Rosy Greenlees, OBE, has been Executive Director of the Crafts Council since 2006 and is part of the selection panel for Selvedge World Fair. A national organisation promoting the value of craft and making to society, the Council recently released a 100-page report, The Market for Craft, to take the temperature of the sector. Here Greenlees tells us why she thinks people are investing more in handmade, sustainably produced products and how makers can adapt to this opportunity.
Your report shows people spending more on craft, why?
The appetite for craft is at an all-time high. In recent years, there has been a growth in the public’s desire for sustainable and ethical consumption, as well as supporting small businesses. People are also looking to collect and deck their homes with items which are unique, rich in narrative – as well as beautiful, of course – and craft delivers on all counts. There are also so many more routes to discover makers and buy craft – from art fairs, galleries and markets to the huge rise in e-commerce and digital selling platforms. Searching for and buying objects which speak to the individual has never been easier.
Image: Crafts Council.
How resilient is the craft sector?
Pre-pandemic, Brexit was already impacting many makers with rising costs and a loss of commissions cited as concerns. A Crafts Council survey among British makers at the beginning of lockdown also grimly revealed 60% of artists makers have low or zero financial reserves – so the challenges are real but the objective of our new report is to spotlight where the opportunities lie, both in the UK and US. The fact that Millennials and Gen Z are the biggest consumers of craft is hugely encouraging and the pandemic has witnessed another surge in interest for supporting and participating in making. Teaching is often an additional revenue stream for craft professionals and, as so many more have now discovered the fulfilment of making, this is an opportunity. Being equipped to capitalise on digital marketing and e-commerce is also vital and the Crafts Council is reviewing its sector training offer and investing in its own digital platforms to drive awareness of makers.
Image: Djilene Creations - an exhibitor at Selvedge World Fair.
From the selection process, what excites you about Selvedge World Fair?
Working my way through hundreds of applications was an incredibly rich and rewarding experience. The range of work was extensive and it was both a challenge to make qualitative decisions across so many different cultures, techniques and approaches and heartening to see such a wealth of excellence. I know as President of the World Crafts Council that across the world hundreds of makers and artisans are producing work of quality and range and are adapting to 21st century conditions. So, I am particularly excited to see some of the submissions where traditional materials, processes and patterns have been used to make exquisite, very contemporary pieces that address issues of sustainability.
The Market for Craft Report is available from www.craftscouncil.org.uk