Please welcome our newest columnist, Ellie Thouret! “Ellie is a UK-based designer of handknit and crocheted accessories. In her rare time away from the needles and hooks, she can be found scouring Etsy and Folksy for cute and quirky handmade items.” She’s going to be covering the area that is her neck of the woods: England! Leave her a comment below if you have any great suggestions for her or if you just want to welcome her :)
This is my very first post for my new column, Handmade in England. I hope you’ll all enjoy reading about the UK handmade scene. I’m looking forward to showcasing the best handmade products and crafters that we have to offer! In this post I will be profiling the Manchester Craft & Design Centre (MCAD), a fantastic studio/retail space right here in my city.
MCAD was established in 1982, originally known as Manchester Craft Village. Situated in a historic fish and poultry market, the Centre was set up to help kick-start the regeneration of the Northern Quarter, a now-trendy area filled with independent boutiques and bars. It houses 18 studios with around 35 makers/designers, a cafe and a small exhibition space.
“We aim to be the place to make, see and buy contemporary craft and design in the North West,” explains Kate Day, Director at MCAD. “MCAD offers a supportive working environment with affordable rents for city center retail/studio space. We provide a signposting service for our tenants to business development agencies such as Business Link, funding opportunities, awards, commissions and exhibiting opportunities.”
The goods on offer at MCAD vary, from jewelry to handbags, art to ceramics, and the Centre is usually buzzing on weekends. The light and spacious design welcomes visitors and the beautiful items are displayed extremely attractively. But for the artists based at MCAD, it is the business support that they really value.
“MCAD promotes the Centre and studios with ongoing marketing activity including our website, monthly e-flyers, promotional activities and partnerships with organizations such as the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair,” comments Kate. “We also curate a national/international exhibition program with regular events and workshops.”
Colette Hazelwood, a designer/maker of contemporary jewelry, who has been based at MCAD for over 10 years, since graduating university in 1999. “Being at MCAD has undoubtedly helped me in my business, not so much directly – but indirectly. It has allowed me to come face to face with my customer, not only is this good for me but it’s great for them to get to know me and judge whether they can trust me with their great grandmother’s diamond and platinum ring!”
Jane Dzisiewski and Stephanie Brown are part of Designers Eclectic, a collective of jewelers based at MCAD since September 2009. “Some people would say it was either brave or insane to start up a business in the middle of a recession but MCAD has enabled us to do this,” Jane explains. “MCAD provides low cost studios in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. We couldn’t have got studio/retail premises in the center of town otherwise.
Stephanie continues, “The Craft Centre is an invaluable creative platform to launch and grow a business and is a fabulous creative community to work in and be a part of. All the tenants are emailed regular updates on creative opportunities, awards and commissions from the office.
The tenants are encouraged to initiate ideas to promote their own studios and the centre. They have varied backgrounds and contribute their expertise to the Centre when and where they can.”
Suzanne Devine, handbag and accessory designer/maker, finds the mutual support among MCAD artists particularly valuable: “I have been at the Craft and Design Centre for 6 years now and it has been a big part in this learning process and a great experience having friends who are in the same situation as me – some with more experience, some now with less experience and also the advice and support that we pass around to each other.”
Demand for studio space at MCAD is growing, a reflection of the increase in crafters in the North West UK. “Courses such as Manchester Metropolitan University‘s Creative Business Development help to prepare new graduates with entrepreneurial skills, and we’ve also noticed an increase in people establishing craft / design businesses as a second career,” says Kate.
MCAD will hold a new exhibition, Threadbare, in July. The launch event takes place on Saturday July 3, all are welcome. Please visit the MCAD website to sign up for the Centre’s monthly e-flyer. For more information on MCAD, visit the Centre’s website, Facebook Page and Twitter feed.
*MCAD photo credit Ed Chadwick.