The Contemporary Craft Fair, Bovey Tracey

Thursday, May 29, 2014
The Contemporary Craft Fair has fast become the leading craft fairs in the South West, supporting artisans and makers from all over the Country. Set over two days in south Devon, the fair will see over 8,000 visitors flocking to view the exhibits, take part in workshops and listen to speakers. We love it there, it has a real festival feeling.  This year we shall be seeing some familiar faces, a few of our Made in Bristol team will be exhibiting. Alice Shields Ceramics, Angie Parker Textiles and Janine Partington, to name but a few.  We caught up Sarah James (Director) to find out more...
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about the Contemporary Craft Fair.
I’m Sarah James and I have been the director since the Festival was founded in October 2003. I am from Cardigan in West Wales with a degree in ceramics from Glasgow School of Art. I started out as a maker and received Prince’s Trust funding in the early 90’s and set up Sarah James Ceramics. I sold my work through galleries and craft fairs, changing careers in 1999 when living in Leeds to become a Craft Development Officer in West Yorkshire. From there I moved to Bristol in 2001 and opened Made, Contemporary Crafts and Interiors in Clifton. Another move to Bovey Tracey in 2003 coincided with the opportunity to run the Craft Festival, which I grabbed with both hands. 
How did the Contemporary Craft Fair start? 
The Festival was started by 3 Bovey Tracey businesses joining forces to create a non-profit making company and I was brought in to manage the company. I became a company director in early 2004. The Festival received LeaderPlus European Funding to get started and the event aimed to promote craft in the town and used it as a vehicle for rural regeneration. 

How do you think the Contemporary Craft Fair has supported West Country makers? 
When The Festival started, there was no other event of its kind in the South West and it’s still the biggest and best event in the region. It has created a vibrant market place for makers to sell their work directly to the public. We’ve also opened a shop on the High Street in Bovey Tracey so we sell a selection of makers from the Festival all year round. The Festival highlights the fact that the South West is an area of creative excellence. 
Bovey Tracey has now become a great name in craft, why do you think that is? 
I have worked very hard to ensure that only the very best makers get a stand at the Festival. The quality of the work is a catalyst to motivating visitors to attend and returning every year. The event is highly selective and when you visit the event you can be assured that you will see exciting work by exceptional makers. 
How would you describe the Craft Fair to anyone who hasn't been before? 
It’s lots of fun, packed full with over 200 makers selling directly to the public. In addition, you can take part in a workshop, run riot in the Children’s Craft Tent, watch demonstrations of craft skill, listen to exceptional lectures in the Talk Tipi, eat great street food whilst listening to award winning live music and get your face painted too. 
The Craft Fair supports a wide range of crafts which is your particular favourite medium? 
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be? 

What handmade possession do you most cherish? 
My engagement ring. 

Finally, what are the highlights of the fair that we shouldn't miss? 
The jewellery at The Festival is incredible this year. I am hoping to invest in something special. My favourite jeweller is Tanya Ufer. Other highlights are the Talk Tipi with the opportunity to listen to some inspiring speakers including Alice Taylor from MakieLab about the developments of 3D printing. I love The Children’s Craft Tent which is always buzzing with excited activity. I just love digging into a freshly made pizza, sipping a glass of wine and talking through the business of the day. My whole being is focused on the event and I intend to carry on pushing it forward for as long as I can.

Thank you Sarah, we are buzzing with excitement here. The festival sounds like it's going to be better than ever! The Contemporary Craft Fair runs over the first weekend of June - 6th - 8th June.  Tickets can be bought on-line here.

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