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.