Charlotte Metcalf is the Editor of Great British Brands and the co-presenter of Break Out Culture, a weekly podcast with former Minister of Culture, Lord Vaizey. She is also a film-maker, author and journalist. Every week she’ll be reporting on cultural events, exhibitions, fairs and publications that are of interest to the communities of craftsmen we represent and celebrate, with a particular focus on goldsmiths and silversmiths.
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This week we’re going to Manchester to celebrate the impressive range of metalwork on display at Manchester’s Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, which opens on Thursday at Victoria Baths.
The fair’s aim is to champion makers and, give them opportunities to showcase and sell their work. The first fair was officially opened by legendary designer Thomas Heatherwick in 2008, and since then these events have showcased over 3,000 artists, attracted 85,000 visitors and sold over £3m of craft.
All exhibitors are hand-picked by an independent panel of craft experts. Alongside metalwork the show features jewellery, textile accessories, print, furniture, lighting, ceramics, glass and wood. There are opportunities to buy direct from makers, commission bespoke pieces and to meet and talk to exhibitors.
It’s inspiring to find so many contemporary jewellers experimenting with metals, mixing them with each other and materials like plastic – take Penny Warren who combines anodised aluminium with silver to create colourful, striking designs or Charlotte Whitmore who incorporates silver with vintage plastic, glass and wood to create designs inspired by the wild plants and grasses of her native West Yorkshire. Penny Hayley Grafflin makes jewellery to reflect the urban landscape with all its the bollards, locks and chains of her home city, Liverpool. Those working with silver include Naomi James, who creates bold pieces with a botanical theme and Toby Cotterill, who makes articulated jewellery inspired by insects and sea creatures and whose work was selected by the Crafts Council for the Hothouse programme.
The beautiful metalwork on display at the fair represents the versatility and range of metal craftsmanship, starting with decorative sculpture. Adaesi Ukairo’s teases beautifully fluid, patinated and textured forms from flat sheets of copper, while Sian, the metalsmith behind Tatique, specialises in recycled vintage tin art. Cutting by hand with a jeweller’s saw, she brings her silversmithing skills to bear on found objects and tin to create whimsical, charming and humorous artworks.
Photos center to right: Craftsmanship from Angela Sidwell, Nettie Birch, Sara Chyan, Naomi James, Ella McIntosh, Adaesi Ukairo
Hannah Felicity Dunne shapes silver by hammer raising and forming to make exquisite vessels and vases, spoons and candleholders, as well as fine silver and gold jewellery. Ella McIntosh works with pewter, making contemporary tableware at her studio at Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Nettie Birch or nbNG, also makes tableware and home designs, using fold-forming and traditional hand-raising techniques to create silver, pewter and copper vessels.
Last year Christopher Perry won two prizes for silversmithing in the Goldsmiths Craft & Design Council Awards with his contemporary designs based on conventional techniques like hand chasing, scoring, folding and forging. This year he’ll be showcasing his tableware and Christmas decoration collection.
Photo: Craftsmanship from Christopher Perry
Thomas Lyte continues to applaud the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST). QEST champions craftsmanship by supporting the training and education of talented and aspiring makers so Thomas Lyte was delighted to see a selection its Northern Scholars exhibiting at the fair, displaying their skills in a variety of crafts from ceramics and glass to willowmaking and signwriting.
Both photos: Craftsmanship by Toby Cotterill
Thomas Lyte’s commitment to reducing the impact of production on the environment is as firm as ever and we are delighted by the presence of GREEN GRADS IN THE NORTH at the fair. GREEN GRADS received 2,000 visitors and rave reviews at the London Design Festival and now GREEN GRADS IN THE NORTH are showing their work in the original Edwardian changing rooms flanking the pools. These graduates are seeking to tackle the world’s most pressing eco-challenges and are exhibiting their new techniques and concepts alongside their craft. They represent the new generation of makers, determined to use their craft to help address major global issues.
GREEN GRADS was founded and curated by multi-award-winning design journalist, Barbara Chandler, enabling UK graduates to engage with climate change, circular production, waste and pollution, diminishing resources, biophilia, bio-diversity and more.
The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair runs from 13th to 16th October at Victoria Baths, Manchester. Tickets available on the door.
We have selected a number of case studies that demonstrate the broad range of our capabilities designing and making in precious metals.