part it was her vibrant hand-knitted work on the walls of her stand but also the sight of Lauren dressed in fabulously stylish shades of coral and red, knitting away with a pair of oversize needles and a gigantic ball of chunky wool placed on the floor beside her (apparently she was creating one of her super-chunky blankets). Lauren uses merino wool and specialises in bold knits in gorgeous colours which would create a real textural statement in the home. Her work is gorgeous and her enthusiasm infectious! www.laurenastondesigns.com
Of late, we’ve been busy developing some Home Relish Pinterest boards, one of which focuses on drawing together abstract imagery from the worlds of art and interior design: it’s partly for this reason that Iain Perry’s dynamic looking stand caught our eye. His screen prints feature saturated colour and layer upon layer of abstract form – ‘a psychedelic hallelujah to the hand made and hand printed’, as Iain himself describes them. As we were talking, Iain was busily screen-printing more work and explained to us that in today’s age of mass production and digital printing, it is important to sometimes remind people of the work that goes into creating his art by hand. For striking, super-cool walls, look no further. www.printgarage.co.uk
Von Allen – Heartfelt Dogs
I have a bit of a weakness for anything anthropomorphic, so Heartfelt Dogs’ collection of needle-felted wool dogs was right up my street! Von gets much of her inspiration from watching her own dog, Barney, alter his personality according to what he feels he might gain from doing so (a smart dog in my eyes!). All her dogs are one-off pieces and come beautifully dressed – interestingly, Von clothes them in vintage ranges from iconic dolls such as Sindy, Ken, Action Man and G.I. Joe, and ensures that they are dressed for the elements: as Von Allen points out, ‘we all hail from West Yorkshire, where the wearing of an overcoat is needed most of the year!’ vonallen.co.uk
I’ve always appreciated the skill and artistry involved in woodworking. There’s something about the natural beauty of wood and its versatility that I find particularly attractive. Takahashi McGil are a husband and wife team who create beautiful homewares from hardwood slabs which they slowly air dry over a number of years. They fully embrace the natural characteristics of the wood – the knots, voids, natural cracks and all – to create products which are sculptural and have a gorgeous richness of tone. Their stand was particularly striking and, based on the number of people crowding around it to get a better look, I’d say a real hit with visitors. www.takahashimcgil.com
You couldn’t fail to be impressed by the exquisite work of Colin and Louise Hawkins of Cotswold based Loco Glass. We loved their intricately patterned glass bowls which cast stunningly beautiful shadows on the surfaces upon which they were sitting. It’s certainly easy to see why their work is highly sought after across the world. www.locoglass.co.uk
Justine Allison’s work focuses on the simplicity and beauty of clay. We loved the delicate patterning and the sculptural shapes that she has created. Her stand was suitably pared-back to provide an understated backdrop for her gorgeous pieces. justineallison.blogspot.co.uk
The last stand we visited belonged to designer Kate Hollowood, who is rapidly creating a name for herself with her sculptural lighting inspired by the skylines of New York and Dubai. Kate uses her top-secret ‘Matrix’ composite material to create pieces which feel contemporary and unique. Whilst she usually focuses on creating bespoke lighting, visitors to her stand had the chance to pick up a set of three mini-lights – seen here – for just £20. katehollowood.squarespace.com
Since Saturday, I have been thinking about how, in the age of mass produced and ubiquitous goods, we often need to look at the work of these talented designer-makers to find pieces which are truly unique and have meaning. There is something quite inspiring about seeing the work of artisans who have honed their craft over many years to produce pieces of such extraordinary quality.