Thursday, 05 April 2012


If you itch to stitch or crave a craft, homemade is cool. Clare Russell on how to get involved

Written by Clare Russell

cn2Painted silk by Isabella Whitworth

At this year's Collect show at the Saatchi Gallery (11 to 14 May) there's an exhibition that proves beyond all doubt that 21st-century craft is taking the place once held by celebrity cookery shows in the nation's consciousness. It presents one-offs, limited editions and prototypes from contemporary craft designers such as Thomas Bohle, Oscar Narud and Max Lamb.

If you are in the grip of a similar crafting urge, then there are numerous places at which to indulge it – in courses and at the craft fairs springing up all over the country.

For instance, there are a range of courses available at The West Dean College in West Sussex. Situated in 6,400 acres of land on the western South Downs, the college was founded in 1964 by Edward James. Such stunning scenery is the perfect place to let your creative juices fl ow on one of the many courses offered.

cn1Double-walled bowl by Thomas Bohie

If jewellery is your thing, an introduction to making glass beads (13 to 15 April), with Barbara Mason, could be the perfect opening. Barbara studied with several leading American glass-bead artists and sells her work at bead fairs. Or you could try painting silk scarves with wax and dyes (20 to 22 April) with Isabella Whitworth, who trained as an illustrator before being inspired to make wax-resist painted textiles after living in Indonesia. But West Dean is just one college from a spectrum of places that offer equally good courses to learn everything from candle-making to sewing.

Perhaps you should visit a couple of fairs to become thoroughly au fait with what's so widely on offer these days and find the craft that appeals to most before booking any courses. Collect is one, of course, but there are many others. The Contemporary Craft Festival in Devon (15 to 17 June) features nearly 200 designer-makers from all over the UK, including silversmiths, glassblowers, textile artists, furniture makers, ceramicists and wood workers.

Abingdon Craft & Design Fairs (ACF) promotes traditional British crafts, including woodwork, fashion, jewellery-making and sculpture. It has several fairs coming up during the summer, including the Contemporary Arts, Crafts and Design Show (19 to 22 April) at the Medieval Abbey buildings in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, and the South of England Agricultural Show in Ardingly, West Sussex, from 7 to 9 June.

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