A new annual event to showcase and celebrate craftmanship? Fantastic! I signed up to the newsletter, pencilled the dates in my diary (Thurs 6th - Sun 10th May) then postively drooled over the programme when it arrived.
Aside from being pretty gorgeous itself (always a good sign), the programme was jam packed with awesome-looking events. There were going to be talks, workshops, demonstrations, tours, open studios and exhibitions featuring a huge range of different craftspeople: watchmakers, tailors, jewellers, fashion and textile designers, bootmakers, engravers, hat makers, perfumers, glassblowers, ceramacists, print makers, costumiers, weavers, silversmiths, gun makers, bookbinders and more.
I knew the week was going to be something special but I was unprepared for just how wonderful it was.
All the venues were buzzing with people visiting, asking questions and oohing over the gorgeous pieces on display. Seeing so much incredible, intricate, beautiful craftsmanship up close was a joy, learning about so many different crafts was fascinating and getting to peek behind the scenes and visit workspaces and studios was totally thrilling. But above all it was just incredibly inspiring to meet and chat to so many makers. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly and excited to share stories about their work - and they had such interesting stories to tell!
I have to admit to feeling a teeny bit nervous about entering some of the spaces where the events were being held. I do not normally hang out in the luxury shops on Bond Street! Or visit tailors on Savile Row! Chatting to some of the other visitors I discovered it definitely wasn't just me who felt a bit nervous about this... but it was, of course, fine and we were all made to feel totally welcome.
Similarly, I felt a bit embarrassed at first to admit what I did for a living when meeting these "proper" craftspeople: "oh hello skilled craftsperson who trained for years to make these amazing luxury objects, I, er, sew small things out of felt!" But everyone was so nice and it turns out that makers are makers no matter what craft we specialise in: we're all connected by our passion for creating things. Again and again people mentioned situations and feelings that I recognised from my own job and I got into so many great conversations about making, inspiration, the ups and downs of the creative life, etc, it was hugely inspiring.
Honestly, the whole thing was so wonderful I felt slightly overwhelmed (in the best possible way) and nearly cried with happiness on my way home (okay so that might have partly been due to exhaustion after dashing around for two days straight trying to see everything I possibly could and staying up until the wee small hours in between on election night!).
Right, that's enough waffling about all my OMG CRAFTING IS SO AWESOME feelings. Time to share some photos!
Thursday's events were clustered in central London, around Bond Street and Piccadilly, which made it really easy to walk between the venues (stopping for tea and cake at intervals along the way, of course). The whole area was full of people wandering round clutching their London Craft Week programmes, chatting happily with each other and taking lots of photos (there was a lot of Instagram-ing happening!).
My first stop was visiting Caroline Groves who designs and makes incredible bespoke shoes and handbags - and whose incredible parakeet shoes are included in the new shoe exhibition at the V&A. I especially loved this bag, which was inspired by a Victorian photo album.
Next I headed to St James' Church, where Catarina Riccabona was busy weaving. It was slightly surreal to find a loom in the middle of a church, but very cool. Catarina was one of a group of craftspeople who took part in Made of Mayfair, where a group of makers took a walk through Mayfair then made work inspired by things they saw along the way. Catarina chose the carvings behind the altar at St James' as her inspiration - aren't they gorgeous?
Just along the road from St James' is legendary store Fortnum & Mason, where I oohed over an showcase of gorgeous craft work. There was a whole schedule of demonstrations at Fortnums during London Craft Week but I totally failed to make it to any of them. I'm glad to have seen the showcase though, and I really enjoyed reading the little blurbs about each of the makers and their work.
My next stop was the Italian fashion house Etro. After swooning slightly over the beautiful clothes I headed upstairs to see artist Mr Maury at work hand painting one of Etro's signature paisley designs...
... click here for a closer look - the detail was incredible!
A few doors down, I visited Swiss watchmakers Vacheron Constantin where a watchmaker and hand-engraver were demonstrating their skills. It was amazing to see all the tiny pieces that make up the watches and fascinating to hear stories of special watches and expensive watch repairs (top tip: don't leave your fancy watch in your trouser pocket when you do your laundry).
They had a camera set up so you could see the engraver's work on a big screen and see just how tiny and detailed it was. Look at these teeny letters- each one is just half a millimetre across!
You can see videos of the crafts that go into making Vacheron Constantin watches here.
Over the road at DAKS, Daniel from the London Cloth Company was demonstrating power-loom weaving and chatting about his growing collection of rescued machinery, his gorgeous bespoke cloth, and the ups and downs of running a business when it's just you and the cat (and "the cat is not pulling his weight").
You can see a short video of the (noisy!) loom in action here.
Next I called in at LINLEY to see a demonstration of their fabulously intricate marquetry...
... then decided it was time for lunch. Yup, all that crafty goodness and it was only lunchtime!
You can read about more London Craft Week awesomeness in part two.