Business

Craft and retail – forging a closer relationship

Events are taking place in the north in August to mark Craft Month

A GENERATION of young progressive designer makers are forging closer bonds with a the new brand of stylish retail outlets springing up all over Northern Ireland dedicated to showcasing and selling quality contemporary craft.

This year's August Craft Month – the ninth organised by Craft Northern Ireland – is focused on cementing relationships between designer makers and these retail businesses that are offering an alternative to the sameness of the high street.

Craft NI chief executive Alan Kane said the increasing number of outlets such as Studio Souk and Kiln and Loom in Belfast was a welcome addition to the craft industry.

He said: “Many of these outlets are being set up by designer makers or have studio space where the public can view beautiful pieces of craft being made. In recent years there has been an increasing public demand for hand-crafted, local products and this is a breath of fresh air for the sector.”

During August Craft Month, Craft NI has organised two retail-focused workshops aimed at equipping makers and retailers with the skills to sell, display and merchandise high quality craft.

On August 6 at the Ulster Museum from 2-5pm they are hosting ‘Selling Craft', a retail master class with Clare Grennan and Laura Caffrey of the Irish Design Shop.

And on August 11 they have organised ‘Selling Craft: Showcasing Craft Merchandise' with leading retail consultant Shalina Alabaksh, at the Dunsilly Hotel, Antrim from 10am to 1pm. This is followed by the Meet the Buyer event from 2-5pm - a trade event for makers and retailers to network.

Alan added: “It is about trying to build relationships and create an environment where makers can meet retailers in one location. There is a growing movement throughout the UK and in Europe of people wanting to buy products that are unique, one-off and local.

”We honestly believe that the more we talk about it and encourage people to get involved in retail, the better it is for the entire sector.”

Printmaker and textile designer Rene Mullin, who opened Kiln and Loom in Belfast's Ormeau Road last year, said her customers want to buy local work they can identify with.

She said: “As a retailer we have a responsibility to support local makers and help keep the local economy flowing. It is also our responsibility to profile, display and exhibit high quality work and to educate visitors and locals about the depth of skill, knowledge and nature of the craft and design industry in Northern Ireland."

Kerrie Hanna, a young ceramic sculptor has a work space in Studio Souk, a new social enterprise retail outlet based in Castle Lane in Belfast, which encourages people to meet the makers and producers of the products.

She said: “The ethos of the Souk is very much about buying local, handmade goods and the relationship between the maker, the retailer and the buyer. I have my studio as an open space within which I make my work and also retail it. This way the customer gets more of an experience and real connection to me as a maker.”

For more information about all of the events taking place during August Craft Month go to: www.craftni.org

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