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Essex: Crafts guild keen to shrug its its ‘fuddy-duddy’ reputation

15:00 30 September 2013

The Guild of Essex Craftsmen autumn fair at Grange Barn in Coggeshall. Don Woods (knot work) and Sue Wheeler (beadwork jewellery).

The Guild of Essex Craftsmen autumn fair at Grange Barn in Coggeshall. Don Woods (knot work) and Sue Wheeler (beadwork jewellery).

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The times they are a’changing at the Guild of Essex Craftsman.

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The Guild of Essex Craftsmen autumn fair at Grange Barn in Coggeshall. Ceramic artist Sandra Hall at work.The Guild of Essex Craftsmen autumn fair at Grange Barn in Coggeshall. Ceramic artist Sandra Hall at work.

The not-for profit organisation, set up 30 years ago to promote handmade crafts in the county, is keen to shrug off its “fuddy-duddy” reputation and is modernising in a bid to attract new members.

As well as showcasing traditional skills, such as woodturning and basket weaving, exponents of more contemporary pursuits, like photography and modern art, are being encouraged to get involved.

So says Malcom Brown, co-organiser of the Guild’s first craft fair of the autumn, which was held at Grange Barn in Coggeshall at the weekend.

He said: “A lot of people think we are old-fashioned and a bit fuddy-duddy but we are not. Our raison d’etre will always be to promote good quality craftmanship but we have had to modernise and there are a number of people who practise modern crafts among our membership.

The Guild of Essex Craftsmen autumn fair at Grange Barn in Coggeshall. Artist Julia Tanner at work.The Guild of Essex Craftsmen autumn fair at Grange Barn in Coggeshall. Artist Julia Tanner at work.

“There are photographers, artists who produce modern works and jewellers and potters who put a new twist on traditional skills. We also now have a Facebook page which tells people more about what we do.”

Around 35 of the Guild’s 150 members were displaying the fruits of their labour at the weekend with some giving demonstrations of their craft. Crafts on display included products made from bees wax, calligraphy and book-binding.

Retired teacher, Mr Brown, who specialises in producing cards and framed photography, is also at pains to emphasise the uniqueness and high quality of the products.

He added: “Members pride themselves on the quality of their work because we don’t just take anybody into the Guild. To join a person has to present a selection of their work to other members who are competent in that particular craft. And even after they are accepted, their work is looked at from time to time to ensure they are keeping the quality up.

“The Guild is about bringing together like-minded people to share ideas and work together to present their work to the public. People who buy from our craft fairs are, in most cases, getting a one-off, original piece of work that they won’t find anywhere else.”

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