Monday, 11 October 2021

Not exactly plain sailing...

 

Joseph Sempill ( Irish, active 1867-1874), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In May 2021, the North West Craft Network took some time to explore the opportunities and the difficulties that the pandemic has presented to us, and examined what we thought our priorities should be for the next year or so. We're just wrapping up our work on our priorities, but in a nutshell they will be: Wellbeing and the value of craft; diversity and inclusion and maker support. More on that soon, but in the meantime, here’s a summary of what we felt was pushing us forward, what has potential, and what is holding us back…

Pushing us forward

While the pandemic had brought great turbulence, problems, and hardship, it has also brought an opportunity to think about doing things differently and a push to accelerate change. Makers and organisations have tried new platforms and been forced to find funding – all of which are experiences that can be built upon. Forced to look for stay at home activities that are nourishing, social and accessible, people have rediscovered the value of everyday making and creativity in unprecedented levels.

Within the North West Craft Network, we have a wide range of fantastic organisations working together. Access to a group of people outside of our small teams has expanded the possibility to access other ways of doing and thinking about things by providing a diversity of perspectives. Within that network, not only do we have a wealth of collective skills, knowledge, and expertise, but members are passionate about craft and making and about how their organisations support it along with goodwill and willingness to share.

Areas of potential

The increased public engagement with craft and perceived value of creativity by both public and professional together has been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic. Together with a weariness in throwaway consumerism in the young, this is something that the craft sector can respond to and build upon. The pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to make a new normal.

Holding us back

Despite the things pushing us forward and the potential for growth, there are hard realities such as reduced funding and increased competition for the funding that there is. Everyone is short of time and resources and has to balance their organisation’s priorities with that of the craft sector nationally and regionally. We are not diverse enough either in our network or in the wider sector, and there is sometimes a lack of clarity over what it is we are trying to achieve, leading to a feeling of there being too much talking and not enough doing.

Within the wider context, we are facing a recession and ongoing economic hardship that will impact on us all. And while there are many creative graduates, they are not exploring craft as a career. We need to attract more and work out how to support them. Alongside this there is an emerging tension between hobbyist and professional approaches to craft, between the democracy of making on the one hand and the perceived elitism and exclusivity of professional craft on the other.

 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Supporting the Craft Council's 'Let's Craft' Appeal

Children opening craft materials packs
Students from Bygrove School with Let's Craft pack. Photo Kingsley Koranteng
 

The North West Craft Network delighted to support the Crafts Council’s Let's Craft appeal.


The COVID-19 pandemic has meant hundreds of thousands of children stuck
at home do not have access to basic art materials. Pencils and paper are
luxuries for families that are financially stretched to the limit.


Let’s Craft packs contain pens, pencils, brushes, paints, a canvas, a
scrapbook and activity resource, meaning children can be creative throughout
the summer. The packs are distributed to families in the most need of support
through a network of community hubs and food banks across England.


Thousands of children have received packs already, but Crafts Council wants to raise
£100,000 this summer to distribute 10,000 packs.


Buy a £10 Let's Craft pack today to support the wellbeing and development of
a child in need of support.


Text CRAFT to 70085 to donate £10 or online at www.bit.ly/LetsCraft

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Covid-19 Craft Sector Support and Information

Many organisations, nationally and locally, are doing what they can to support makers. Here are a few and we'll update this as more information comes through. [Updated August 12 2020]

Crafts Council In order to support our craft community at this time Crafts Council have created a page on the website with the most useful advice and resources as well as regular updates as and when they happen https://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/stories/information-craft-businesses-during-covid-19-pandemic
 

Creative Lancashire Information and links to support the creative sector

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) have temporarily made all of their member-only resources free to everyone -  information covers topics ranging from governance to safeguarding, funding to campaigns.
https://knowhow.ncvo.org.uk/site-homepage#

Arts Council England have resumed their Project Grants and because of the circumstances during this period, are particularly keen to support:

• applications from individual creative practitioners (including time to think and plan)

• research and development activity

• organisational development activity

• live activity that can be safely delivered within this period (rather than activity with a start date far in the future)

• activity that closely aligns with ACE Equality Objectives

A new Economic Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is about to launch (End of August) to Support SME restart and recovery. Delivered via local Growth Hubs https://www.lepnetwork.net/local-growth-hub-contacts/


Friday, 17 January 2020

What we're working on in 2020


Intelligence exchange
  • There has been a lively exchange of research, inspiration and information. Exhibition invitations have been shared to attend various events including (by no means exhaustive) various exhibitions and events for The British Textile Biennial, The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, The Bluecoat Display Centre JÖL Exhibition, Gordon Baldwin and Matthew Harris exhib, Marketplace Studio events, Great Northern Graduates at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, Halima Cassell at Manchester Art Gallery. Plus invitations to the Textile and Place Conference 2020 hosted by Manchester School of Art  

Sharing members’ expertise and good practice
  • Three specialists in Craft and Wellbeing shared skills and information at September meeting, following on from last year’s successful input on Audience Development. We will be planning future inputs at our next meeting in March 2020. 
  • Jacqui Wood of ARC (Arts in the Community, Stockport) and Donna Claypool of University of Bolton plan to meet about the possibility of ARC doing a presentation or even developing a mini-module on socially engaged art. 
  • Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair is working with Manchester Craft and Design Centre to present makers from the Great Northern Graduates section of the Fair. They are looking into whether this could be a longer term arrangement. 
  • Alice Kettle of MMU is aiming to connect us with PhD research around leadership in the craft sector ARC moved to the Hatworks in December and has invited NWCN members to a special opening and consultation to take place in March  

Building the case for the value of craft
  • We continue to work on out collective letter to educational policy makers from leaders in the NW Craft sector outlining the essential part that craft education plays in sustaining the Creative Industries and our social and cultural capital both in the short and long term. Following feedback from various people aiming to influence Educational Policy makers, we have decided on a change of tack and will be gathering the material into a succinct form and to link with the Craft’s Council’s Make Your Future campaign – to encourage grassroots change affecting the region. The team will meet to discuss this in early 2020  

Building infrastructure for collaborative work and resource sharing (joint projects and exhibitions)
  • Rebecca Hill of Gallery Oldham has gathered a working group NW touring craft showcase and collections visits are planned in 2020 
  • Several members are looking to create events that can be part of the Craft’s Council Year of Craft 2021, and we will explore possibilities for shared promotion. E.g. The University of Bolton is looking into running a symposium along the lines of the NWCN’s successful ‘Shaping the Future’ event held in 2016. This will be on the agenda of the March meeting
  • Sam Rhodes at The Bluecoat Display Centre, Nicola Scott of Liverpool Museums and Colin Simpson of Wirral Museums Service have worked together to successfully apply to the Art Fund for a grant to fund a project looking at reanimating craft within the collections, culminating in an exhibition in 2021 and an element of curatorial development which will allow sharing of information and outcomes with the wider Network. 
  • The Jerwood Makers Open will come to Manchester City Gallery in early 2020 and we are exploring the possibility of contributing to a curatorial development event to coincide with the event, in partnership with other organisations.  

Supporting a healthy craft ecology
  • The NWCN is vigorously participating in the Craft UK forum to increase connectivity and the flow of information between crafts organisations widely across the UK. We will be seeking to join a wider national group in the Craft UK Form that w ill take place as part of Collect in 2020

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

What the Network has achieved since its relaunch in April 2019


Intelligence exchange
  • There has been a lively exchange of research, inspiration and information.
    • From Craft exhibitions (Too many to mention all, but….., Alex Sickling at Manchester Craft and Design Centre (MCDC), Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair (GNCCF) Sheffield, Pottery Pioneers celebrating  the positive impact of ceramics on mental health (ARC, Stockport), Go Eco, Adam Ross, Collected and Jane Adam at the Bluecoat Display Centre), the Festival of Making, Textile Biennial,  Activities at the MMU Marketplace Stockport, , The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, Halima Cassell’s exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, events and exhibitions at ARC Stockport 
    • …..to conferences and talks (Heritage Craft Association Conference, Why Craft Matters at Harewood House,  CERI (Cultural Education Research Initiative) Conference at Tate Liverpool, The Festival of Making, 2020 Textile and Place Conference)

Sharing members’ expertise and good practice
  • At our march 2019 meeting Jo Kay, an audience development specialist and NWCN member has shaped and delivered a session on ‘Audience Targeting for Craft Sales’ for regular members of the Network and wider contacts in the NW who might benefit.
  • For our September 2019 meeting three speakers presented on Craft and Well Being: Vicky Charnock, Arts for Health lead at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and two case studies by Verity Pulford, a maker who completed a residency/commission at the Walton Centre about the impact on a maker’s practice and Jacqui Wood – Artistic Director of ARC (Arts in the Community) Stockport about the Pottery Pioneers Project/Craft with Mums with Post Natal Depression.

Building the case for the value of craft
  • We continue to work on out collective letter to educational policy makers from leaders in the NW Craft sector outlining the essential part that craft education plays in sustaining the Creative Industries and our social and cultural capital both in the short and long term.  The letter has been drafted and we have gathered responses from those in the section who will see and feel the impact on culture, employment and communities further down the line.

Building infrastructure for collaborative work and resource sharing (joint projects and exhibitions)
  • Rebecca Hill of Gallery Oldham has gathered a working group NW touring craft showcase. Additional galleries have expressed an interest. There is still the possibility of this being part of the Crafts Council’s Year of Craft in 2021 and have explored angles and themes. A collections meeting took place in Liverpool at the Walker Art Gallery. Several outcomes are possible, and Nicola Scott is preparing a draft proposal for a craft show in a showcase at the Walker for discussion by the programming team. Further collections visits are planned to gain an understanding what is in our collections that we could explore in a show.
  • The Jerwood Makers Open will come to Manchester City Gallery in early 2020 and we have explored the possibility of staging a curatorial development event in collaboration with MAG.

Supporting a healthy craft ecology
  • We generated and took part in numerous discussions about how to create a healthy craft sector from nourishing future creative to developing resilient leaders. For example, the Festival of making created business support events for makers.
  • We created a new logo (see above )to give the work of the NWCN a visual identity. Great Northern Events chipped in to support us to create a simple text based logo for members to use.
  • We put together some ‘Terms of Reference’ to aid new members to the group and to encourage free and prolific information exchange.
  • The NWCN is vigorously participating in the Craft UK forum to increase connectivity and the flow of information between crafts organisations widely across the UK
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Thursday, 13 June 2019

The North West Craft Network: how it works


The North West Craft Network (NWCN) was set up in 2012 by a group of organisations with a connection to contemporary craft. This is how the North West Craft Network works, its 'terms and consitions' if you like:

The aim of the NWCN is to work together to interrogate and improve the following
Market development including developing the collectors market
Maker development, improving access to funding, studios, equipment and support
Perception and advocacy of the craft sector in the region
Curatorial development including critical writing
  • The NWCN is simply made up its members, there is no separate ‘NWCN’ only a budget for a small amount of admin connected with its meetings and promoting our operation as a Network. We work within our own resources to do better together what we usually do alone, sharing ideas, resource and expertise around contemporary craft.
  • Members share news about events, openings, research via email. It’s important to do this directly, not via the coordinator - our aim is to get information flowing freely through the Network, not all going through a gatekeeper. If you’re a member, you can get an up to date list of other members from the co-ordinator. By joining the Network, it’s implied that you wish to share your work (or other supplied) email with your fellow professionals in it.
  • There are 2 meetings a year (and 2 steering group meetings to discuss finance and reporting)
  • We try and arrange a speaker and one or both meetings who addresses an issue of interest to members
  • Members arrange meetings with other members if they see an area of shared interest or a potential partnership on an ad hoc basis and to suit their own schedules.
  • Members sometimes come up with a project or idea to work on collectively and we usually create a working group of interested parties for these. For instance a collective letter (led by Tom Sutton of Bolton University) around educational policy, curatorial development events around the Jerwood Makers Open (Jennie McKellar of MAG) when it comes to Manchester or a NW touring craft show (Rebecca Hill, Gallery Oldham).
  • We have discussed whether we might apply for funding for projects, but this very much depends on whether individual members feel they can lead and resource this. If co-ordination time is needed, this would have to be resourced as well.
  • We have a logo. You can use this to promote events activites and news that you feel should be badged as a 'Network event'.

Monday, 11 February 2019

What the NW Craft Network has achieved - Autumn/Winter 2018


Connections and ideas continue to flow for the North West Craft Network. Ideas, small and large, hatched in the early part of the year are slowly coming to fruit, and we are beginning to revisit more ambitious plans that were seeded in early years and we now have the firmer foundation to start to make these things happen.

Intelligence exchange
  • Research, exhibition invitiations and information exchanged widely.
  • Awards and opportunities for makers shared with Development Group and wider networks. As a result of connections made through the NW Craft network in 2014 Liam Hopkins was shortlisted for Arts Foundation’s Designer Maker of the year award 2019.

Sharing members’ expertise and good practice
  • Jo Kay, an audience development specialist and member of the network has shaped an ‘Audience Targeting for Craft Sales’ session for the next Meeting of the NW Craft Development Group (early 2019). This part of the meeting has been opened more widely to organisations who don’t usually attend the meeting but who sell craft.
  • Crafts Council launched UK Craft Network, and we’ve talked with their lead on this to see how we can connect our North West members into this national network, exchange information and ideas, best practice and advocate for North West craft.
  • ARC’s (Arts for Recovery in the Community) CPD programme for volunteers on their Pottery Pioneers project is underway and will engage Network members to train volunteers.

Building the case for the value of craft
  • A task group will meet in early 2019 to workshop a collective letter about the value of Craft to Education for circulation to educational policy makers.

Building infrastructure for collaborative work and resource sharing (joint projects and exhibitions)
  • The Network will revisit its plans for an outstanding NW generated Craft showcase touring exhibition at our next meeting in March. This follows on from initial research in the previous years of the network.
  • The Jerwood Makers Open will come to Manchester City Gallery and members are keen to get involved with collaborative projects. This will be developed at the next meeting.

Supporting a healthy craft ecology
  • Manchester Craft and Design Centre connected with the lead on the Greater Manchester Cultural Strategy and we will be exploring collaborations.
  • Inspired by discussions around nourishing makers of the future, Manchester Art Gallery has decided to put on another Future Creative Event in March 2019. Students will be invited to respond to the gallery's displays to make products for sale in the gallery shop
  • Professional coach and maker Victoria Scholes delivered the third of three business review days for residents and networks of Manchester Craft and Design Centre in January 2019.

Not exactly plain sailing...

  Joseph Sempill ( Irish, active 1867-1874), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons In May 2021, the North West Craft Network took some time...