Handmade in Britain 16: The Contemporary Crafts & Design Fair, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a Christmas shopping event at the beautiful Chelsea Old Town Hall showcasing the best in high-end design and craftsmanship from over 100 UK designer-makers. The Resident meets Piyush Suri, the creative force behind what has become one of the art calendar’s most eagerly anticipated events
Words: Mark Kebble
Why was it the right time to launch an event championing British craftsmanship a decade ago?
When I graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2003, after finishing an MA in textiles, I was looking for shows to exhibit my work. At that time, I found it very difficult to find the right show, so in 2007, oblivious to the economic crisis that had just set in, I focused myself on creating an event championing British craftsmanship – simply because there were no similar events.
How different was the very first Handmade in Britain event compared to what we see today?
I have learnt so much about organising events over the past ten years and I am still learning. The show has grown in every aspect: quality of the work, visitor numbers, show brand, marketing and promotion, and the awareness of handmade British products.
When I started the show, I was branded as either very brave or a fool to be starting something at that point. I faced lot of difficult situations, but I continued and used all my financial resources to keep the shows going. Now Handmade in Britain shows have created a reputation among trade buyers and collectors, and there is a waiting list of makers who want to participate in our show.
How would you say the crafts industry itself has evolved over the last decade?
Over the last decade, there has been a lot of awareness and support for the craft industry, and it has evolved a lot on a commercial level. The word ‘craft’ has been redefined, it is no longer considered a hobby, or associated only with crochet or knitting. We now see more craft makers successful in their ventures and are not relying on other day jobs to sustain themselves.
We see an increasing number of people more aware of what they are buying, it has now become all about the story of the product, how and where is it coming from. Even the big retail stores are collaborating with skilled craft makers and artisans to launch handmade products, emphasising the importance of crafts.
Is it a difficult time for craftspeople?
Being a craftsperson has always been challenging, and although there is much more support from various resources now, it still is difficult. Being in the crafts industry is not one of the financially lucrative careers, so craftspeople need support.
Handmade in Britain exists to support, promote and celebrate designer-makers who create their work in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We increase accessibility and visibility, create market opportunities and maintain high standards in the craft sector, whilst providing a comprehensive support program towards a bright future for British craft and design.
Handmade in Britain showcases a number of talented designer-makers:
What do you look for in designer-makers?
There are many things we look for in makers who apply for the show. The most important thing is their work, price points and its suitability to the target audience we cater to. We also look for a level of professionalism in terms of their website, branding and how they have displayed their work in other shows. It is very important for us that the work on display is of good quality.
What are you looking forward to most at this year’s fair?
We cannot wait to celebrate our 10th anniversary show. Handmade in Britain is bigger and better than ever before, with many established makers and well-known names returning who have supported us throughout our ten year journey to date.
Handmade in Britain will be held at Chelsea Old Town Hall from 11-13 November
Piyush Suri’s ones to watch at Handmade in Britain
1. Alison Stockmarr’s empathy for storytelling and recycling has an ethos of re-appropriation at its heart (pictured left). She rescues old books and reinvents their narratives by collaging layered pictures within their pages.
2. Yuta Segawa, a London based Japanese ceramic artist specialises in producing miniature pottery.
3. Jonathan Roger’s work is fully hand made using traditional blowing and finishing techniques. His stunning work features multiple overlays of colour and clear glass, which are revealed through the cold-working process. I am particularly looking forward to seeing his new lighting collection.