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The "Oxford Bags" have been packed

What a week it was!

Handmade in Britain's Handmade Oxford closed on Sunday and after a few days of catching up on all the things I couldn’t do while the show was on, I can finally take stock.

Oxford is a lovely craft fair, and I have missed it through the long Covid years. The fallow period was not the dead time it could have been however ... The "ghost" shows allowed some distance, and the chance of a rethink on the part of the brilliant Piyush Suri. The 2022 iteration was sleeker and more relaxed. An event that had started out in large marquees with pale carpets and raised wooden floors, had morphed into a more rustic, meandering, craft village. It was lovely.

Into this village of craft, I had the privilege of introducing eleven outstanding makers from the far reaches of the UK. Truly “Handmade in Britain”. From deepest Cornwall, stretching across the UK and encompassing a variety mediums and disciplines: glass, mixed media, silver, Jesmonite, porcelain, Parian, wool, silk, stoneware, earthenware, concrete and natural minerals; weaving, knitting, throwing, hand-building, pigment-grinding, mould-making, hand-dying, hand-spinning, hand-painting and transfer-printing; stretching all the way to the Isle of Skye.

Take a bow: Shelagh Brown (Wildmoor Spinner and Weaver), Janie Mahon (Skye Silks), Peter Black Ceramics, Sarah Sullivan Ceramics, Annie Cushing, Esra Alhamal (Bristle & Brush), Caroline Lingwood, Pratibha Mistry, Alessandra D'Alessandro (Hands & Clay), Annabelle Laurie & Valeria Muffato.

As a curator I was proud as punch to represent not only such an outstanding group of craft practitioners, but also positive, supportive and joyful people who were a pleasure to be around. They did themselves, and me as their curator, proud!

Many ask in these tough times if it’s worth doing shows when money is scarce and belts are increasingly tightening. My resounding answer is “yes”! Advertising, marketing, being present, are all vital. In fact, in straitened times, being out there is even more important. It is not just about sales at a show, it’s about visibility, and about being the maker a customer thinks of when they decide to buy. If you’re not seen, and your work not experienced, how can someone think of you when they decide to make a purchase? It is in doing shows that the groundwork is laid for long-term sales. Shows may only run for a few days, but their impact can last for years.

And some proof of the pudding? Valeria Muffato joined me at Handmade Oxford and she was presented with the only prize awarded by the Ashmolean Museum. Out of all the makers present in Waterperry Gardens, her work will be stocked in the museum shop. An amazing opportunity. Contemplate, just for a moment, if she hadn't attended ...

Handmade Oxford 2022 is over. Its long-term legacy? Well, that waits to be seen.


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