We chat to the craft-weekender organisers to find out more about the fair & skill-share
Are your IKEA succulents and fairy lights left over from from your student days no longer hacking it? Need a gift for the friend who has everything? Or, if like me, do you just get giddy about all things unique and independent? This one’s for you
Having hosted a series of socials over the past few months, the Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 August will see the first full Northern Craft weekender that will allow you to stock up on all the indie brands and crafts that make Leeds art scene what it is, and I regret to inform you that your HomeSense haul is about to look basic AF.
It’s not just about spending your hard-earned cash either – with an ethos of shared learning and collaboration, this event may well introduce you to that likeminded creative you’ve just been waiting to meet to launch your own crafty endeavor. With that in mind, we held a quick Q&A with the (very busy) organisers, Sean Mort and Carley Batley, to find out what you can expect this weekend…
Hey guys! What inspired you to start the craft markets?
Sean: “Every year I make several trips to the US and Europe to sell my work at Primavera Sound, Renegade Craft Fairs & SXSW. So I travel to all these amazing fairs but never do any in my hometown. Northern Craft started from a need to fill that gap. We wanted to bring quality crafts from all over the North, the rest of the UK, and even further, to Leeds.
Everything seems to be getting gentrified, and while that is not altogether a bad thing, it can lead to a lack of individuality and personality. People who shop independent immediately stand out. Also, people who make their own work should be celebrated.”
Sean, you’re based here in Yorkshire but Carley, you’re in the US - how do you balance working on Northern Craft together when you live so far apart? What does an average day look like?
Carley: “It can be tough because the time difference puts us on totally different schedules too. Sean's having his lunch when I leave for work and is asleep when I get home, so it's not always easy to connect properly.
I work a full-time job here in Minnesota so my day consists of getting up at 6 a.m, answering emails and making sure scheduled social posts have gone up, replying to comments and queries. I cycle to work, work really hard, answer emails at lunch, work hard some more, cycle home, walk my dog, answer more emails, send more emails, schedule social content, and go to bed. Sean and I Facetime at the weekends and we Whatsapp every day. It's tough, but not as difficult as I would have thought it would be. The hardest part is not being at the fairs when all the hard work pays off!”
Sean: “I work full time for myself as a printer/designer and have a 20-week-old baby so my schedule is pretty full these days. With Northern Craft I try to get as much done in the morning so when Carley is awake she can approve. Working in different continents actually works pretty well as it allows us to be more efficient with our time.”
Carley: “A Northern Craft day has 30 hours rather than 24.”
Who is your favourite artist you have discovered along the way?
Carley: “I'm discovering new people all the time. I spend a lot of time browsing Instagram and Etsy for new makers. Last week I stumbled across Maria Wojdat's ceramic work and I'm obsessed. She does really simple handmade pots in block colours. Her colour palette is extraordinary.”
Sean: “There are too many. I love Letters By Julia and would really like to work with her on something in the future.”
Let’s talk about PINDROP, a brand new initiative for Northern Craft - how could you possibly narrow down so many of your collaborators to just 21 designers of the pins?
Carley: “We made a list of everyone we'd like to be involved and we had a list of 20-odd people thinking most would say no but almost everyone wanted to be involved. We gave everyone a brief and worked with them on honing ideas to make sure we didn't have loads of similar designs. We've now got 25 designs by 21 makers!”
What else can people expect from your first weekender?
Sean: “It’s set to be a really big one. We will have our largest ever number of makers across the two days, and we’re also offering workshops from two Leeds favourites; Geofleur and Stitch Up, as well as screenprint with Awesome Merch. We’ve got beers from Northern Monk Brew Co., Food from various street food vendors and just a general positive, collaborative atmosphere.”
Have you found that there are any particular crafts that are really taking off at the moment?
Sean: “Print seems to grow all the time, which is great for a printer like myself. I would say jewellery seems to be huge at the moment, we get more applications from printers and jewellers than any other craft form.”
Carley: “I've always loved craft fairs because it's great to connect the product with the person who thought of it and worked hard to make it happen. We live in a world of throw-away, mass-produced fashion. It's so good to buy something that's been created with love and pride and that we can really treasure.”
How can people get involved? What do you have planned for the future?
Carley: “We've got some plans for the bank holiday weekend that we'll be announcing soon and we have a fair in October. Anyone who wants to get involved, no matter how established, should come along to our monthly social (and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for details).
We're always looking for ways to collaborate with makers and we'd encourage anyone with an idea for working together to get in touch with us. Longer term, we'd like to run fairs in other northern cities, host more workshops, and we have a project for next year that we hope will get more people making.”
Northern Craft, Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 August, Northern Monk Refectory. northerncraft.co.uk