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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Exhibitions - Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair

Star rating – 7/10

I’ve never actually been to a craft fair before – at least not one where you are expected to pay for the privilege of going to part with hard earned cash to purchase things – but as I got my hands on a couple of free tickets to this one I gave it a go. The fourth Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair is set in the newly anonymised and depersonalised glass and steel temple to Mammon that is Spinningfields; maybe better than a marquee, but not a setting to make the soul soar or to artistically inspire I would have thought.

And the first thing that struck me was how very expensive everything was. I appreciate the value of a hand crafted object as much as the next person, but to pay £15 for a single place mat, for example, is a bit wide of the mark in these hard pressed times. There were a few stalls that had some jewellery for under £40, but not very many it has to be said – most of the others had at least one nought, and maybe more, added onto that. So not for the faint hearted or financially stretched then.

But having had a little moan, the next thing I noticed was just how relaxed and happy all the stall holders were. There is obviously a lot to be said for making your living, or at least trying to do so, by using your hands and talents to create objects of beauty that other people appreciate enough to buy to install in their homes or about their persons. And some artists in particular I feel deserve a mention:

Clare Lane is a textile artist from Leeds whose pictures are one of the first things you see when entering the exhibition rooms. They are vividly coloured part textile pieces showing the decaying industrial heritage of beautiful cities like Manchester and Leeds, set against their more recent development in the shape of cranes, building sites and new gleaming towers. And her work is absolutely stunning. There are large canvasses, which can also be reproduced as prints. Clare’s website is, and in a week or so it will be updated with all the pieces on display at the craft fair. Please take a look – they are fabulous.

Jen Scott-Russell is a wonderful milliner based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. She creates beautiful head ware, and nearly tempted me to buy a sumptuous Louise Brooks 1920’s style purple number – but £150 seemed a tad extravagant at the time – see comments above – and whilst I would love to spend my days pretending to be in Brideshead or some other period lavish drama – I am not sure how well it would fit in at a football match or in the local park. However Jen is a lovely woman and a hat ambassador extraordinaire. Her website is .

Lastly, Emilie Taylor is a young artist from Sheffield whose pottery fuses chintz with tower blocks in a very original way. She is interested in high rise living as an object of art, and has attracted famous clients such as the Duke of Devonshire no less. You can see her work at .

So I met three very talented, charming and interesting women whose work is beautiful, and who are all passionate about what they do. I wouldn’t say I am completely won over to the idea of a craft fair as a destination event to pay for, but I did come out more uplifted by the experience of seeing their wares, and talking to them about their individual passions, which can’t be a bad thing.

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