Tuesday, 8 September 2015

North West Craft Network wins funding!

Makers & artist James Maskrey at The Whitworth
The North West Craft Network has won funding from Arts Council England for the second year of an already successful project to strengthen craft in the North West.  Together with small but significant funding contributions from leading North West craft venues; Gawthorpe Textiles Collection, Manchester Craft and Design Centre, The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, Bluecoat Display Centre, Gallery Oldham, The Whitworth Art Gallery and Bolton University, the Network is all set to put craft in the region firmly on the map.

At our Networking event at GNCCF
In 2015-16 the Network aims to put together an ambitious three to five year programme of activity that will make a real and lasting impact on the health of the North West’s craft sector.

The programme will build on the already considerable strengths of craft in the region but also address the particular challenges that the people making, curating, selling and buying craft in the North West face.

During the year the Network will create opportunities for the North West’s craft makers, curators and stakeholders to collaborate, share knowledge and shape a plan for the future. A key part of this will be two Network events; a day conference at Bolton University and a curator development day at Manchester College. In addition they will partner up with the likes of Great Northern Events (the people who run The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair) and Manchester Craft and Design Centre to support their existing maker and curator development plans.

The Network will also inject into the programme data gathered from last year’s work, which included maker and curator events at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, The Whitworth and COLLECT at the Saatchi Gallery. To this, they will add targeted strands of new research into potential partnerships, exchanges, international collaborations and appropriate income streams.

Since it started in 2012 the Network has gone from strength to strength. One of the tasks for this year will be to address the issues of organisation and funding that this success has created so that the Network can become a permanent agent of support and development of craft in the region.

Craft has great potential to grow in the North West. As a region it has some top quality craft venues, as a glance at this list of venues that are concerned with craft attests. From public institutions around the region, including – to name just a few - The Whitworth, Manchester City Galleries, Gallery Oldham, Gawthorpe Textiles Collection and The Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, to commercial concerns such as the Bluecoat Display Centre, and maker spaces such as Manchester Metropolitan University’s Marketplace Studio in Stockport and the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. There are fantastic collections, vibrant shows and new commissions taking place. Manchester hosts one of the UK’s main craft events in the form of the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair; not to mention a host of talented and respected professional makers; world class education and research in the field and a thriving amateur economy. But even so, the current economic climate presents tough challenges.

Markets for intensively produced, contemporary fine Craft are thin. Many buyers go elsewhere to build their collections, and there are still relatively few regional opportunities for exhibiting and selling. Part time work – often an important contribution to the income of both budding and established makers - is diminishing, creating a pull towards London and the South East. Curators find themselves stretched across a huge range of departments from fine art to science and critical writers who can explore, analyse and share the experience of craft among the community are few and far between.

The North West Craft Network was set up in 2012 to address issues such as these and build on the many good things happening in the region.  It represents publicly funded museum collections, Further and Higher Education Institutions, commercial galleries, crafts agencies and practitioners at all stages of their careers. This year’s project will be another bold step forward for the group, aiming to channel the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm in the sector in to a plan that will make the North West Craft Sector and robust and vibrant player in the creative industries of the Northern Powerhouse.

For more information contact the NW Craft Network Co-ordinator, Victoria Scholes at craftnorthwest@gmail.com or +44 (0) 1625 421768

To read more about the North West Craft Network and to see a list of current members of its development team, click here

To join our mailing list, contact craftnorthwest@gmail.com with 'I want to join the NW Craft Network mailing list' in the subject line and we'll add your name.