The Contemporary Craft Festival is a three day event which took place on 7-9th June in Mill Marsh Park on the edge of Bovey Tracey. I was persuaded to go to the Contemporary Craft Fair by my Mum who spoke highly of a previous ‘Made by Hand’ event she had attended at Tredegar House in 2010. I did not know what to expect as I have only been to small scale craft fairs in the past. I can honestly say that I was blown away by the calibre of the exhibitors at the Bovey Tracey festival. It wasn’t just the craft on display, it was the whole organisation of the day which impressed me. From the staff manning the car park and entrance gate through to the quality of the food vans and general layout of the festival. Each individual element came together to create the perfect English Summer day out.
I often worry that designer-makers are struggling to compete with mass produced imports and that the crafting industry is experiencing a downturn in the current economic climate. But the Contemporary Craft Fair has shown me there is a wealth of talented people designing and making here in the United Kingdom. Judging by the footfall and buzz of the crowd at the event, there is still a huge appetite for handcrafted creations. Anyone looking for a statement piece for their home, a collectors item of the future or a stunning one-of-a-kind gift would be spoilt for choice at the Contemporary Craft Fair.
The breadth of disciplines on display were particularly impressive. Designers were chosen from a diverse range of media and backgrounds. Visitors to the event could see work in glass, textiles, ceramics, leather, wood and much more besides. There were many highlights, but stand-out pieces included the clean lines of ceramicists such as Jill Shaddock and contemporary furniture designers like Cou Cou Manou. This contrasted sharply with Cleo Mussi’s maverick approach to mosaic making using reclaimed and upcycled ceramics. I was also particularly drawn to the whimsical Brain’s fairies sculptures of Samantha Bryan, a menagerie of mixed media creatures by Anya Keeley and the gentle humour behind Vicky Lindo’s textiles and ceramics.
I was also impressed with the emphasis on encouraging the next generation to enter into the world of design and craft. The ‘Aim Higher’ and ‘One Year On’ marquee housed designers who were in their first year of trading as a business and showcased higher education art and design opportunities in the South West. There was also an amazing Children’s Craft Tent, it offered a perfect opportunity to entice an even younger generation into the world of craft! Forget bog-standard cutting or sticking, the tent was alive with animation workshops, Japanese book making, lino printing, screen printing, mosaic making and even weaving looms for children to get to grips with. The Children’s Craft Tent was one of the busiest parts of the whole festival and it was really encouraging to see so many children enjoying the hands-on workshops available.
Whilst the quality of the craft was extremely high, this wasn’t a stuffy, highbrow event. It was child friendly, many families making a day of it by visiting the craft tent, watching the Punch & Judy show and enjoying relaxed picnics under the trees in the verdant surroundings of Mill Marsh Park. I think the Contemporary Craft Fair managed to strike the right balance between showcasing some wonderful work, but not losing sight of making the event a fun day out. As with all outdoor events in the UK, the forecast can make or break these occasions. As the English weather decided to be kind, we had the pleasure of wall-to-wall sunshine all day. I’m sure this contributed to high footfall, happy visitors and hopefully good sales and commissions for the exhibitors. I was left with a very positive and up-beat impression of the UK Craft industry and we will definitely be back next year.