If like me you like to buy unique presents for people at Christmas and prefer to shop locally, then you will have been more than aware of the vast number of ‘craft’ shopping opportunities that were available to us in Nottinghamshire this year. We may ask ourselves, at a time when goods are so easily mass produced all over the globe and readily transported to us in record time, why is there this steady uprise in the making and selling of handmade items? Has it become trendy to make your own or is it a result of the current economic downturn? Are we getting bored of the replicated products we see on all the shelves, in all the shops, and are instead striving for originality? Or could it be that we are starting to value again the time and care that is spent on something that has been made from start to finish by one person’s skilful hands.
According to the UK Craft Council the consumption of craft has been on the increase for quite a number of years. Their 2010 study showed that 40% of the adults in their sample had purchased a craft object and 23% would consider buying craft. It also showed that the greatest demand was for contemporary or ‘cutting edge’ craft with 97% of craft buyers supporting this market. It might be worth making the distinction at this point, between the different categories that handmade can be grouped into.
By definition, to ‘craft’ something is to make it with one’s own hands so this would appear to cover a wide range of objects. However, currently this seems to range from something you made impulsively out of card, with the kids on a wet Saturday afternoon, to the kind of objects d’art you might see at the acclaimed ‘Lustre’ exhibition which features at Lakeside Art Centre in November. In the Craft Council research the words ‘authenticity’, ‘quality’ ‘handmade’, ‘workmanship’ and ‘genuine’ were all attributed to the genre.
Is the name we give to the work that is typically produced by graduates who have honed their skills academically and have created a business which involves making, marketing and selling their own pieces. We tend to look upon this as the ‘high end’ of the craft market and it would be most likely to be sold at larger handmade events, such as ‘Craft in the City’ in Waterstones, rather than the local church Christmas fair. It is this market that the Craft Council’s 2015 three year strategy supports, in their evaluation of craft trends and their impact on policy and practice.
Always a tricky one this, and without getting into the ‘what is art?’ debate, we tend to attach this label to things that are made purely for their aesthetic value rather than their everyday use. Whereas craft objects tend to be created for their practical aspects and are often born out of a need for something that didn’t previously exist. Let’s take the tea cosy as a good honest utilitarian Nottingham example – you don’t want your tea to go cold whilst it’s mashin’ duck!
So, do you need to be creative to be able to do crafts? Well, not entirely. Sometimes learning the steps to make something and being technically minded is all you need to produce a perfectly presented set of greetings cards or an origami animal. Natural creativity is generally more expressive and something that comes and goes. The creator can find themselves frustrated when an idea they had doesn’t quite work out the way they imagined it and this is often the artist’s nemesis. But without doubt, undertaking some kind of creative pursuit has been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on our well-being. It may be just about finding the one that suits you.
How creative is Beeston?
Very! There are many different groups of artists and makers networking and planning exhibitions as we speak. If you were lucky enough to visit last year’s ABC Arts Trail – twenty five artists at twelve venues – you will already be aware of the wealth of talent we have in Beeston and the surrounding areas.
In fact one Beestonian, Marysia Zipser, was so taken by the cultural and creative richness of this town she set up ACT (Art-Culture-Tourism) in December 2013. According to her recent interview in the West Bridgford Wire, she is ‘on a mission to make Beeston the art and culture capital of the UK.’ Although she ran ACT voluntarily for the past three years, in May 2016 it became an official registered organisation.
On a smaller scale there are community craft groups currently running from Two Little Magpies, Beeston’s newest gift shop which houses a fantastic selection of locally produced cards, prints, textiles, jewellery and garments. There is gallery space at Mish Mash on Chilwell’s Creative Corner as well as some of the local restaurants and tea rooms, and regular workshops at Artworks, Heidi’s Home Furnishings and The Fabric Place.
Connections are being made and friendships being forged and we are well on the way to having our own creative ‘hub’ where many of these creatives can share space and ideas and maybe make preparations for that ‘creative revolution.’
Facebook communities you can join: Creative Beeston, Sew Notts, Made in Beeston
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