Manchester Craft and Design Centre - 30 years of creativity in Manchester's Northern Quarter

PUBLISHED: 20:13 14 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:44 20 February 2013

Manchester Craft and Design Centre - 30 years of creativity in Manchester's Northern Quarter

Manchester Craft and Design Centre - 30 years of creativity in Manchester's Northern Quarter

Manchester Craft and Design Centre has been encouraging creativity in the Northern Quarter for 30 years WORDS BY: EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY: KIRSTY THOMPSON

Manchesters Northern Quarter is synonymous with creativity and innovation. It has a reputation as a bustling community filled with designers, artists and inspirational people.

But it wasnt always that way. Just over 30 years ago, following the demise of several markets that once dominated this part of the city, it was neglected and in some parts derelict. But the Manchester Craft and Design Centre changed everything. In fact, its opening has been credited with kick-starting the regeneration of this now vibrant area.

It was in 1982 that this now famous institution first opened its doors as Manchester Craft Village in the former Victorian fish and poultry market. It was established by Manchester City Council and offered studio space for small, creative businesses.

Kate Day, director of Manchester Craft and Design Centre, said: It was about trying to put designer makers on the map. It was done with a lot of passion. It was really forward-thinking of the council and they saw it as an opportunity to start regeneration in the area.

It was quite a brave move because the model they developed was something that hadnt been seen anywhere else. Opening the craft centre did what it set out to do and put this area and the people working here on the map.

Today, as it celebrates its 30th anniversary, the building is still owned by the council but the centre is run as a not-for-profit organisation.

It has won several awards and also supports young designers through projects with local universities. It is home to 19 studio boutiques where 35 artists and designer-makers produce and sell their work direct to the public.

One of the longest standing residents is ceramicist Lee Page Hanson. The 43-year-old has been based at the centre for 14 years. He worked for another designer at first but when they moved on, he took the opportunity to strike out on his own. Now his ceramics are sold across the country and even in America. He recently exported 1,000 tiles there.

He said: To have a place like this is invaluable, there really is no place like it. Its great to have other makers around you for support and inspiration and I love being able to meet the public. It is a wonderful place.

Another resident is helping to promote the centre to different countries in another way. Jane Blease, who makes sustainable lighting, artwork, jewellery and other accessories from different types of wood, has had work featured in many galleries and retailers including the Barbican in London.

She recently enjoyed a six-week artist in residence in Ahmedabad the former capital of Gujarat, India, collaborating with local artisans to create pieces of art and craft. The 29-year-old worked with a local metal-beating family to create embroidered metal lampshades and she sells them in her studio.

She said: We worked together to combine their traditional skills and my modern approach to design.

It was an incredible experience and its fantastic to be able to share their work with people who come to the centre. This is a great place that feels like one big family that supports one another.

Liz Evans runs Lily Greenwood, abusiness named after her grandmother. The 29-year-old childrens book illustrator-turned-painter has been based at the centre for six years. Her art work features dozens of delicate and brightly-coloured butterflies.

She said: I love being in the centre because I can work as well as meet the people who are interested in seeing my pieces. The centre provides a lot of support and Im not sure a lot of us would be in business without it.
Premises like this are few and far between and to have a centre so dedicated to helping designer makers is very special.

Jewellery designer Julia Roy Williams who runs Wonderhaus, creates jewellery from unusual items including Perspex, wood, leather and event household items like nuts and bolts. The 32-year-old first was granted a residence at the studio after she finished university.

She said: Being based here has been really nice and a fantastic opportunity. Istill get really excited when people come in to see me or I see them wearing my jewellery.

But I also get a big buzz from being around other creative people here. The centre is inspiring.

To mark the 30th anniversary several events are planned from workshops to heritage displays including a Crafting History exhibition. This special show will feature a ceramic installation by porcelain artist Carys Davies and the resident makers will donate work to the exhibition. These will then be auctioned off at a special event in November with proceeds going to charity, Shelter. There will also be an exhibition, Fourfront, where four Scottish contemporary artists will show their work from November.

Manchester Craft and Design Centre has also recently been granted 120,000 of Arts Council funding for a project to hold workshops to teach the public new skills as well as hold creative business development sessions. A website is being created to allow designers to sell stock online. It is also hoped that a long term project to renovate the building will soon start. For director, Kate, these are exciting times.

She said: The centre has been an important destination in Manchester and the Northern Quarters revival. We now want it to grow and we want even more people to discover the fantastic designer makers we have here. Were very much looking to protecting its future for the next 30 years.

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