The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair: Art… and a shopping opportunity

Polly Checkland Harding

Whether you think of the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair as an exhibition, or a shopping opportunity, the talent on show should have you reaching for a ticket.

Craft tends to hold an uneasy place in people’s minds. It used to come with twee, amateurish associations – or, at the upper end, share an uncertain frontier with art. That range still exists, but exhibitions like Manchester Art Gallery’s Eastern Exchanges are tipping the balance towards craft coming under the banner of fine art; although, of course, there will always be good and bad artisans. Galvanising Manchester’s designer-maker scene is the annual Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, winner of the Best Small Event of the Year at the Manchester Tourism Awards 2014: over 175 of the UK’s most talented designer-makers will be on show at the Old Granada Studios, ranging from a Graduates showcase right through to the critically-acclaimed Ornament exhibition, for which museums and galleries across the North have nominated those on show.

Galvanising Manchester’s designer-maker scene

Manchester Art Gallery, for instance, have put forward Jin Eui Kim’s delicately hand painted ceramics, shown as part of Eastern Exchanges and recently acquired for the gallery’s collection. The Whitworth, the Atkinson in Southport (where works by Antony Gormley are currently on show) and the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston have also nominated artists for this year’s show. One new addition to the bill is GNCCF’s Artist in Residence, a post taken up by emerging mixed media talent Harriet Lawton, who will be interacting with visitors to produce work – while the pop-up studio area will offer an insight into the practices of leading makers. The variety of disciplines in evidence this year is huge, with everything from jewellery, ceramics, metalwork, furniture and print-making on the programme; so whether you’re interested in buying something to take home, or in treating the GNCCF like an exhibition, it’s worth heading down. Craft is, after all, the new art.

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