MERL Traditional Craft Fair, Nov 9th 2013

Greta Bertram, MERL Project officer and Heritage Crafts Association trustee, explains how our Traditional Craft Fair connects with MERL’s extensive craft-related collections…

It’s nearly time for the annual MERL Traditional Craft Fair, and this year we’ve got fifteen of our most skilled local craftspeople exhibiting (and in some cases demonstrating) throughout the Museum.

As ever, we received more applications than we have room for in the Museum, so we had a tough time during the selection process. It’s really hard to make a decision when all the work is of such high quality.  We decided that we wanted to represent a range of crafts, both hard and soft, and also wanted to choose crafts that reflect some of the Museum’s collections. We also wanted to have a mixture of old and new faces.

In the entrance to the Museum we have a beautiful stained glass window designed by Susan Moxley to commemorate MERL’s move to its present home in 2005. The window is based on Michael O’Connell’s 1951 Festival of Britain Wall hangings. There are some amazing stained glass artists in Reading, and this year Nicola Kantorowicz and Brenda Graham will be joining us at the Craft Fair.

Nicola Kantorowicz FlowerHeads
Nicola Kantorowicz FlowerHeads

Anyone who’s been to MERL will notice that we have a wide selection of wood crafts on display, including greenwood crafts such as bowls, handles, rakes, besoms and walking sticks. Martin Damen, spoon-carver, and David Glover, bowl turner, are two of the makers representing the wood crafts.

Walking round the galleries you’ll notice that there aren’t really any textiles on display but that’s not to say we don’t have any! Textiles are very vulnerable to decay, so our textile collections are kept in storage. They include clothing, bed-coverings, wall-hangings and rugs, and various objects connected to spinning, sewing and knitting. Caroline Marriott, rag-rugger and weaver, Cathy Seal, knitter and felter, and Romilly Sawnn, natural dyer, will be representing the textile crafts.

Martin Damen spoons
Martin Damen spoons

We also have a lot of domestic objects in the MERL collections but, again, many of these are not on display. We have plates, dishes, jugs, cream pots and even a giant teapot! We’ve got three ceramicists at the Craft Fair this year – Philip Miller, Ursula Waechter and Katie Smith – each using very different techniques.

And there’s still a few more craftspeople to mention – Kate&Anna, furniture, Cathy Newell Price and Matthew Hitch, jewellers, R & J Nickless Apiaries, honey and beeswax products, and Fong Wong, handmade accessories and craft kits.

The Craft Fair is taking place on Saturday 9 November 2013 at 11.00–16.00 (admission is £1 for adults and children are free!). Come along to pick up some beautiful and unusual gifts, talk to the makers, watch some craft demonstrations, and even have a go yourself. To find out more about the Craft Fair visit the MERL website, and find out more about the makers on the MERL Facebook page. Also, why not take a look at our online catalogue to find out more about the craft collections at MERL.

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