I’m back after a short break starting a new job and finishing a distance learning course. This week I’m writing about something close to home – Newcastle Craft Mafia (NCM). I grew up just outside Newcastle, in the North East of England, and was delighted to come across NCM, who encourage craft in and around my original hometown!
NCM is a collective who support each other’s creative ventures and enjoy sharing their love for all things crafted and handmade. Founded in 2009, the NCM follows in the tradition of craft mafias that are popping up across the globe – the first was established in Austin, TX in 2003.
Set up by Leeanne Lowe (Sitting on the Wall) and Cassandra Harrison (Gee How Quaint), NCM has grown quickly and now has 15 core members and 10 associate members across the North East, ranging from textile artists to childrenswear designers, jewelry makers, glass designers and knitters!
Leeanne and Cassandra met by chance at the 2009 Maker Faire in Newcastle. They quickly got to talking about their mutual love of the handmade, which eventually progressed to setting up NCM to promote the local handmade movement. “Our members come from a wide range of backgrounds and many have full or part time jobs – their craft business is a part time hobby (or compulsion),” explains Leeanne. “Some do pursue crafting as a full time role. All members give their time voluntarily to the administration, manangement and promotion of NCM, so considering that many members do have jobs, we find the support we have all that more special.”
NCM offers a range of services including monthly networking events, cross-promotion, workshops, collective stalls at local craft fairs and supporting creative gallery and pop-up-shop Made in Newcastle. Members’ wares are sold on the collective’s website and at music venue The Cluny and independent cinema the Tyneside Cinema, as well as via members’ own websites.
Leeanne really sums up many UK crafters’ feelings about our country’s handmade scene: “I think the handmade scene in the UK is still on the up. It is catching up to the American craft scene…We still have to fight with the high street for business, but the UK consumer is becoming more discerning and aware of what they can get from creative independent designers. People are now starting to search out more design lead, unique products for themselves and as presents for other and we think that this is evident in the popularity of the new online independent boutiques and online craft portals.”
So to our friends across the pond: let’s get the cross-Atlantic collaboration buzz going!