Monday, 12 September 2016

What next for the North West Craft Network

The North West Craft Network is planning an ambitious three-year programme to build an entrepreneurial, resilient and outstanding craft community in the North West that is positioned firmly at the heart of the region’s creative industries.  

We aim to grow the market, build audiences, increase revenue, incubate makers and keep our craft talent working and showing in the region.

To kick-start these plans, we’ll be aiming to run a series of three pilots, funded (we hope) with a £15K bid to Grants for the Arts, matched with funding from Network members. Key elements are:

  • Makers and Museums. Developing and testing a model for the sale of high quality craft in NW museum retail spaces that will increase revenue and build the markets and audience for craft to the advantage of both makers and museums.
  • Developing a proposal for a touring NW exhibition. A collective approach makes a stronger sector: we'll share expertise and collectively develop an outstanding idea for a touring craft show that will create a big message about craft, invigorate collections, commission new work and develop significant new audiences.
  • Incubation. Exploring and testing sustainable options to develop and keep craft talent in the NW in the long term. 

All this comes from the opinions and data we gathered over the last two years from a wide range of craft professionals in the North West. The programme proposes a way to enhance the vitality of the North West craft sector and make it a recognised centre for national activity and excellence.

To decide how to go forward, we asked ourselves a few key questions. What will we do best as this particular group of people? Some things are best done by individuals, partnerships or small groups - what can NW Craft Network do as a group that no other group could naturally do? What is ambitious and far reaching in its scope? And lastly and more practically, what is feasible for us to do?

If we're successful in our bid to ACE, we should be up and running with this in early 2017. Watch this space for more, keep an eye on our Twitter account @nwcraftnetwork, or sign up to our mailing list.

Results from data gathered for our 'Growing the Craft Ecology: 2' project

The NW Craft Network has been spending the year talking to makers, galleries, museums, craft and arts organisations from the region about what would make the most difference in terms of strengthening craft in the North West.

We thought you'd like to know what came out of it all.

One of our priority areas was maker development. This is what you said would make the most difference:

•    Professional development: coaching, mentoring, workshops
•    Incubation studios for emerging makers
•    Exhibitions and Residencies in NW venues

We've been looking at how to develop the market. This is what you said about that:

•    Take a group of NW makers to new audiences 
•    Makers and Museums – how they can work together for mutual economic benefit and to build audiences
•    A big NW (or Northern) Craft Festival

And with regards to advocacy about craft, that is, building confidence, getting the good news out there and promoting the sector within the NW and beyond, you picked out:

•    Reposition craft as part of the creative industries
•    An award of an international residency
•    A public facing website celebrating NW craft (but there were widely ranging opinions on how to deliver this)
•    Advocacy and education in community and schools

And finally, we wanted to see how we could develop our curators and curating of craft in the NW. These things were highlighted:

•    An international project – an exchange or collaboration with international venues and makers
•    Invigorating craft collections – a project across NW venues where makers respond to collections
•    A high profile touring exhibition of contemporary craft
•    Open studio tours to meet NW artists
•    Partnerships between freelance and collections curators to develop exhibition ideas
•    Work with online platforms for more craft presence
•    Digitisation of craft collections in NW museums and galleries

We've had a chance to sift through all of these and think about what to do next, and that's the subject of our next post…click here to view