This weekend the third annual Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair was held in Manchester, UK. I recently wrote a post about the history of the event so of course I headed down with husband and sister-in-law in tow to check it out and chat with some exhibitors.
I was sorry to miss the preview last Thursday, as I hear it was a great party! I was in Canada visiting my sister, so dragged my travel-tired butt over to Manchester’s Spinningfields on Sunday, the last day of the fair. I expected it to be a bit quiet on the last day but the two pavilions were absolutely heaving with people! It was great to see so many people turn out to browse the handmade goods on show.
I managed to grab a few minutes with co-founder Angela Mann, who was on-site with Ann-Marie Franey to oversee the volunteers and field questions from visitors and exhibitors. “It’s going very well,” she told me. “We have been very busy on Saturday and Sunday and sales have been good so far. The Great Northern Graduates in particular have been well-received – 14 stands were given free to exceptional graduates for the first time this year.”
Another first for the 2010 event was the introduction of crafts workshops, the most popular being button jewelry making! Magpie Arts Workshops organized the sessions and told me that there had been plenty of interest, despite some visitors not having enough time to stop. The GNCCF is a great way for designer-makers and crafty organizations alike to showcase their services and meet potential clients, as ceramics and interiors designer Kitty and Dude told me. “I’ve had some good compliments and comments so far and I was delighted to win the award for Best Maker. I haven’t had many sales, which can be a concern as I’ve traveled from Scotland. However, the show has been heaving and there has been a very positive response.”
This year, I was really impressed by the diversity of crafts on display, from jewelry to fashion, art to ceramics. Many of the designer-makes that I spoke to commented on the fantastic organization of the event. Artist Helaina Sharpley raised an interesting comparison between craft fairs such as GNCCF and dedicated art fairs and mentioned that “people come with different expectations to art fairs.” At craft fairs in the UK, there is a lot of browsing traffic but visitors are often hesitant to make a large financial investment in a piece of art. Smaller items, like jewelry however, often do very well at such events.
Ceramics designer Adam Frew is another far-flung exhibitor, traveling from Northern Ireland. Adam profited from the event by making contact with galleries. “It’s good to get out and be seen. It’s been very busy so it was definitely worth coming,” Adam told me. Our local designer-makers were also out in force, with representation from the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. It was jewelry designer Jane Dziesiwski’s first time exhibiting at the GNCCF and she found the support of the organizers invaluable. “Ann-Marie and Angela have been very visible all the time, talking to exhibitors. There has been lots of help and support.”
This year’s event was even bigger and better than last year, and I am sure the organizers will build on their success for 2011. It was great to get out and meet UK designer-makers and above all to be inspired by the high level of quality on display!
Did you make it to the GNCCF last week? I’d love to hear your experiences on this and other craft fairs! Post a comment below or send me a message via Twitter.