London is full of historical architecture, and its skyline is cherished across the city. Take St Paul’s cathedral for example; an 18th century, grade 1 listed building that remains visible from any point in the city due to its protected view status. Buildings along London’s docks, especially, are enjoying an infusion of creativity now without any disruption to its vernacular – clear from the artistry building up between the wide walls and tall ceilings of its old forges. One in particular, on the Isle of Dogs, will throw open its doors to the public this weekend to celebrate the arrival of its brand new tenants: Craft Central.

A charity that has supported craftsmanship and craftspeople in the UK for 40 years, Craft Central is inviting the public into this building over the weekend for the first time in its history. Visitors will be able to take part in family-friendly workshops, learn about the forge’s industrial past and enjoy a taster exhibition featuring the work of many of their artists, including Selvedge’s own workshop tutor Emily Jo Gibbs.

Using layers of hand-stitched silk organza and linen, Emily now distils portraits and still lives in her soft and sensitive handling of fabric, after dominating the world of handbag design throughout the nineties and into the 21st century. ‘I found the change in pace between running a fashion driven handbag business and establishing myself as an artist quite difficult to navigate at times,’ she explains. ‘Determined to make work that was personally and creatively rewarding I embarked on a series of embroidered portraits of my family.’

As Emily fuses her own personal heritage with snapshots of contemporary life, so too does Craft Central as it merges new makers and designers with the living history of London’s shipbuilding industry. With over 700 artisans already under its wing, the charity is now inviting more makers, designers and creative freelancers to run their businesses from their brand new East London home – so now is the perfect time to pop along and check out the new digs.

Craft Central at The Forge: Launch weekend 29 September - 1 October 2017

The Forge, 397-411 Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs, London E14 3AE

Emily Jo Gibbs will be leading a silk illustration workshop with Selvedge this November. This workshop is unfortunately sold out, however, you can find out information and add your name to the waiting list here.

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