Collect 2019 – “The dynamic energy, confidence and ambition of the UK’s craft sector has never been more apparent.” Says Rosy Greenlees, the Crafts Council’s Executive Director to Archipanic, at the Collect International Art Fair for Modern Craft & Design. In an exclusive interview, Greenlees highlights how the fair provides opportunities and supports the crafts sector in dealing with contemporary challenges.
- REALTED STORIES: read more about Brexit on Archipanic…
“The UK is a world leader in craft and the discipline of creative making plays a crucial role in driving innovation – from digital technology to architecture, from bioscience to fashion.” With a £3.4bn contribution to the country’s economy (2014) and a +25% of exports since 2010, “there is also a growing interest and popularity in making and the handmade in all its forms – ranging from the traditional to the contemporary – apparent on our high streets and in our media.” Indeed, the UK government’s figures show a 22% rise in participation in craft overall.
What are the opportunities, challenges and risks facing the sector? Brexit – the UK’s departure from the European Union – “is a risk, of course”. The trade negotiations are well behind schedule with the risk of a ‘No Deal’ crash that could seriously harm the country’s economy.
“Any downturn can impact craft businesses and their ability to sell their work. For those who export, leaving the EU could result, for example, in complex paperwork associated with importing materials and exporting goods.”
“Craft is an industry dominated by micro enterprises and sole creatives. It can be difficult for many craft businesses to access the support and finance they need as one-person enterprises.” Indeed, while smaller businesses can be more agile in changing economic conditions, it can be harder for them to access support or engage in education and training programmes – especially in the case of an economic roller coaster situation.
Brexit aside, developing the public’s appreciation for quality craft is an ongoing task, especially in the digital era. “The growth in the popularity of craft is a good thing but there are challenges with sometimes low quality, cheap work being sold online that is not really craft and this is a challenge for authentic makers who need to charge a decent price to reflect the time, effort and skill invested in their work.”
Education is another key issue. “The UK has prioritised science and English over creative subjects. We have seen a significant reduction in both the availability of craft related courses for school students and undergraduates alike. This is resulting in a reduction in the number of students.”
“We hope that international students will continue to enroll on our world beating art courses and talent to choose to live and work here after Brexit.”
International fairs like Collect play a key role. “Collect provides a fantastic opportunity for the public to see the very best British and international craft.”
” The critical mass of galleries and creatives exhibiting provides an expansive survey of high-quality craft and the combination of scale and location provides us with a very high-profile event with good media coverage and audience reach.”
Collect is an international fair and 50% of the galleries come from Europe, Asia and the US. It also attracts international visitors and this aids inward investment and builds profile for the exhibitors. The long-term impact can be increased networks, opportunities, sales and commissions after the fair has closed.
Collect is celebrating 15 years and every year it goes from strength to strength – which is why so many leading international art galleries want to be involved. London is and always will be a fulcrum for creativity, experimentation, innovation, artistry and collecting in craft.