At number 21 Clerkenwell Green I found twinkly fairy lights, colourful textiles and rooms full of friendly faces. The Winter Open Studios is a weekend where designers within the Craft Central network are able to exhibit and sell their work, and for those onsite, an opportunity to open up their workshops to the public. The opening night I attended last Thursday was something of an after work treat, and how reassuring to find that there are communities out there who enjoy crafting art and objects from hand, buying these things in person and meeting their makers. It’s a wonderful antidote to Amazon, self-checkouts and anonymous, ill-informed purchases.
My first stop is at the top of this tall, skinny building, with milliner Rachel Black, who is here for her first open studio. Her ‘less is more’ ethos is clear from the clean lines of her pieces, but they have a touch of whimsy too – I especially loved her Forest hat, a thick, wavy, green felt piece perfect for the winter months.
I spend a little while chatting to Amy Twigger Holroyd, who trades as Keep and Share –she’s an approachable knitwear designer whose work I hope to see a lot more of in the future. Amy has a combination of machine and hand knitted jumpers and scarves, and works on a ‘hand feel’ basis, meaning that there are a range of UK-produced alpaca, Italian wools and natural materials to choose from. As well as clothing, Amy makes knitting kits, perfect gifts for existing or would-be knitters. You might also be interested in learning about Amy’s Prick Your Finger event which Amelia’s Magazine listed in October.
Silversmith Alex Ramsay’s workshop has a creative buzz about it, with mulled wine and Christmas baubles. She explains that she is interested in shadows and layers, and creating depth through piercings – her bowls and jewellery look exquisitely haunted and are unlike anything I’ve seen.
Photography by Caitlin Sinclair
Next I’m lured in to Sonia Cheadle’s cabinet of wonders, where she lets me try on a black diamond beaded bracelet that catches the light, and a yellow gold beaded ring which is impossible not to smile at. Sonia specialises in clasps which are integral to the overall design, so for example, when a necklace’s clasp falls to one side, it looks as though it is intentionally placed. This is thoughtful, contemporary jewellery, at the top of my wish list.
Image courtesy of Sonia Cheadle
Julie Vermeille’s worry dolls and illustrated prints are a real highlight. She is inspired by folk tales, and focuses on bringing these stories to life using different textiles and inks. I love her delicate hand-bound books, print series and vintage lace brooches, all of which have stayed with me long after seeing them. Take a look at some of Julie’s earlier work featured in Amelia’s Magazine.
Images courtesy of Julie Vermeille
Down on the ground level Haidée Drew and Jo Davies are exhibiting together, next to the main entrance. It’s a great social spot, and I am immediately taken with Haidée’s fun Ara mirrors, as well as Jo’s stripy porcelain cups. These are clever, affordable pieces, and the two designers complement one another’s work well.
A two minute stroll down the road and I’m at St John’s Square, where the second half of Made in Clerkenwell takes place. Bunting and wine tell me this venue is having even more of a celebration, and I kick-start it all by taking in a festive cabinet display by Abby Monroe, whose lacy porcelain necklaces and decorations are a delight.
Around the corner I spot Selina Rose’s felt owl rugs, a marvel of colour and felt cut outs, and Charlene Mullen’s embroidered pillows featuring famous cityscapes, and her toy bird collection, which I very much want to take home.
Pastel shades and tree themes characterise Kate Rawlinson’s one/ of a kind section, filled with badges, pillows and sweet decorations—it’s a popular stand and hard to get a look in, but definitely worth the wait. Given Kate’s focus on sustainable production and trees as subject matter, she recently formed a partnership with charity Trees for Cities—I’m interested to see what the results are.
Anna Alicia’s A Alicia brand is all about creating jewellery from ethical, organic and fair-trade materials, but the feel-good factor is only half the fun. Her jewellery features beads and ribbons galore, and hand-knitted necklaces that resemble giant petals. See more of A Alicia’s work in this Amelia’s Magazine review of The Papered Parlour: Fashion in the Age of Austerity.
I think TheBigForest display’s colourful pillows, toys and decorations are created for children, but an awful lot of the adults gathered around seem to be having a good time foraging through the felted toys and stitching. The work of this textile label is hugely appealing, and left me wanting to know more about the stories behind some of the creatures.
An inspiring, enjoyable evening, it’s left me on the lookout for what these amazing designers create next.
A Alicia, Abby Monroe, Alex Ramsay, Amy Twigger Holroyd, Ara, Charlene Mullen, Craft Central, Haidee Drew, Jo Davies, Julie Vermeille, Kate Rawlinson, Keep and Share, Made in Clerkenwell, one/of a kind, Prick your Finger, Rachel Black, Selina Rose, Sonia Cheadle, St John’s Square, TheBigForest, Trees for Cities, Winter Open Studios
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