Category Archives: reports

Handmade in Edinburgh report

Another one to watch.
Another one to watch.

I visited Handmade in Britain, at Chelsea Town Hall, in 2014 and remember writing a report on it then and I don’t know what I was expecting but I remember feeling a little underwhelmed. Perhaps it was my expectation, a little too high, what with it being in London. I went to Handmade in Edinburgh with no expectations, having not visited The Hub venue before, and was delighted with it, the opening really felt like something special, something worth celebrating.

None of my close friends had applied to exhibit, I guess it was a bit of a risk as this was the first Handmade in Edinburgh, and no one really knew how it would go. So I’ve yet to talk to any of the exhibitors to find out the general publics response, to gauge whether it worked financially. As this was a paid entry selling fair it may have put people off going, not necessarily because of the actual cost (though my grandmother did question the £4 entry and asked why I hadn’t got her a free ticket!), but because it is unusual to have a selling show like this that asks an entry fee. I’ve no idea about the economics of this model, in some ways it might put potential visitors off, then again it might mean you only get serious buyers coming to see the work. I teach and do volunteer work as well as my own jewellery and do have a problem with excluding people from things, if a family wanted to visit but the entry fee mounted up then that might be a day out spent elsewhere. I think art and craft should be open to all and be there to inspire future generations of artists and makers. Maybe I’m just saying this as I don’t feel there are enough contemporary craft fairs and other events of this calibre in Scotland. When in London there are loads of free contemporary art and craft things to see, so the entry fee seems less important there. Having said that the quality of work was mainly worth the small entry fee. Maybe if this year was seen as a success there will be more applicants to choose from next year.

I will be biased in mentioning Maike Browning and her beautifully saw pierced silver jewellery. A former resident of Mull, where she had a gallery that I stocked, Maike’s work is full of tiny details that have been patiently cut from sheet. Very detailed, delicate work that was cleanly exhibited.

Another highland maker is Helen Michie, whose distinctive style of ceramic tiles caught my eye with its bold colours and delicate natural forms contrasted with a smokey raku firing.

There were lots of lovely homewares, showing great craftsmanship and design consideration, such as the unusual and playful shapes of Penny Withers ceramics. Combined with her subtle colour pallet these pieces would look great in many settings.

I enjoyed Ben Esthop’s wooden pieces, combined with colourful resin, making a feature out of the cracks in the wood. His use of the materials looks very contemporary, making what usually might be seen as a problem a part of the work and exploiting the character of the material to great effect. It’s work like this that can inspire, it shows creative thinking in problem solving, it should be something that can be seen by all.

Christmas stock now on Etsy

Eeek! So I’ve been so overwhelmed with orders for my Christmas pieces that I’ve just hastily put together an Etsy shop. This is literally the last of the Christmas stock, including the last 3 pairs of robins, which were produced after they completely sold out. You can still order through Facebook by messaging my page, by email or by stopping me in the street! So, almost sold out and I won’t be doing any more making till next year, other that a couple of private commissions, so order now to avoid disappointment.

Shop now on Etsy

A visit to London Design Fair 2016

The guy on the table next to me cheekily looked towards the pastry and cappuccino that had just arrived in front of me “it’s rather late for breakfast!” He commented. I had to agree. My excuse being that I actually had no idea what time it was, only that I hadn’t eaten since leaving home in Ullapool at 4.15am. It was now 11.45, I had finally made it in to London, and was 5 minutes walk from the Old Truman Brewery and the London Design Fair.

I made a beeline for the Scotland: Craft and Design section, which was organised by Craft Scotland and Emergents. The distinctive design of the display was the first thing I noticed, a very contemporary polystyrene block system that had jagged mountains carved into the side, and a clean stepped surface to show the work on. After getting over what I thought was a very clever display, that made the most of the chosen materials properties, I did a quick run around the room.

As its a big show, and I wanted to see it all, it isn’t possible to spend too long in any one room. I had seen a lot of the Scottish makers work before but was struck by a couple of new collections from people who’s previous work I had seen. One was Melanie Muirs polymer clay vessels, a development from her usual jewellery pieces. Another favorite from the Scottish showcase was Jennifer Gray’s tiles and condiment sets made in jesmonite with brass details. Using digital technologies to design her pieces she is able to push her designs and combine them with traditional craft techniques to create new collections that are distinct from one another yet identifiably hers. She retains her style of cast pieces in this collection, with surprising details such as the hidden olive pick and a reassuring weight to the brass grinding spheres. The contemporary functional furniture of David Watson also caught my eye, in particular the coffee table made from laminated European oak, with the beautiful details that you only get in a handmade piece.

Having been out of the making loop for the best part of two years, with baby duties, I was reassured to see that nothing major had happened. No big changes in style or technological leaps that I had missed. There was lots of talk of “sustainable”, a lot of it with rather weak premise, one example being the use of hardwood from a small estate but no mention of a replanting plan and long term sustainable management of the woodland. On the other end of the scale one of India’s biggest industrial manufacturing companies had a showcase for their Punah Project, which is focused on recycling the tons of waste material produced in their manufacturing processes, to create new products. Rather than simply recycling metals, by melting them down, which uses a lot of energy and creates more waste, they look for new ways to up-cycle the waste in a more sustainable way and use it as the raw material for new designs. Such as using crimping waste to create designer shoes, which take the waste as it is and add value, working towards a more circular flow of materials. Being truly sustainable is not an easy thing to achieve, there is always energy used and materials wasted, but perhaps as I delve back into the studio I should be assessing my own practice more and designing Jewellery pieces informed by this.

Reports: my report for Emergents on the Craft Scotland conference in Dundee

Full report available on the Emergents website

Merlin Planterose, Go and See Report
Craft Scotland Conference – October 2013

Merlin Planterose

Merlin Planterose

As I stepped from the train station I was greeted by a blast of icy cold night air and quickly pulled my collar up and shoved my hands deep into my pockets before trudging up Perth Road. The sights and sounds of a Friday night in Dundee were familiar as I had been to University there but this was the first time I’d been back since graduating, having been so desperate to get back to the Highlands that I didn’t even stick around for the graduation ceremony. Despite this I was full of excitement about the next two days.

full report available on the Emergents website