Craft Your Own Art Collection

Own Art currently has over 300 member galleries on the Own Art scheme, with more and more being added every month – and, naturally, their specialities lie across a variety of different art forms! As you well know, you can use Own Art across the country to split the cost of contemporary art and craft of any kind, and in any media!

Over 150 branches on the Own Art scheme support craft-makers by selling their jewellery, ceramics, metal/woodworks, glassware or textiles either in-store or online – contributing to the £3.4bn that craft generates for the UK economy

The Craft Council has published a number of reports around the development of the crafts sector in the UK, revealing that there are an estimated 11,620 crafts businesses in the UK employing 149,510 people.

We wanted to gain a first-hand perspective on the importance of buying craft in the UK from two of our crafty member galleries…

The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle

“We represent some exceptional artists and craftspeople in various disciplines from across the UK, and internationally. The Biscuit Factory exhibits collections from around 250 artists every season with fine artists, printers, sculptors, ceramicists, furniture makers and jewellers.”

“We have an area of the gallery which we refer to as the ‘craft gallery’ and this houses our collections of what I’d call ‘everyday craft’. All functional yet beautiful collections of ceramics, woodwork, glass and textiles interspersed with smaller prints. These pieces are super-accessible ways of starting a collection and appreciation of craft, and often a go-to area for those looking for unique gifts or affordable souvenirs of their visits.”

“We also work with some wonderful makers who produce commissions for clients. In the past, I’ve worked with people who want a full set of beautiful dinnerware for example, and a lady who wanted to be equitable with family gifts at Christmas time so order numerous pairs of beautiful mugs to give to her relatives.”

“The type of craft in the gallery is a testament to the efforts of our curators who are always trying to source the highest quality pieces. Whether it is a small ceramic dish in paper-thin porcelain or a sturdy hand-carved piece of furniture everything is created with exceptional skill and integrity and is designed to be cherished.”

The Craft Centre & Design, Leeds

“The Craft Centre and Design support a whole host of different contemporary craft disciplines so we’re able to appeal to a wide visitor audience.  We display and sell contemporary jewellery, ceramics, limited edition prints, glass, wood, textiles, mixed media wall art and sculptures.  All of the work is handmade by makers from across the UK and we also like to feature those collections handmade in Yorkshire with a Yorkshire Rose logo next to their work so local/national and international visitors can identify the talent right on our doorstep.”

The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle

Why do you think buying craft is important in the UK?

The Biscuit Factory: “Buying craft is so important because it helps keep heritage skills alive, and supports small businesses and independent makers.”

“Original art and craft allow us to express our personalities and tastes away from the mass-produced trends of the high-street. Having beautiful craft in your home contributes to wellbeing too – owning something you love brings joy whenever you see or use it!”

The Craft Centre & Design: “For us, it’s important to showcase such work because it brings a focus on skills, techniques, ideas and inspirations that makers have honed over many years of training, practice, and experiences throughout their careers, making the work stand out from mass-produced items we so often find ourselves competing against.”

What do you think makes it special?

The Biscuit Factory: “Owning a truly unique and handmade piece of craft is a real privilege. There’s a connection with the maker that you don’t get with mass-manufactured goods. Every inch of a wheel-thrown mug, a hand-carved utensil, or a blown-glass vase has had an interaction with the person who crafted it.”

“There’s also something grounding about interacting with hand-crafted items in everyday life, I find. I take more time and care with the pieces I use, and slowly a simple task becomes a more considered ritual. Enjoying a morning coffee at the weekend without the rush of getting out the door to work or school or carefully selecting a piece of jewellery to wear, and keeping it safely in its box when not in use (protected from the cat!)”

The Craft Centre & Design: “Behind every collection is a maker’s unique story, which we share with our audience.  Visitors are able to make a human connection with the maker’s storytelling, making each purchase a unique experience that can then be treasured when taken home or when gifted to a loved one.  Having something handmade represents a moment of joy, captured when something in the making process was successful and a shared experience between maker and buyer is then established.  Having something handmade is a real conversation starter and this is when stories are shared and the real value of a piece comes to light.”

The Craft Centre & Design Gallery in Leeds

What objects are people buying in your gallery?

The Biscuit Factory: “We have a very broad collection of art and craft that encompasses almost every format, so everything is represented in our client’s purchasing. ‘Giftable’ items are probably the most popular, so small, functional ceramics, glassware, jewellery and prints.”

The Craft Centre & Design: “We sell a lot of keepsake items that can be passed on from generation to generation including jewellery and small trinket pieces like sculptural objects.  Recently a gentleman came in and purchased a beautiful necklace for his brand new grandchild which could be worn when the child grew older.  We also sell a lot of functional objects like handmade mugs so people can enjoy their morning brew in their favourite mug; simple pleasures!”

Which craft generates the most sales?

The Biscuit Factory: “Original paintings contribute the most in value to our sales, followed by prints in all their formats. But we sell the highest quantities in sculpture (decorative pieces in various materials) and ‘vessels’ which are generally functional ceramics and glassware.”

The Craft Centre & Design: “Jewellery does tend to do very well here, especially as gifts at Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.”

Where do most of these sales come through?

The Biscuit Factory: “Although we’ve got a really strong online presence, the majority of our sales are still in the gallery where people can see and feel the work in real life.

The Craft Centre & Design: “We do not currently sell online so all our sales are generated in-house, however, we’re sure our social media helps a little in this area as we do have a lot of followers who we promote our exhibition programme and daily goings on to.”

Do you have any specifically popular craft makers on your roster?

The Biscuit Factory: “Lots! Ceramicist Sylvia K is very popular – her collection is a range of functional homeware which features pops of colour on otherwise muted grey plates, beakers, platters and bowls. People love the mix and match elements of the collection, or the ability to have an entire set in one colour-way.”

“Other popular ceramicists include local artist Kirsty Adams, Manchester-based Hannah Bould, and Rowena Gilbert.”

“Jane Crisp produces sculptural egg-shaped wooden trugs, constructed from thin strips of steam-bent ash, walnut and cherry. Inspired by the design and methodologies in boat-building they are beautiful pieces and we always sell her whole collections.”

“Finally, we have a beautiful jewellery collection, which includes regular stockists like Fran Stunt, Jess Briggs and John and Dawn Field. Each season this is complimented with a thematic exhibition that focuses on a particular process, material or commonality in design. This Spring we’ll be celebrating the joy of texture and movement in a show entitled TACTILE.”

The Craft Centre & Design: “Recent extremely popular craftspeople who have showcased their work here as part of our seasonal exhibition programme included Drew Caines ceramics, monoprints by Lesley Birch, and etchings by Phil Greenwood.”

“We do sell a lot of different disciplines though so popularity can vary from week to week depending on the visitors who buy from us.”

What would you say to someone who is thinking of starting a collection?

The Biscuit Factory: “I think anyone who works in our field says the same thing; buy what you love! Art is so subjective, and it is not intended to fill a short-term need or desire. You must choose something that speaks to you, but without overthinking it. It could be as simple as you like the colours used in an abstract piece. You might find a figurative painting brings you a particular peace, or that a landscape elicits memories of a childhood holiday. I suppose the rules are – there are no rules!”

The Craft Centre & Design: “Buy what you love!  Your passion for the piece can be shared with your friends and family when they see you wearing a piece of contemporary craft or when you have pieces on display in your home.  You’ll always find quality craftsmanship here as we carefully consider all of the collections we display here but that should be one of the things you look out for; skills of the maker, handmade elements that you just cannot get with mass-produced items on the high street or online.”

How do you get people more involved in craft?

The Biscuit Factory: “Here at The Biscuit Factory we are keen to get everyone involved in being creative themselves through a varied workshop programme that ranges from 7 years old to adults. Weaving, pottery, wire sculpture and life drawing are some of our most popular, but we are always introducing new and interesting workshops that bring new crafts into the gallery.”

“When we celebrate new seasons we’re also keen to invite artists and makers into the gallery to talk about or demonstrate their processes with the aim of educating buyers about what goes into producing these pieces.”

The Craft Centre & Design: “We’ve been hosting successful ‘Meet the Maker’ events for several years now.  They’re a unique opportunity for visitors to engage with makers, to see them demonstrate some of their craft practices, and to see the tools of their trade as well as to ask them any burning questions they may have.”

“The world of contemporary craft is often such a far cry from other people’s daily lives, job roles etc. that it can open up lots of exciting conversations leading to visitors wanting to engage on a practical level via workshops or classes, so they can have a go themselves.” 

“TV Programmes Like ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’ also help with giving a small insight into the world of contemporary craft, meaning visitors feel more involved with techniques and processes when they come to view collections here; they’re less afraid to touch and handle the work on display, which is a massive part of the experience when buying contemporary craft.”

“Buy what you love!”

How can we best support craft in the UK?

The Biscuit Factory: “Craft is best supported through making it accessible to as broad an audience as possible; creating welcoming, relaxed spaces where people can enjoy and learn more.”

“Schemes like Own Art are so important too as it helps people either take the first leap into buying original art and craft for their home or build their confidence to continue to add to their collections.”

“Finally, providing platforms for diverse art forms and makers is really important to allow people from all backgrounds to access art. Whether it’s the idea of being able to make themselves, or seeing themselves or their heritage represented in the work.”

The Craft Centre & Design: “Spread the word! Keep talking about it to keep it alive!  Keep buying from makers to allow them to continue to do what they love! Visit galleries and keep them thriving by making purchases from them.”

You can purchase more of less anything you want on the Own Art scheme, from paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture, to glassware, ceramics, jewellery, furniture and textiles.

Seen something you love online or in a gallery? Don’t forget to ask the gallery about Own Art to see if you can pay for the art and craft you love in monthly, interest-free instalments via our scheme. 

Craft your collection with Own Art!