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Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair 2014 Part 1

October 13, 2014

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Great Northern Events was established in 2007 by Ann-Marie Franey and Angela Mann. I’ve covered the fair on my blog since 2010 and have eagerly followed it’s progress and become familiar with the talented wealth of designers and crafts people who participate in the show. Based this year in the old Granada Studios building at the end of Quay Street in Manchester, the show started off with ‘Ornament’, a curated selling exhibition of museum quality collectible craft from eminent UK makers.  I picked up on quite a few pieces from Caroline Broadhead.

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This beautiful idea of the mirrored lace curtain print, what a clever notion to reflect the viewer’s eye from looking in and to mimmic old lace.

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As one of the emerging makers in this section, Jeweller Libby Ward created a wild and slightly unearthly display. Using varied influences and materials ranging from actual toasted marshmallows to pieces inspired by visual elements from the Bubonic Plague ! she’s sooo passionate about her work.  I gave Libby 10 out of 10 for enthusiasm and for creating that little curiosity factor, far away from the more traditional jewellery. Incorporating fur, precious metals, amber and lichens … her little gems have got it all : )

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Brittany Delany displays some delicate porcelain vessels, some hand thrown some slip moulded, but with their makers joins left in place for decoration. Stitched with wire and delicately decorated with coloured blue-green glazes to give an essence of the sea.

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I’m always happy to encounter a designer’s work, which is technically brilliant and has enough ‘quirk’ to also make me smile. Cecilia Moore‘s mystical pieces definitely possess both qualities. Her work encompasses metalwork, sculpture,  furniture making, drawing, print and animation, with a strong emphasis on found objects and reusing materials in all aspects of her work. The little animations that she creates through her object’s journey to discover what it will become, are worth watching and also reminded me of kid’s cartoons from my youth. Brilliant.

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Charlotte Morrison‘s porcelain is both decorative as well as functional. She works by handbuilding each item but also creates some pieces by slip casting. Hand decoration using ceramic paint known as underglaze is also a key look to the collection. Her stand looked fab as it had a coherence and visually held together. The work is inspired by her interest in historical events and everyday life around the early 1900’s, it particularly reflects vintage advertising and packaging which she enjoys collecting. 

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Two quick mentions, firstly to Adam Slade over at Swarm Design who skilled, and highly detailed screen prints, reveal a fascination with Victoriana and the eclectic mix of flora and fauna with a weird and often sinister side to the artwork. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the work of Timorous Beasties, who were exhibiting their early work (also based on Victorian insects) when I took part in the ‘New Designers Show’ in London way back in the late eighties ! Secondly the huge wicker sculptures (this year being Cows, originally created for the Glastonbury Festival) by Juliette Hamilton who’s work I spoke about last year.

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Another eye-catching stand was that of familiar friends Fir & Wren at Holm namely Susan Kane and Clint Pilkington. I loved their soothing yet fresh colour palette and Susan’s beautiful lines in her drawings create an almost Japanese calm in her work. The little bird with the foliage inside, which started life as a leaf, was a firm favourite all round. Based at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, which is always worth a visit especially for some present buying inspiration.

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Finally for today, I bring you the contemplative ceramics of Dana Lazarus-Cass. Dana’s website describes her as ‘ Combining a range of potter’s techniques; throwing, slab building, slip casting, and extruding’. She says ‘I endeavour to explore ways to express a variety of ideas through the medium.  None of my pieces are perfect; some suffer from their innate fragility but all sit on firm foundations. Tensions are exposed between characters or isolated figures on their structure which further reveal known and unconscious anxieties, both personal and universal.’

I thought the vase with the lady under the white cloud was a stroke of genius, apparently Dana used to make the cloud black, but people found them a little too gloomy so she changed them to white. It’s the little details that make it all work ! Part two of my show report on wednesday. Thanks to everyone who kindly told me about their work and let me take photographs, much appreciated.

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