Event Profile: Craft In Focus

By Kate Marsden

So many successful designer makers and artists swear by markets, fairs and other events as initial springboards for their businesses, as well as opportunities to get out and meet the people who buy their work, gather feedback and new inspiration. This week our Event Profile features one such event which is paving the way in changing the public’s perception of craft…

Tell us a little about you. What do you do? 

Craft in Focus organises contemporary craft, and jewellery and silversmithing events in the south of England.  We have earned an enviable reputation for selecting only the very best professional designers, artists and craftmakers for their individuality and innovation in contemporary design.  We have a strict selection policy and do not accept any imported or bought in work at our events.  Craft in Focus has changed the way the public perceive craft shows and has reinstated the high quality image of Britain's talented designer makers. Craft in Focus now provides makers from all over the country with an opportunity to sell their work to an appreciative audience. We welcome up and coming designers as well more established makers.

The events have been hailed as "A breath of fresh air for craft shows, just what the industry needs" by both visitors and public alike. The shows are now firmly placed in visitors’ diaries as the "Must Visit Events". The Independent newspaper placed Craft In Focus above all other events of its kind in the country.

What does a typical day involve?

There’s no such thing as a typical day!  People often ask us what we do when we are not at a show, without realising the enormous amount of work involved in putting our events together.  Our selection process takes quite a while, we have to draw up plans, appoint and liaise with contractors, design artwork and organise the printing of leaflets, etc, book advertising and so much more….

Let us know more about Craft in Focus.

Craft In Focus is now entering its seventeenth year of organising some of the best known contemporary craft fairs in the UK.  Rob Chapman established the company to give makers and visitors a new style of contemporary craft fair.   Rob started his working life as a woodturner and had exhibited at numerous craft fairs.  He felt that many were allowing bought in and imported work and not showing the best of what UK designer makers were able to offer.  This devalued the work of the UK’s professional contemporary craftmakers and put craft fairs in a bad light for the general public.   Rob wanted to change that and offer visitors the opportunity of seeing and purchasing work from the finest contemporary craft makers in the UK.  Craft In Focus now organise mixed craft events at RHS Garden Wisley, Henley on Thames, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Crowthorne and Sevenoaks.  We also organise Desire Jewellery and Silversmithing Fairs in Chelsea and Winchester.

Craft in Focus is helping to change the public’s perception of craft and makers – how have you gone about achieving this and developing a reputation for high quality events?

We are very strict in our selection process and do not allow any bought in or imported work at our events.  We now have visitors that recognise that our events are different from many others and regularly visit our events. 

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

Competing against the mass produced imports is an ongoing battle.  The handmade versus homemade, and the changing trends of having empty space in houses.

Do you have any tips for small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

While you may think big don’t rush ahead too fast.  See what others are doing with their displays and where they are selling.  Most newcomers under-price their work so customers don’t always value it.  If you are considering exhibiting at a craft fair we have some useful information on our website here.

Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?

Yes.  Of course many people will purchase a card but will then go on to purchase a larger piece from that maker at a future event. 

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you?

It’s a very simple campaign and we think it helps the public to think more about supporting independent businesses in a small way.

We think the idea is good, an easy way to let others know we are here.  We shall watch the results and see what happens.

Where did you hear about the campaign & which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?

We heard about it through Twitter via The Design Trust.  We are very active on Twitter and also have a Facebook page where we post updates on our events and news about makers.

What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

We have supported the Just A Card campaign and will continue to promote it via social media.  It would be fabulous if all makers could do the same.