The market for craft is booming. A report by the Crafts Council this spring showed that 73 per cent of adults in Britain bought something handmade last year, amounting to some 25 million objects, and almost a third of today’s buyers are under 35.
Meanwhile, lockdown has fostered a sense of community, and shoppers questioned recently in several surveys say they now intend to shop locally wherever possible.
All this is good news for London’s abundant craft studios and small workshops, tucked into old railway arches, converted industrial buildings and even garden sheds across the city.
The furniture makers: Porter + Trundle
Sarah Emily Porter and James Trundle are young artists with formidable craft skills who are channelling their flair for form and colour into imaginative furniture.
Their very first range, called Loop, won the 2019 London Festival of Architecture City Benches competition.
Sarah Emily Porter and James Trundle of Camberwell on their Loop bench
Handmade in the couple’s Camberwell workshop and presented in eye-popping super-glossy colours, it’s recognisably inspired by the iconic map of the London Underground, which Porter and Trundle say is “a quintessential symbol” of the capital. Alternatively, furniture can have a natural timber finish.
Everything is bespoke. A simple shelf unit costs from £300 and a small table from £2,000.
Prices for the bench are from £4,000. Brass inlays can be added for around £350.
The weaver: Alan Oliver
After a short course in weaving a few years back, Alan Oliver “got the rug bug”. He went to pick up a substantial Kentish floor loom, sourced second-hand on the internet, and the seller gave him Techniques of Rug Weaving by the pre-eminent Peter Collingwood.
“I worked through the various techniques and haven’t looked back,” Oliver says.
A rug made to order in subtly graded shades by Lambeth weaver Alan Oliver is a work of art
Particularly popular are his Fade flatweave designs with their subtly graded colour. A small made-to-order rug costs from £750 and takes about 40 hours of work.
His colours/dyes are unique, sourced from plants and flowers around his Lambeth home, and from rusty iron from the Thames foreshore.
“I love the rhythm and connection of weaving. It’s mathematical and ordered but free and expressive at the same time.”
The ceramicist: Linda Bloomfield
Potter Linda Bloomfield works from a studio at the end of her Hammersmith garden.
There, she skilfully throws at speed and before the pandemic was fulfilling many bulk orders from restaurants, making up to 50 plates a day.
But lockdown halted hospitality commissions and now orders mostly come through her website, sparked by a popular link to Instagram (@lindathepotter).
Potter Linda Bloomfield of Hammersmith
She just delivered a dinner service of six place settings to a young couple in Lewes, East Sussex.
At first her affordable white matt porcelain seems pure and simple — then comes the thrill of the contrasting glossy interiors. This mistress of glazes has written text books on the subject.
Lighting artists: Cameron Design House
At the end of an alley off a leafy street in St John’s Wood, a converted garage has become the workshop for a small team of metalworkers, making airy sculptural linear lighting designed by their boss, Ian Cameron, who founded his business in 2014, hand-making luxury interior design with exquisite craftmanship.
During lockdown, Cameron diverted to making PPE and with the help of a “small army” of volunteers delivered 30,000 free protective face shields to more than 300 NHS hospitals.
Bespoke sculptural lighting by Cameron Design House of St John’s Wood
Now they are back in business: rolling, welding, laser cutting and 3D printing brass for their elegant, swooping strips of white LEDs.
Each piece is bespoke and can be adapted accordingly. Prices start from £1,540.
The glass worker: Samantha Sweet
Based in East Finchley, Samantha Sweet works from the garden studio of her semi-detached home. Glass cutting and engraving are her trademarks.
Glasses, decanters and “milk bottles” in handmade, heavy and very clear crystal are incised deeply with glittering, polished patterns. She also makes beads and rings for jewellery.
Samantha Sweet cuts and engraves fabulous glass in East Finchley
Trained at the RCA, Sweet completed a residency at a glass museum, where she studied the traditional crystal-cutting patterns that often influence her work.
Milk bottles cost from £125 and make lovely stem vases.