A by-word for traditional skills with an authentic vibe, the trend for all things ‘artisan’ has never been hotter. As the countdown starts to a major artisan festival, we look at what it is and why we love it.
Britain, it seems, has fallen in love with the concept of hand crafted products, which combine style, function and authenticity while often making clever use of what’s around.
For two days next month, artisan craftsmen and women from across England will gather in the stunning surroundings of Harewood House, to show off the kinds of produce and skills that simply can’t be found on the high street.
The Late Summer Artisan Festival, across the weekend of September 16 and 17, will draw together talented producers from across England, skilled in traditional techniques, making everything from jewellery to clocks, food to fashion.
So, what is it about ‘artisan’ products that have made us fall in love with the concept?
No more mass produced
Artisan is the label typically given to products which have been handmade, often drawing on skills that have been endangered by the onslaught of mass produced alternatives.
Their popularity could be because they remind us of days gone by, suggests the aptly name Rod Twiggs, who has revived the skill of the wood turner to make stunning and unique wooden clocks.
“The old wood turning skills are dying out, people used to make things for themselves and they like to be able to still have things that are handmade and natural,” says Rod, 61, who launched Twiggs Turning Time after retiring from his job as an engineer.
“You pick up a piece of wood, it feels nice, it looks nice,” adds Rod, who’ll be at the Harewood House event. “People hand me a piece of what they think is scrap wood and are amazed when I turn it into something nice.”
New from old
It’s that element of making something from an item that might well have gone to waste which also ticks the box with many artisan craftspeople and their customers.
Their artistic eye can see what many of us can’t – a beautiful wooden frame for a globe, or a tactile case for one of Rod’s clocks.
Sometimes artisan producers will take a vintage garment or technique and give it a modern twist, or put their own personal stamp on a traditional dish or flavour to bring it up to date.
Passion and pride
Often the artisan tradesman and woman’s passion for what they do shines through in their extensive knowledge, whether they’re creating beautiful jewellery or reviving centuries’ old bread recipes.
You’re more likely to find out about the heritage and history behind, say, that delicious Jamaican goat curry served up by artisan cooks at Devon’s Kitchen, one of the stallholders at the Harewood House event, than by simply buying a curry at the local supermarket.
Artisan producers tend to be more environmentally aware, creating items that are locally sourced and come with a clear conscience because they haven’t damaged rain forests or travelled around the globe.
Bespoke and original
In many cases, it’s knowing you have something unique and beautifully original that really makes visiting an artisan producer worthwhile.
Their artistic skills can turn the simplest item – like a cup and saucer – into something that brings pleasure every time it’s used.
It’s a talent that has seen Lizzie Windelinckx’s charming fine bone china ceramics travel across the Atlantic from her Yorkshire studio. Her painted mugs, plates, espresso cups and saucers perfectly capture the cute and mischievous sparkle that every animal lover sees in their pet cat and dog’s eyes.
For her, meeting customers – and their dogs – at the likes of Harewood House, is inspirational: “It is a real bonus to hear all about their own precious family members and I happily view photos on their phones. I have a growing list of breeds for me to illustrate, requested by people I meet!”
There will be dozens of highly talented artisan producers at Harewood House, along with music from U2 and Adele tribute acts, food outlets, bars and a variety of fun things to do, from fairground rides, pony rides and go karts to watching birds of prey.
Tickets to the Artisan Festival are included in the entry price to Harewood House. Either pay on the day, or save 10 per cent by booking early at www.littlewolfevents.co.uk and use the code ‘EARLYBIRD’.