Friday, 31 July 2015

The Amazingness that was London Craft Week: Part Two

The first ever London Craft Week, held in early May this year, was utterly wonderful. So much making! So many skilled crafts people! So many beautiful creations! So much inspiration!

I spent two days zipping round London trying to visit as many of the events as I could and had a total blast (but kinda wore myself out in the process and had to give the weekend's events a miss while I put my feet up. Oops!).

I blogged about the first morning in part one... but what did I see after lunch?

First on my list to visit was the Rolls-Royce showroom at Berkeley Square. I have to admit that I know next to nothing about cars but it was really interesting to see the different leathers and woods customers can choose from and to be able to peek inside the cars themselves.

Next I headed to Mulberry, where I chatted to one of their craftsmen about the techniques that go into making a Mulberry bag and how he got started working for the company. Mulberry were also - rather excitingly - hosting a craft workshop in the store, offering people the chance to make their own personalised bracelet. This was a huge amount of fun...

... and it was delightfully surreal to have a table of people hammering away in the middle of the otherwise serene Bond Street store!

Everyone chose slightly different things to add to their bracelets - names, special places, silly phrases, anniversary dates. I ummed and ahhed over what to choose for mine, eventually deciding to make a black bracelet for my mum (which she loved, hurrah!).


After I'd finished my bracelet and oohed over all the lovely things on display in the store, I headed to Kathryn Sargent Bespoke Tailoring.

It was rather thrilling to be able to visit a tailor's workshop as it really isn't a space I would normally ever visit. It was wonderful to be able to see the work in progress, to see and feel some fabric samples and to chat to Kathryn and her team about her business and the art of hand tailoring.

Hand embroiderers Hawthorne & Heaney were also demonstrating their monogram service in the studio - I was quite in awe of such perfect, precise embroidery!


My next stop was Drake's, where (among other things) you can buy a handmade tie or order your own bespoke tie... and where the techniques of the tie-making process were being demonstrated.

Ties are something I'd never really given much thought to before (as a woman, I don't tend to wear one - and haven't since I was about 8 and ties were part of my school uniform). Drake's website has lots of tips for the stylish gentleman aiming for "relaxed elegance" - it's all about details and, of course, your tie is an important part of that!

Continuing with the tailoring theme, I then headed to Norton & Sons on Savile Row. Norton & Sons "have been tailors to the royal households of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Prussia, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom, and to three US Presidents." The tailors of Savile Row are so famous, it was amazing to be able to visit one of them (instead of just nosily peering in the windows as I've done before!)

I met the owner (Patrick Grant of Great British Sewing Bee fame) then chatted to the tailors in the workshop.

I cannot even begin to say how awesome this was! Being allowed into this working space, to chat to the tailors and ask them about their work: just wonderful. It was fascinating to hear how the tailors had got started in their profession, to see them at work and to hear details of their working life: the process of making a suit, working with different fabrics, fittings and alterations, and so on.


It was so fascinating, in fact, that I and another girl who was visiting Norton & Sons ended up being quite late to our next planned stop: a demonstration of cordwaining in the window of Gieves & Hawkes.

A cordwainer is someone who makes shoes from new leather (this is different to a cobbler, apparently, who mostly repairs shoes or makes them from old leather).

Bespoke shoemakers James Ducker and Deborah Carré of Carréducker were demonstrating some of the 200+ steps involved in crafting a pair of hand-sewn shoes, using only hand-held tools.

James discovered his passion for shoemaking totally by chance, and now works with Deborah making bespoke shoes and running shoemaking courses in London and New York. Their talk was highly entertaining and really interesting - they demonstrated different tools and techniques and explained how much time and skill goes into making shoes by hand (short version: a lot).


As the day was drawing to a close, I squeezed in a visit to Dashing Tweeds - just over the road from Gieves & Hawkes.

Here Kirsty, who designs all Dashing Tweeds' weaves in house, was showcasing their textiles and the steps involved in designing and weaving tweeds. It was lovely to see the little looms set up surrounded by the finished garments that get made from the final tweed designs, and to chat to Kirsty about her designs and the challenges of "thinking in three dimensions" to make something two-dimensional.


On my way home, I took a small detour and popped in to The New Craftsmen - a shop selling a whole assortment of luxury British craft, from hand-woven throws to hand block-printed wallpaper to hand-made ceramic lamp bases to hand-crafted knives.

They were showcasing the work created as part of Made of Mayfair, where makers took inspiration from the history, architecture and craft of Mayfair. It was great to see this collection after chatting to one of the makers that morning.

Such a busy day! And there was still more crafty goodness to come... which I'll blog about in part three, sometime soon :)

P.S. You can read part one of my visit to London Craft Week here.


Crimson Kettle said...

So interesting, I should have gone to London to see for myself! Thanks for telling us about it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Is it awful of me that I much prefer the more homespun kind of crafts - the kind that bring a bit of happy to the maker and beauty to our homes? It isn't a lesser kind of crafting to me either. I find so much of what Kirsty shows on her tv programms relatively sober and unappealing. She just finds professional people and pays them to do things for her but has become the voice of home crafting. Unfair when there are so many people actually making things themselves who would do a better job. People are currently producing so much lovely stuff. I think 'taste' gets in the way of beauty and find that people then become worried about colour being tasteless so they tend to go the understated route and frankly I find it all a bit beige or magnolia (often literally).

So yes I enjoy your felt makes and other people's crochet and hand stitched clothes and embroidery (the kind that has life and verve and energy to it as well as tiny well crafted stitches), a lot more than this kind of stuff. I dislike brands and if I want a hand stitched bag (which I do), I make one or buy one from etsy or buy a pattern from there. To me, they are aesthetically nicer and without the snobbery involved and the elitism while still being part of a conveyer belt system of production. We don't seem to enjoy craft over here like they do in America, we are just so classist and snobby about it. Real talent is frequently ignored or craft has to be given an 'artsy' spin in order to be seen as important. To me crafting is at all levels and for us to do and not be in awe of. It's the iconic crochet afghan slung over the back of the sofa in TV shows Roseanne for instance. It's the quilting that people do that isn't in quilt shows. That to me is the crafting I love. It is still about skill and talent though.

BugsandFishes said...

Crimson Kettle - I'm so excited that this will be an annual event! Fingers crossed you'll be able to attend next year :)

Sara - it's not awful of you at all! We all have different things we love about crafting :)

For me though I think crafting is broad church and there's room for everyone: total beginners trying a craft for the first time, people who just make things for the love of it, people selling a few crafty bits and bobs at local craft fairs, indie designer-makers with online shops, people keeping traditional craft skills alive, to artists who use craft as the medium for their art, and the kind of "designer craftsmen" & skilled artisans whose work I got to see during London Craft Week.

The craftspeople I met during LCW were making such different things to me (and to most of the makers and crafty bloggers I know and follow online) but I found their passion for making and the incredible level of skill that goes into their work incredibly inspiring.


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