The Countryside Festival takes place at Glamis Castle, which has been the ancestral home of the Earls of Strathmore for over 600 years. It is a fairytale castle set in magnificent grounds amongst the fabulous Angus countryside. The castle itself is open to the public throughout most of the year and in common with most stately homes, runs tours, special events and is open for group bookings, weddings, conferences and the like.
The Countryside Festival is an annual event and this year featured the spectacular “Devil’s Horsemen” display team, over 250 shops, two craft marquees, a food hall and a continental market. In the show ring were Clydesdale horses, highland ponies, lurcher racing, farm animals, children’s dog show as well as traditional highland dancing and a pipe band.
As part of the event is an arts and craft fair with some 50 stands displaying a huge range of the most fabulous work.
A large proportion of the craftspeople are women, either working full time in the creative industries, working part-time doing something that they love at weekends or retired and now enjoying a very different kind of working life.
I have been a professional artist for 3 years, selling my work through galleries across Scotland and at art events across the UK. From my point of view art fairs are a great way to meet the public – it’s a great to get a cheque form a gallery at the end of each month but it is wonderful to get feedback from people who enjoy and buy my work. They are also great places to meet other artists in order to develop new ideas and share the experience of trying to make a living as an independent craft-worker.
The arts and crafts on display vary from woodwork and fine furniture through to jewellery and hand-made children’s clothing. The common feature is that the work here at Glamis Castle is of outstanding quality.
This is not always the case as more and more fairs are being filled by traders selling poor quality, often imported, mass produced pieces. When fairs are full of these cheap products it is difficult for genuine craftspeople to compete as it is very tempting for the public to spend, say, £5 on an imported wooden bowl as opposed to maybe £30 for a hand-turned piece of British Oak. This is particularly true in these difficult times where the temptation for us all is to buy cheaply for now rather than buy something that will last.
The problem for crafters is that if we are not selling at fairs then we cannot afford to pay the rising cost of stands and so cannot attend future fairs. The more craft workers that go out of business the more fair organisers are obliged to fill the empty spaces with stands full of cheap rubbish. As fairs become full of products of low quality and without the unique appeal of being hand-crafted, the fairs themselves become less attractive to the public and attendances fall. If fairs are not well attended they will close, leaving yet fewer outlets for crafters to get their work to market. It is a vicious circle or, more accurately, a downward spiral.
I am fully aware of the law of supply and demand and the argument that craft workers are not, and should not be, immune to market forces but it does seem to me to be a special case. Most of us never get a price for our work that accurately reflects the hours put into its creation and there is very little premium for the idea, innovation and design; our intellectual and creative property. There are exceptions in the world of art, where artworks from celebrity artists sell for astronomical amounts but trust me, these are very few and very far between!
So my plea, if you can, is to support your local craft workers. Buy hand-made goods that will last. Next to me at the Glamis event was a lady selling hand-made childrens clothing. Each piece was fully reversible, hand-finished and unique yet the price of a dress to fit a 3-4 year old was just £9.99. So quality need not cost a fortune. Remember her next time you nip into Tescos or ASDA for children’s clothes and give your local art fair a go!!!
MY PERSONAL FAVOURITES FROM THE SHOW – CHECK THEM OUT!!
Maralyn Reed-Wood Porcelain: My life has been dedicated to ceramics from an early age. A childhood in Malaysia left me fascinated by intricate temple carvings and a serendipitous early association with a small pottery all helped carve out my future in clay.
The textures are individual to each pot. I work with a “pallet” of around 300 textures. Some of my sea-shells were collected during my childhood in Malaysia, and are now 50 years old, and still going strong!
My method is similar to the way I cook; highly experimental! A pinch of this, a little of that.
Barony Handcrafted Soap
It was in 2004 when Claire and Dave returned to Perthshire that Claire found soap making was an enjoyable hobby to see through the dark winter nights in Scotland. As with many hobbies, it grew and grew…into a full-time business.
The soaps are absolutely fantastic with some stunningly original “flavours” – like Crieff Crannachan and Madderty Maiden! The Soy candles are created with pure, 100% natural soybeans from renewable resources to which only high quality essential oils or cosmetic grade fragrances are added.
Elisabeth Bailey Pottery
Elisabeth produces handthrown earthenware pottery. The pots are dipped in layers of glaze with designs reserved by hot wax or scratched into the glaze surface to reveal the clay.
Elisabeth also demonstrate the art of pot throwing and making at the craft event and it is fabulous to watch a real artist at work!