For the past 38 years we have been championing contemporary craft in the vibrant city of Leeds to shine a spotlight on independent makers and their small businesses from across Yorkshire and the rest of the UK. Through an exciting seasonal exhibition programme we highlight the skills behind handmade and share their inspiring stories. Bringing these amazing collections of contemporary craft together under one roof has created a haven for many visitors to escape the stresses of daily life & create mindful experiences. Please help us keep the gallery and the hundreds of small businesses we support alive by donating what you can so we can continue to keep bringing the very best of contemporary craft to you and help us and these creative industries thrive.
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With an absolute passion for high quality handcrafted anything, all things interiors and pretty much everything gorgeous, I’ve been looking forward to spending a week with The Craft Centre and Design Gallery Leeds since right back in June.
It’s safe to say that upon walking through the doors on a very (very) soggy Tuesday morning, I was instantly in my element greeted by a charming wire sculpted lady who is part of their current front of house exhibition, ‘Figure That.’
After a meeting with the team and a health and safety overview, I was set straight to work with my first task. The Craft Centre currently has on show three main exhibitions, alongside general displays from a wealth of makers across disciplines such as ceramics, limited edition prints, textiles and jewellery. Seen as ‘fresh eyes’, I was asked by the team to have a look at their exhibitions and review and feedback any ideas or comments. Not only did this give me the chance to appreciate the work that goes into an exhibition, but it also meant that I could really get to know the gallery and it’s makers on show. Having only visited The Craft Centre online, I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of creative talent all in one place. Don’t get me wrong, The Craft Centre is by no means a little gallery, but I wasn’t expecting so much amazing stuff.
A few makers that caught my eye on my first day were:
Talia Russel…just to name a few!
The afternoon saw my work as ‘fresh eyes’ continue, this time my attention turned to The Craft Centre Website. Manager Jane spoke to me about how important cohesion is within business and marketing, explaining how it’s important that all platforms give out the same message and feel to customers and potential makers too. Taking what I had learnt from the exhibitions, I compared this with the website – of course these girls are pro’s- everything was pretty perfect.
Continuing with the subject of marketing and press, Jane then explained the importance of press releases. I couldn’t believe my eyes when she pulled out folders and folders of releases from way back in the beginning (1982), it was truly great to see where the Craft Centre began and how it has grown with the years; it hit me with a really good dose of nostalgia flicking through pre-digitalised paper copies! Using these as inspiration, I got to work thinking about content for an e-newsletter and writing my own press release, if you haven’t already noticed, I love to talk so this was very exciting for me. If you want to sign up to their e-newsletters click on the Craft Centre logo to the right and you can sign up on their website.
Picking up with the media/ press vibe, a slightly sunnier and much less wet Wednesday morning began with some social media work. It was great to see how Jane and the team organise their networking for the different shows throughout the year and also how they are tailored to suit different platforms. I was given the chance to really get to know some more makers by creating a Facebook album for the Winter Show Exhibitors and their work. Again I was inspired by the variety and level of talent that the girls have pulled together for the Craft Centre’s Winter Show; it’s gonna be a good one! You can check out the album on facebook here http://on.fb.me/1K9TlLW
The days flew by getting to see all of the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff, and it’s inspirational to see how this efficient team manage to be so proactive – I even got a lesson in ‘the perfect packaging’ from the manager herself. It’s little tips like these that I’m sure will help me well on my way when I graduate. By this point in the week I was really getting excited to get out on the gallery floor and chat to some customers.
Once that came about on Thursday, Sarah the jewellery co-ordinator spent some time showing me the ropes of the front of house stuff, and what it takes to keep the displays, jewellery in particular, looking fresh. I was let loose on displaying some collections which I absolutely loved – I think I got a little carried away and definitely spent all my money (consciously, obviously) whilst doing so. I adore the Leoma Drew Jewellery they currently have in the Craft Centre, I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on her!
The Craft Centre was buzzing by Thursday afternoon and it was a great insight to see how prioritising jobs is key, as the customers always come first! With deliveries coming in, customers chatting and purchases to be wrapped, the atmosphere really was vibrant. Some stunning work by Kaz Robertson arrived – unwrapping this felt like Christmas morning! A stunning combination of turquoise and orange in wonderful shapes and combinations filled the cardbox box like treasure! Sarah gave me the run down on incoming delivery procedure, stock, coding and pricing, which I then got to work with straight away before finally displaying it in a lovely big space, what do you think?
So as my last day at The Craft Gallery grew nearer, I was starting to wish I could stay here for a month (safe to say though living in the seaside village of Saltburn-by-the-sea, I definitely won’t miss the busy city commute!) It’s great to see how places like this work and get an understanding of the set-up, as a Textile Designer maker in my final year of Uni, I still haven’t fully decided whether I want to work as an independent designer or (as I love pulling/ curating beautiful things together) whether I’d like to pursue a career somewhere like The Craft Centre doing just that.
After a busy and insightful week I’m starting to think I’d totally love this job environment, the combination of creativity and business is right up my street. The variety of the work also attracts me, as I do like to dip my toes in different waters. Not only have I been totally inspired by all of the stunning work here on display at The Craft Centre and Design Gallery, but I’ve also met a lovely and highly efficient team that prove that there can be business in your own, and other peoples, creative passions.