Northern Ireland craft makers set to embrace spirit of renewal

Summer 2021 will mark the 15th annual August Craft Month as makers across Northern Ireland seek to put the difficulties of the past 16 months behind them and embrace a time of ‘renewal’.

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 6:00 am

Summer 2021 will mark the 15th annual August Craft Month as makers across Northern Ireland seek to put the difficulties of the past 16 months behind them and embrace a time of ‘renewal’.

Last year’s craft month showcased the work of local artisans on the global stage as the vast majority of events took place online due to the pandemic.

This year, Craft NI is partnering with www.augustcraftmonth.ie to promote jointly for the first time and to celebrate craft and craft events across the island of Ireland. The programme is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and will feature a combination of both virtual and live in-person events.

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Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland alongside maker Joel Smyth, Craft NI Director, Katherine McDonald and maker Emma Whitehead

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The Arts Council is delighted to support this wonderful celebration of craft, which offers an important platform to showcase the talent of our local craft makers, bringing great art to all. It has been an extremely challenging time for our craft industry and events like August Craft Month help raise awareness of the situation and help drive engagement with our makers.”

As we emerge from the pandemic, the theme for the August Craft Month Annual Exhibition at Craft NI’s gallery in Belfast is ‘Re-New’. Makers in the exhibition were asked to reflect on the theme directly or show work which highlights how the maker’s craft practice has been taken in a new direction.

To ensure the exhibition reaches the widest possible audience, Craft NI has confirmed that all work chosen will also be viewable on its website’s exhibitions section. All the pieces will be photographed and available digitally as a series of 360’ rotational images.

Craft NI Director, Katherine McDonald, explained: “This is our 15th annual August Craft Month and quite possibly our most important yet as our makers really need support to help them emerge from the challenges of the last 16 months. In research commissioned by Craft NI we found that our makers suffered on average a 48% reduction in profits in 2020/21 as retailers were closed and markets and fairs postponed. Over half of makers also reported significant reduction in income from teaching and workshops too.”

Emma Whitehead, leading The Great Kit Challenge

With the pandemic driving a surge in interest in craft making, Katherine is confident this year’s August Craft Month can showcase the world class talent we have in Northern Ireland.

With the pandemic encouraging consumers online, Katherine also believes this has benefitted local makers pivoting towards online sales as well as over the counter, as it has never been easier to buy local craft.

“Around half of makers we surveyed reported an increase in online sales during the pandemic and we know there has been an explosion in the number of people participating in craft during the pandemic,” she continued.

“I am sure our programme of events will have something to interest everyone with opportunities to take part online. As well as outdoor events and markets, we are delighted that the programme also offers a number of in-person events this year. We know people are keen to return to galleries and exhibition spaces as it helps them feel inspired and uplifted.”

Joel Smyth, Graduate of Ulster University Ceramics Jewellery and Silversmithing 2021

Some highlights of the 15th August Craft Month include:

Belfast Potters’ Market: Belfast Potters’ Market at Writer’s Square (August 7) will be attended each day by 20 talented local potters and ceramicists. The ceramics industry in Northern Ireland is brimming with exciting new ideas and contemporary craft, come down and see it for yourself

Behind the scenes at some of NI’s master jewellers: The Steensons are delighted to welcome visitors to their workshop and gallery in Glenarm. The goldsmiths can be observed using a variety of techniques to cut, shape and manipulate the metals, before detailing with textured finishes and stones. Browsing the jewellery collections, you may just find the perfect gift or memento of your causeway coast adventure. Thomas Goldsmiths in Londonderry will also be opening their doors to visitors for sneak previews. Booking essential.

Make it at Home: Craft Kits are an innovative way to get hands on with the guidance of an expert. Andrea McCullough-Alderdice has over 25 years’ experience in ceramics and will guide you through the process of making an impressive and embellished ceramic wall planter with her step-by-step recorded workshop with all the materials you’ll need in your Clay Crate which you can collect. Top Floor Art in Saintfield are also running a Great Kit Challenge where 17 NI makers created craft kits based on their work. The Great Kit Challenge Exhibition allows you to see the artists finished kits and find out about their work and inspiration. You can meet the artists on our Meet the Maker Demo Days, ask questions, buy a kit and get hints and tips direct from the makers!

August Craft Month also provides a network for makers and the public to meet, share and collaborate. Each event showcases the excellence and diversity of craft in Northern Ireland. The programme provides a fantastic opportunity for everyone to make, see, learn about and buy craft.

With a focus on direct sales from the makers this year, organisers are hopeful that August Craft Month will help inspire more people to visit makers’ and craft retailers’ websites.

For more information on the events visit www.craftni.org/augustcraftmonth or follow Craft NI on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can share your own craft stories with #augcraft #Isupportnicraft.

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