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  • Shoal743 at Fish Mongers’ Hall, Scabetti, 2015. Photo credit: Johnny Fenn

Helping MPs understand the needs and contribution of craft and makers

The Crafts Council arranges local studio visits for Members of Parliament to help them understand the needs and contribution of craft and makers as a growing business sector.  The visits are hosted at makers’ studios and enable MPs to witness first-hand the making process.

Our Research and Policy team use the Crafts Council Directory as a pool of makers from which to draw, when we are arranging these visits.

It is a great opportunity not only to showcase high quality contemporary craft practice, but importantly makers get focused time to raise issues with their local MP, accompanied by  Crafts Council Directors.

We couldn’t do this without makers, so here we highlight a few of the experiences of previous hosts.

Scabetti

Scabetti was established in 1999 by Dominic and Frances Bromley with a simple remit; to produce beautifully considered, sometimes quirky, but always desirable objects, made with pride and precision as locally as possible. Attention to detail and understanding of quality English made materials remains fundamental to all they create. A British art and design studio known initially for their range of table top ceramics, Scabetti has built an international reputation - specialising in the creation of custom made sculpture, lighting and installation works.

They hosted a visit from Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, in March 2018.

Have you had any contact with your MP before?

Yes, we’ve met Karen, at local business gatherings and forums and via the Moorlands Chamber.

Are you involved in any other local activity to promote craft and making?

Our home town of Leek has an Arts Festival each year www.leekartsfestival.co.uk and we support the Open Studios event where local makers open their studio doors to the public. We have been into our local middle school and given feedback on design projects. We donated lights to the Foxlowe: our community lead arts centre, for their foyer. www.foxloweartscentre.org.uk

What in particular interested you about the visit?

It was very interesting hearing more about the work of the Crafts Council. We were concerned about how our work would be defined: being not easy to categorise as we cross the realms of craft, art, design, engineering and manufacture. It was also good to know we have support in furthering the needs of small local businesses and the arts in particular.

Have there been any opportunities that have arisen for you as a result of the MP visit?

No direct initiatives, although we tend to work with clients as a result of word of mouth, so we don’t know what might arise as a result of their visit. We discussed a sculpture we have in Fishmongers’ Hall on London Bridge and another on the banks of the river Thames at the International Maritime Organisation’s Headquarters and how these presented opportunities to introduce MPs travelling to Parliament, to examples of how art and craft is still thriving in our country and how much it adds to our environment.

Was there a particular process or piece of your work highlighted during the visit?

We talked together about the sculptures and work that we had created since Scabetti began in 1999. Our move to Leek 15 years ago and our love of English fine bone china. We also shared details of some of the extraordinary commissions we’ve received; from the 12m diameter steel sculpture in a shopping Mall in Copenhagen, to the 3m diameter sculpture created for the Dutch Ministry of Defence. Both Rosy and Karen commented on the breadth of our work and were impressed by the locations we had secured and the variety of commissions. They found the ‘Pride of Soldiers’ sculpture at the Kromhout Barracks in Utrecht, created from English fine bone china the most powerful work.

Effie Burns

Effie is an artist who works primarily in glass; based in Newcastle upon Tyne she has exhibited her sculptural work internationally including shows with Contemporary Applied Arts in London and the Crafts Council in Tokyo. In 2014 one of her pieces was selected for the prestigious ‘Coburg Prize for Contemporary Glass’ in Germany. She has also been given a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust award to develop her making skills. Last year she was awarded an Artworks Fellowship with the National Glass Centre enabling her to explore new ways of working combining traditional engraving skills with digital technology. She also helped to set up the National Federation for Artists Studio Providers.

She hosted a visit from Rt Hon Nicholas Brown MP Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne East, in September 2017.

Have you had any contact with your MP before?

I haven't had any previous contact from my MP and I would be more likely to in the future I think. 

Are you involved in any other local activity to promote craft and making?

I always take part in Late Shows and Open Studios and we always emphasise the importance of making. I co-curated a show at the Nationals Glass Centre called 'Transparent Femininity' that looked at work made by women that explores emotion, so the 'craft' element was really important. 

What in particular interested you about the visit?

For me it was the profile of the visit, meeting people face to face and having greater visibility. Making for me is a solitary process, but I enjoy sharing that process with people. 

Have there been any opportunities that have arisen for you as a result of the MP visit?

No opportunities have arisen for me as a direct result of the visit so far. 

Was there a particular process or piece of your work highlighted during the visit?

My piece 'Deer' was discussed during the visit, it was a prototype for a piece purchased for the collection at the National Glass Centre, which will be on show there soon. The deer has engraved detail on it which I learnt how to do on a Queen Elizabeth scholarship and an Artworks Fellowship, both working with Katharine Coleman MBE.

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