A few weekends ago, the sun shone and the parks of London were hives of activity. During this weekend, I visited Craft Central. Craft Central is based in Clerkenwell. It is a place, and a space for makers. Craftspeople can rent space to work there; exhibit in the gallery; and individuals can take classes and support the makers for whom, Craft Central is their home. From 24 to 27 of May, Craft Central opened its studios, within its two buildings, to the public for their perusal and as a ‘unique shopping destination’.
The sun, the music, and the festival atmosphere that welcomed visitors inside made the day feel a celebration of craftsmanship. Displays of crafts for sale were exhibited in workshops and studios. At times I felt intrusive, entering the small space of a workshop to gaze upon the wares for sale. I was made to feel welcome, as were all visitors, and my Cambridge Satchel acted as a point of conversation. The Cambridge Satchel Company is highly successful; its beautiful bags have found their place in glossy magazines and the high street. Julie Deane, founder and maker has said she feels the success is down to the ‘britishness’ and ‘nostalgia’ evoked through the handmade satchels.
As makers engaged with my Satchel, I felt able to engage with their crafts. Though some of the jewellery was so delicate that I did not trust myself to touch it. My experience of the open studios was multisensory – I was eager to pick up and stroke or touch the crafts on show. Since receiving my Cambridge Satchel for Christmas, I have felt great about placing my laptop, my readings, and other essentials – within the satchel. In many ways I think it’s important to explore embodied experience of crafts and crafting. As well as reflecting on the process of making, and the maker’s experience – the experience of ‘being with’ crafted objects is, I have felt, a sensuous and open experience. In an interview I conducted with textile artist Bettina Matzkuhn in 2009, Bettina reflected on her textile medium – ‘no one’s dying to touch paper – but everyone reaches out to touch textiles’ and I think this is a wonderfully true. I’ve been wondering, how this sensuous experience relates to ideas of nostalgia, material memories and the ability of materiality to make social and emotional binds. Methodologically, material engagement with crafting and craft objects will been important in answering questions about the contemporary interest in textile crafting.
For more information on:
Craft Central: http://craftcentral.org.uk
Bettina Matzkuhn: http://www.bettinamatzkuhn.ca/
Cambridge Satchel Company: