Studio space available at Unit Twelve from early July!

We are looking for a contemporary craft practitioner for a MINIMUM of 1 day a week within our opening hours of Thursday-Saturday, 10-4pm (though preference will be given to makers able to be in on a Saturday). However the space is available everyday- so you can be in as much as you like…
The space available is 3.5m x 2m and is just £100 per calendar month. But what we are offering is SOOOO much more than JUST a studio space…
* ALL bills (heating, electric, water, business rates)
* Informal mentoring and business support from Jennifer Collier and the Unit Twelve team.
*Inclusion in Unit Twelve’s advertising and publicity (including a large presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and inclusion on our website)
* A vibrant inspiring space full of like minded visitors and makers.
*Other artists to bounce ideas off
*A shopfront, with an established audience, to sell direct to (even on the days you are not there)
*Use of the large workshop space to work in (when there isn’t a workshop on) 
*AND even tea, coffee and biscuits (and occasionally cake too!)
my space2

Jennifer’s Space

naomi space1

Example Studio Space


Example Studio Space

rach space

Example Studio Space

ruth space 2

Example Studio Space


Studio Counter


Art Workshop Space


Gallery Space

Launched in May 2010 Unit Twelve has become a thriving contemporary craft venue in the Midlands, which hosts a gallery, a large workshop space and 6 artists studios, all in a beautiful rural location just a few miles out of Stafford. In this time the space has gained over 25 pieces of national press, including magazines such as Living etc, Embroidery, Mollie Makes and Crafts, to name just a few, as well as several books such as New Artisans and Upcyclist (

You can watch a short film which captures the essence and ethos of our beautiful workplace here:  or do just pop in to see the space, for a cuppa and a chat: Open Thur-Sat, 10-4pm.

If you’re interested please email 3 jpeg examples of you work, website/social media links to


How to survive (and thrive) at your first craft fair by MrPrintGarage


I’ve seen a few blogs recently detailing the trials and tribulations of new makers entering the world of selling at craft fairs. Craft Fairs can be wonderful experiences, great for sales, building an audience and making contacts and dare I say it friends with other makers. They can also be daunting, gruelling nightmare. I’ve been around a bit and done a few craft fairs in my time and I thought I’d share a few nuggets of information that might make your life a tiny bit easier.


So you’re thinking of doing a craft fair – but which one? There’s so many, and how do I know if it’s going to be any good or not.

Do you know anyone who’s done that particular fair – if not it might be worth approaching a more established maker for a bit of advice, some makers actually offer mentoring service – booking in an hour or two with such a person might be money well invested. Do I know anyone? hmmm one or two…

Is there a website? Can you see example of previous exhibitors? Ask yourself honestly – “is my work a good fit?”

One good idea is to actually visit the fair and apply the next year if you like the look of it. Play the long game.

Personal invites – it’s always exciting when I get emails from people telling me how much they like my work – and then they usually go on to say – “would you like to exhibit at such and such a show? We had over 10 squillion visitors last year, this year it’s going to be even more A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!” Yes, yes, I know the email is personally addressed to you, but, here comes the hard bit so I hope you’re sitting comfortably – they haven’t stared longingly at all the beautiful things on your website. They’ve probably got your details from the catalogue from New Designers or your college’s degree show catalogue or wherever. They’ve then roped in a family member/paid someone to fill in the details of a mass email to lots more makers. Don’t be flattered, it’s a standard process – lovebombing as many artists and makers to apply so they have a high quality to choose from.

So you’ve applied, paid the admin fee (Yes, there’s usually an admin fee to apply to shows, someone has to sit and upload all those lovely images and jotform costs money as well) and you’ve been accepted. Brilliant – now you’ve got to pay the deposit (do it now – don’t be one of those people who the organisers have to chase, it annoys them some what.)

When you applied, you will have stated stand size and normally somewhere in that process you have to tick boxes and order any of the extra things you might need. Like a table or a plug socket, or even the wifi code. The basic rule of thumb when looking at the cost of doing a show is:


The stand cost usually (but not always) buys you 3 white walls, 2 spot lights, a fascia sign on with your business name on and a listing in the catalogue. Everything else you either bring with you or pay for. I’ve seen some complaints recently about “hidden costs” – most reputable shows are upfront about this at the stage of applying. So why not just add that onto the main fee upfront – well not everyone wants or needs a plug socket – so why should everyone shoulder the costs? Paying for Wifi is a new one on me (in my day people paid for products with cheques or simple bartering systems) but broadband doesn’t come for free so assume that shows will pass on the cost of this to you. If there’s 4G or even 3G your card machine/izettle thing should work fine.

Of course there’s the possibility of profiteering going on – but back at the research stage it might be worth looking at who is behind the show – are they doing this because they know about and love craft or are they building their own brand?

The bigger fairs can be very expensive and so there’s usually plenty of more affordable options available. Another rule of thumb that generally holds up – “You get what you pay for” That £10 for a table in a pub garden sounds like a bargain in comparison to many shows, but who is going to come and of those people who do, how many are prepared to shell out on expensive craft?

If nothing else though – these can be good practice, working on your customer relations skills or just people watching, seeing how they look at things on your space etc.

I love it when a plan comes together.
You will no doubt be getting lots of email reminders about various things – marketing, advertising or booking on to the aftershow social thing (do – these are usually good fun and a great way of making friends in the craft world, and some of them you get to see the organisers doing things like celidh dancing or just sat in a corner, rocking back and forth and muttering to themselves).

More importantly one of those emails will contain an Exhibitor Manual, which brings us on to two of the most important rules of doing a craft fair:



See, what happens is the organisers (the good ones) put ALL of the useful information in one handy document for you to read – set up times, break down times, show times, lanyards, etc etc. They’ve done this because they are busy and they are keen to avoid the pain of answering the same questions over and over and over again. So before you email them to ask something, just check because it’s most likely in there and it stops your name from going on the s**tlist.

One detail in particular to pay attention to (and this is from personal experience) is the stand plan. Are you on a corner stand? If so then the likely event is that you will only have 2 walls – they like to leave an open eyeline where possible – it will probably say if you want the 3rd wall to ask them before a specific date – this is so the stand builders know where to build walls. I forgot to do this once and had to reorganise where everything thing was going. The upside though is actually people are more likely to come into the space because it feels less claustrophobic and less like a craft dungeon.

Other things to do/check:

  • Hotel – book sooner rather than later, because there’s those other pesky artists filling up the rooms.
  • Parking, where are you going to stash your vehicle for the next three days?


Set up day!

Yay it’s the big day and you’ve had a good night’s sleep, a good break fast and now you’re on the road – having routeplanned your journey (adding extra time for pee and pasty breaks on the way) to arrive on time for your drop off slot. Once you’ve unloaded it’s expected that you will have to move your wagon so that others can get in and drop off their equally lovely craft items. Moving your vehicle is another way to stay off the naughty list.

  • Pack the tools you need, having to borrow hammers and drills off other makers generally doesn’t endear you to them. Old hands like me tend to know where you can buy emergency bluetack/gin from…

  • Do you really need to put wallpaper/tie dye sheet up on the wall? There’s nothing wrong with white walls – people need to be able see your work.

  • Don’t leave all your stuff in the gangway, stash it in your space – there are other makers in and out with big boxes and there’s usually electricians and the like running around with ladders fixing things.

  • Photograph your stand – a handy aide memoire for the next time you do the show. (If you’re like me though you might have planned out the design before hand.)

  • How many props do you actually need? Vintage suitcases and old print block trays are very done and when you get annoyed the third time of being asked “Is the suitcase for sale? My mother used to have one of them” imagine how annoying it’s going to be the 300th time you’re asked that question.

  • If something isn’t right, like a plug socket that isn’t there – find someone who’s part of the team, either organiser or technician and ask politely can they sort it. It’s either on the list of things to do or an oversight. They should correct it – no need for tantrums. (I’ve seen this happen, it’s embarrassing when my four year old stamps his feet, it’s quadruply embarrassing watching a 40 something throw a wobbly.)

  • Float. Bring lots of change. Round numbers generally aid cash sales, if you’re selling something for £4.95 then you need to bring a barrow full of 5ps…

  • And have change on you for parking – this is your responsibility not the organisers, you are an adult (unbelievably, I’ve seen people grump at organisers about this).

Curtains up!
This is when the fun really begins (or not). Fairs have changed a bit over the years, well the economic circumstances have changed – prior to the banking collapse in 2008 (caused by the banks and not immigrants and the EU as the Daily Mail would have you believe) I’d been doing fairs with my better half and we couldn’t wrap and bag purchases quickly enough. Doing ‘Origin’ at Somerset House in London, my wife had to organise with her London friends who could come which day to give her a break for 10 minutes so she could have a wee, and in that 10 minute break people still complained that she wasn’t there! These days, people make much more considered purchases. They tend to go and think about it for a bit, or they take a card and maybe buy it online later. I tend to think of fairs now as a 3 day live advert.

All this preamble is to warn you that doing craft fairs might not be as immediately lucrative as you’re expecting. If you’re breaking even (covering all your costs) at your first show, then bloody well done (genuinely no sarcasm here) you deserve a G&T or three. It took me several years of trial and error before I got to that point (partly because what I was making wasn’t very good). Often it can take being at the fairs a couple of times before people will really start to buy – they like to see that you’re worth investing in – people like novelty and new innovations but they also like familiar and reliable things.

After sales can be just as important. So, bring plenty of business cards – don’t be tempted by the multi design thing, people just want to collect all of them (bloody students!).

And even if it’s going badly and the stand across from you is non stop selling it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. Sometimes people are coming for something quite specific – try selling a screenprint to someone who’s only interested in jewellery – it ain’t gonna happen. And more to the point, there’s nothing wrong with being niche… Don’t give up, don’t pout and DON’T start lowering your prices – because that just smells of desperation.

  • Don’t pounce with the clipboard, a friendly hello does the job

  • Prices should be easy to see and understand – if they have to ask, they probably won’t…

  • Keep smiling

  • Bring comfy shoes – it’s a long day couple of days.

  • Bring a bottle of water – shows tend to get quite warm.

  • Be considerate to other makers – don’t park your stool in front of my stand (sounds obvious but it does happen).

  • If you’ve brought moral support in the shape of a parent or a partner, send them off to have a look around the show or the city and do a swap with them from time to time. Bored husbands or parents having a picnic in your stand can be a bit off putting. (One task as the moral support that I used to really enjoying was scoping out a pub/restaurant for the evening’s meal).

  • If your having a bad day don’t whine on social media – the craft world is very small, keep it for the pub…

  • At the end of it, whether the show has gone well or not so well – thank the organisers and fill in the feedback forms. They are only human (just about) and need to be loved just like anybody else…

Sometimes the days can go a bit slowly but it’s the perfect opportunity to play Craft Fair Bingo for just £5 available here

The Print Garage will be opening it’s doors to the general public and I’ll be wielding an inky with ninja like dexterity at:

Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair  in Manchester
7-9th October (preview evening on the 6th)


Made By Hand Wales in Cardiff
28-3oth October

You can also connect with Mr Print Garage over on all the social medias so please do go and follow and click like on things:


Collaboration within Craft


  1. The action of working with someone to produce something.
  2. The situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing.
  3. A recursive process to realise shared goals by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.

Most recently I have been thinking a lot about what impact collaboration can have upon craft practice, following on from a recent ‘Synergy Swap’ day with Design Factory members at Unit Twelve, linking into the current exhibition ‘Simpatico’. It was a positive day, and I felt really enthused afterwards after exploring several different forms of collaboration throughout the day.

The day produced some exciting responses of intertwined work. Below are a few images of myself and fellow ‘Cultivated’ graduate Rachel Butlin’s responses. We experimented with a selection of our own materials used within our individual practices, the result of which were the early stages of a playful series of vessels. It will be exciting to see how this series develops in the next coming months.

The day taught me collaboration can also be much more than a swap of skills or production of a body of work; Collaboration can open up a discussion between Makers that can pose thought, altering one’s thinking and perceptions, allowing for a more rounded practice – and possibly a change in course. Throughout the ‘Synergy Swap’ day I was able to engage in some thought provoking discussions, which enabled me to clarify some inward battles of my own.

The day made me think back to previous work I have found really interesting – Lin Cheung’s input for the exhibition Process Works a series of e-correspondence between herself and Caroline Broadhead, which act in a way such as this. They really reflect how thought provoking such collaborations can be.
On reflecting upon the correspondence and exhibition, Lin comments, “Making the objects for this exhibition had a profound effect on the way I viewed my own approach. I was able to see my own thought processes with new clarity: The way I looked at the world, the way I absorbed information and the ways in which I communicated ideas…the short e-correspondence we exchanged at the time continues to inspire and sustain my practice to this day.” The piece is something I continually return to and read; with such an honest dialogue the discussions provided food for thought within my own practice. Collaboration can allow makers to become critical of their own practice.

It’s an interesting exercise to explore collaboration, push the boundaries. I will look forward to another ‘Synergy Swap’ day and the collaborative relationships developing. More images of works in progress to come…
Tweet @birtles_charlie

Meet the Maker: Kerry Butterworth

What’s your most interesting item in your studio? 

My sketch book

I spend a lot of my time drawing, painting and sketching. My sketchbook is my diary where I can express my mind.

Who are your craft heroes?

I admire many, however my all time hero is actually a fashion designer, Alexander McQueen.

I love how he used his medium to create wearable pieces of art, the beauty in how he constructs his garments, and how he rebels against the rules of tradition.

Alexander McQueen gallery

What have you got coming up?

Before I started the cultivated programme, I was really eager to run my own workshops, as it has always been something I have been interested in. I love helping people and sharing my passion. As an emerging designer I see it as my duty to give back to the next generation of makers in the hope of keeping craft alive.

I have recently been sketching some ideas, with the help of Jennifer who has really encouraged and supported my ideas. So watch this space.

Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?

Whenever I do get the time to read its something dramatic like The Hunger Games, which really gets your blood pumping.

I live through my eyes.

Although reading isn’t at the top of my to do list flicking through Vogue/ Elle magazine is. Its something I love on a personal level, but it is also fed into my practice by storing visual information and being trend aware.

Have you got a favourite film?

I am a crazy Disney fanatic, so any film that’s Disney is already my favourite film. I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite but up at the top has to be ‘Tangled’. I love her rebellious behaviour, how far she pushes herself to get her dream, and of course the hair! Who doesn’t want her hair? And who wouldn’t love a friend like pascal?

Where would you most like to see your work exhibited? 

I have always looked at the V & A and I recently had the opportunity to work alongside a senior lecturer Jo Horton. Jo is a electro-chemical textile specialist who asked me to design and make some ‘couture beads’ for her garments which will be exhibited next year at the V & A museum.

So although this has given me a taster of what it could be like, if I am successful this will be one of my long term goals.

Here’s your chance to get on your soapbox – is there anything that makes you angry or frustrated within the world of craft?

I love the world of craft and most importantly  quirky characters you come across within it. However what does sometimes upset me the is when/if people don’t understand or appreciate the value of the work. The time, design and hours spent into making the piece by hand are sometimes underestimated.

Do you ever question what you’re doing?

I constantly question what I am doing and always think ‘am I doing enough’ ‘could I be doing more’ confidence is one of my biggest battles. I find reflection time is what helps me battle through these thoughts, something that Iain Perry (print garage) has demonstrated the importance of.

I reflect by picking out the positives, as opposed to the negatives which I find myself doing a lot of. This could be re thinking all the things I have achieved. Focussing on the good qualities in a piece of work, and being more constructive about the areas I don’t like and looking at how I can improve it.

What’s so special about the materials you use?

I see myself as an artist who has taken the path of a jeweller. This is why my work is so experimental and I able to express myself through the marks of my hammer and the unpredictability of the enamel.


What you do to take time out and relax?

don’t often relax as i am somewhat of a social butterfly. If I do have some spare time it usually drives me crazy because i am so used to being up and on the go all the time.

However my idea of ‘time out’ is out shopping, socialising and exercising. But most importantly going on walks where my eyes are free to wonder, pulling inspiration from all around me. Which is one that never fails to make me look crazy for being over obsessed by that crumpled up leaf on the floor, or some fungi on a tree.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

My greatest achievement so far is being recognised by Jennifer and Iain who have taken me on as a graduate for there cultivated programme.

My degree was a very difficult time for me where I was always left feeling unsure on what I was doing. Jennifer and Iain have given me so much confidence within my work and finding my feet to start growing as maker and not be scared to be different.





Charlie began her six month placement on the Cultivated programme back in September. She produces conceptual pieces, often wearable, from readymade elements influenced by her interactions with found objects. Two months into the programme, we sat down to find out more about her influences and ambitions.

What’s your most interesting item in your studio?

I couldn’t pick out just one interesting item in my studio, rather a collection of tools and prompts during my making process which I find interesting…

My cutting mat – not for the purpose you’d think. The grid-like structure upon the mat acts almost as a frame for a composition of my ideas; bits and bobs, fragments, and works in progress.

My peg – it shows the marks and scars of craftsmanship. All the marks are individual to the needs of each of my pieces; the right angle to file that down, the right hole to enable that cut.

My ‘found’ shelf – a collection of all the bits and bobs I have found along the way; some directly relevant, others just intriguing, others “naff” and unusual.

Who are your craft heroes?

I’m drawn to quite a variety of craft practitioners.

The work of Hans Stofer has been key in the development of my own creative practice. Rather than defining himself by his training and skills, he presents himself as a ‘creative thinker’ which ultimately influences his output, whether it be jewellery, objects or compositions. His thought process is the key to defining his practice, creating an intrigue about his odd pieces, which for me justifies ways of working such as my own.

I love the variety of work from Lin Cheung. I recently purchased her new book Tomfoolery, an insight into the making of her portfolio of jewellery and objects over the past ten years; it’s a beautifully inspiring book. The most resonant chapter for me is a screen shot of a series of email correspondence Lin had sent between herself and Caroline Broadhead; the conversations are really quite frank and completely hit the nail on the head with the constant doubts and quibbles you have whilst developing a creative practice.

I also love the work of Stuart Cairns. His visual language between photographic snapshots of wanderings, drawings and objects is so beautifully clear, not to mention his stunning objects – the beauty of the found. I’m taking real inspiration from seeing his work in our current Language of Objects exhibition here at Unit Twelve.

Is there anything that makes you frustrated within the craft world?

I get slightly frustrated at the emphasis on traditional craft techniques. ‘Craft’ is suceedingly more blurred within the boundaries of art and design. The preservation of traditional techniques is important, but I don’t feel craft should be pigeon-holed as being backward-thinking and old fashioned. Traditional techniques should inform the making, but thought is equally, if not more so, important to give integrity to the work.

When I was studying, I constantly read all the papers published by the European initiative ‘ThinkTank’, following on from the exhibition and discussions they held each year from 2005-2010. They held some really prominent yet varying debates on skill, value, time in regards the applied arts. The articles proved as real food for thought for me.

Where would you most like your work to be exhibited?

Although my pieces make reference to the everyday, I feel they work best in a gallery environment. Placing them in such a space, I think, changes our perspective on how we view them – we no longer look at them as useful. I like playing with ways of displaying my pieces, creating compositions and landscapes to show a thought process.

What’s so special about the materials you use?

The majority of materials I use are recognisable, everyday objects, deconstructed and used for a new purpose. There’s initially nothing particularly special about the materials themselves, they are often undervalued. It’s my ability to see past this to their potential, as a newly formed beautiful object or composition, to be able to pose this alternative to the viewer.

Do you ever question what you’re doing?

I continually question what I am doing; playing, reflecting, refining. I read regularly around issues and debates in the art/craft field, which often prompts reflection of my own practice and where I sit contextually. My notebook acts as the format of my reflection, posing questions and marking down notes.

What do you do to take time out and relax?

I think I rarely switch off! I do find myself taking photos of odd things even when I’m out and about just because I think it’s a lovely composition.

Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment? 

Collecting books is my weakness.

I constantly flick through ‘In Flagrante Collecto Caught in the Act of Collecting’. It’s almost an encyclopaedia of various miscellanea, containing all sorts of intriguing objects and collections. I use it as a source of inspiration in appreciating the wonder of everyday objects.

My favourite novel is a charity shop find, ‘If nobody speaks of remarkable things’. It follows the lives of a whole street of individuals over the course of one single day. The language used within it is so thoughtful, poetic, it really emphasises to the reader the wonder of the mundane. I regularly re-read it; I find it provides an escape from my making process to reflect on my inspiration behind it.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

I’d struggle to pick out one main achievement. I’m very proud of what I have achieved since graduating: exhibiting at new designers, showing as part of the Young Meteors at Lustre, being selected for Unit Twelve’s Cultivated programme. It’s all a journey, and a massive learning curve, so I’m not taking any opportunity for granted.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

No, it’s all a learning process.

What have you got coming up?

Having just showcased as part of the Young Meteors at Lustre, I’ve now got the chance to reflect upon the experience and think about the future of my practice during my remaining time at Unit Twelve on the Cultivated support programme, the conclusion of which will result in a final group exhibition in September 2016 involving all four of us graduates.


You can see more of Charlie’s work, and follow her time here at Unit Twelve, on her website

British Ceramics Biennial 2015 – an adventure in texture and composition

(Being a visual diary of Co-Director Iain Perry whilst working as Operations Manager at BCB 2015)

/// First day discoveries: a hot pink logo and a new sense of scale! ///


/// Peeling paint, layered revelation ///

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/// Circles and other apertures ///

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IMG_0043 IMG_0044 IMG_0163-0 IMG_0165-0 IMG_0025 IMG_0241-0

/// Scattered matter ///

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/// Fun with grids ///

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/// Light ///

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/// dusty boots ///


/// grown up lego ///


/// entropic zones ///

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/// stripes ///


IMG_0231-0 IMG_0132 IMG_0126 IMG_0125  IMG_0173 IMG_0228-0 IMG_0190-0 IMG_0189-0 IMG_0073

/// scattershot ///

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IMG_0158IMG_0159IMG_0133IMG_0080 IMG_0254-0  IMG_0237  IMG_0079


/// tranquility bay ///

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/// Basquiat vs Twombly ///

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/// Turqoise ///

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/// Kubrick Endgame ///



If you still want to see YET MORE photos by Iain then you can follow his Instagram account.

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Meet The Maker: Isabel Moseley


We recently sat down for a quick chat with Isabel Moseley one of our ‘cultivated’ makers to find out a bit more about what she’s been doing, where her inspiration comes from and the things that are important to her.

What’s your most interesting item in your studio?

My 1930’s repeat pattern book. I found it in a throw out box at an antique fair – I think it is very useful and still relevant today – I can’t imagine why anyone would want to get rid of it.

Who are your craft heroes?

The bookbinder Keith Smith is great for inspiration as he is so maverick and original. I also really admire Marthe Armitage for her pattern design and print making – my dream would be to work as her apprentice! But I find inspiration from a wide range of subjects – at the moment I have been researching Issey Miyake’s techniques for creating texture in fabric and also the amazingly beautiful bus stop designs of the Soviet era.

What have you got coming up?

I will be visiting Switzerland later this year where I hope to gain inspiration from the beautiful scenery and people. I think travelling and meeting new people is very important as new environments can act as a great catalyst for ideas. In my experience change is a kind of food for creativity. Also in March I will be showing some work at The Brindley and of course in September I will show work alongside the three other artists taking part in the Cultivated program here at unit twelve.

Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?

I’m a big fan of ‘Great Expectations’; I love the idea of a grimy Victorian London. I love to read about how people lived and survived during different eras and in different countries – at the moment I am reading ‘The Pillow Book’ which is a kind of diary written by a lady in waiting during the 10th century in Japan – I find it comforting to know that even a thousand years ago in Japan people had the same thoughts and worries as we do now.

Have you got a favourite film?

It is very difficult to choose – I like old films where directors have had to be creative about achieving the special effects. Older films are so much more physical and full of texture I especially enjoyed ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ staring Boris Karloff as the monster, the lighting and costumes where brilliant.

Where would you most like to see your work exhibited?

At the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice! It’s my favourite museum as it’s so gloomy and atmospheric and is more like an archival house of art and design than a museum. Like many buildings in Venice it has been allowed to crumble and reveal all the layers inside which I find fascinating. Mariano Fortuny had a wide and eclectic interest in the arts and created among many things, a new lighting technique that allowed the stage to look as if it were experiencing all different kinds of weather.

Here’s your chance to get on your soapbox – is there anything that makes you angry or frustrated within the world of craft?

Coming from a Fine Art background I am aware that sometimes the word ‘craft’ can have some negative connotations and crafts people are considered differently to artists but I think the crossover between art and craft is huge. We can learn a lot from each other regarding skills and ideas and the two worlds are merging constantly. Last year I visited ‘Collect’ at the Saatchi Gallery, which showcased artwork by some extremely talented crafts people and designers – it was very inspiring and I hope to reach that calibre one day!

Do you ever question what you’re doing?

Of course, at every turn. But questions often lead to interesting solutions.

What’s so special about the materials you use?

The reason I love paper so much is because it won’t last; it is fragile and easily destroyed, it will always show how old it is and the strain time has taken on it. In that way it is a very honest material.


What do you do to take time out and relax?

I like to walk – anywhere really through cities or through the countryside. It helps me to leave behind things that were worrying or stressing me and just be in the moment.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Yes of course but I think it’s essential to accept he decisions you have made so far and not be too hard on your younger self. After all you learn from your mistakes and it’s equally important to know what you don’t want to do, as it is to know what you do want. Everything I have done so far has impacted me positively and I try to learn as much as I can from new experiences.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

Living and working in Florence for two months last year was a very challenging experience as I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a firm grasp of the language, which made things very difficult. I had worked in Italy before but this is the first time I really had to engage with locals. I learnt a lot from my placement at Il Papiro where I assisted with binding books and making marbled paper and I’m grateful for the experience. I don’t like things to be too easy and enjoy taking on new challenges in life, even if at the time it can seem quite stressful.

You can see more of Isabel’s amazing work at or if you’re on Instagram follow her there:

And her work will be showcased later on this year as part of the ‘cultivated’ exhibition at Unit Twelve 3rd – 26th September

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Studio space available!

We will have studio space available at Unit Twelve ( from mid August. Launched in May 2010 Unit Twelve has become a thriving contemporary craft venue in the Midlands, which hosts a gallery, a large workshop space and 6 artists studios, all in a beautiful rural location just a few miles out of Stafford. In this time the space has gained over 25 pieces of national press, including magazines such as Living etc, Embroidery, Mollie Makes and Crafts, to name just a few, as well as several books such as New Artisans and Upcyclist (

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We are looking for makers with a contemporary craft practice who can be in 1 day a week (but you can be in as much as you like….).

The studio space is 3.5 x 2m, and is £25 per week (£100 per calendar month). But what we are offering is SOOOO much more than JUST a studio space……
* ALL bills (heating, electric, water, business rates)
* Informal mentoring and business support from Jennifer Collier and the Unit Twelve team.
*Inclusion in Unit Twelve’s advertising and publicity (including a large presence on Facebook and Twitter, inclusion on our website, and the option to write guest blogs for us to promote your practice)
* A vibrant inspiring space full of like minded visitors and makers.
*Other artists to bounce ideas off
*A shopfront, with an established audience, to sell direct to (even on the days you are not there)
*Use of the large workshop space to work in (when there isn’t a workshop on) 
*Access to a small ceramic kiln, print table, and sewing machines.
*AND even tea, coffee and biscuits (and occasionally cake too!)

You can watch a short film which captures the essence and ethos of our beautiful workplace here:  or do just pop in to see the space, for a cuppa and a chat: Open Thur-Sat, 10-4pm.

Space will be available from mid august- if you are interested please email a few images of your work and an artists statement OR a link to your website to


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Trelex, Switzerland

Its 6.20pm and I’m sitting beside Nina in her van, rounding the grassy corner into Trelex. The witches hat church spire peeping between the hills at a new arrival to the village. In the morning the clang of cowbells resounded in the mountains and the nights rain made the trees such a shade of green that they looked more alive than anything ever had.


Walking around the village it struck me that the houses looked as if they had been carved out of cake using a large bread knife. On the horizon blue clouds skimmed the mountains and seemed in danger of being snagged on the jagged peaks. A thousand leaves gently fluttered in the breeze and sitting by the open kitchen window I basked in Swiss sunlight.



In the quiet bustle of Geneva I crossed a bridge that ran over a river dashing by. During the heat of the day I visited MAMCO and was reminded of Terry Gilliam’s fantasy film Brazil – the space seemed to recall a pasts idea of what the future would be; great big turquoise doors and windows set into a sturdy industrial building encrusted with contemporary artwork – completely wonderful and the space itself was a work of art. Switzerland is the very quiddity of good design and absolutely everything is beautiful. At lunchtime Nock circus was in town and its tents gathered in the square like a pack of scarab beetles with their great spikes looming into the blue sky.



A week later back in England, its a sunny day at Tixall Heath Farm and the pink blossoms are out. I hope to continue being inspired and productive and am looking forward to our exhibition in September at Unit twelve!


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“Overwhelm” – Sophie Symes


21st March – 21st May 2015

Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford

This surreal mixed media installation is inspired by the feeling of being overwhelmed and its effect on the body. Just as lichen spreads over tree branches, the overwhelming thoughts and feelings engulf the body.

Through this narrative installation, these feelings are represented physically as surreal lichen forms, encrusting, masking and suppressing a figure.  To accompany the installation, Sophie has created a diverse collection of art jewellery pieces that reinforce underlying ideas of fragility, concealment and secrecy.

progress shots of installation

progress shots of installation

progress shots of installation

progress shots of installation

To coincide with Sophie Syme’s installation “Overwhelmed” at the Shire Hall, Sophie will be demonstrating making her art jewellery pieces on Saturday 21st March (10am – 1pm).

Sophie Symes OssaParietinaBrooch

About the artist: Sophie Symes is a recent graduate of Hereford College of Arts and is currently taking part in the graduate programme, ‘Cultivated’ at Unit Twelve Gallery in Stafford. She works with alternative materials and techniques to create pieces that push the boundaries of jewellery design.
Artist Statement: My art jewellery pieces are created by combining a diverse collection of ideas and imaginings. Drawing inspiration from my wild rural surroundings and combining this with a love for surrealism and fairytales and their escapist connotations, I make pieces of wearable sculpture using alternative materials.
I apply my traditional jewellery making techniques and spontaneous working method to metals and ‘throwaway’ natural debris materials such as found twigs, lichen and silkworm cocoons. Using paper cutting techniques, I hand-pierce intricate forms and combine them with the found debris, constructing fantastical adornments.
The amalgamation of precious metals and found items is intended to address the question of what makes jewellery truly precious.. which materials are intrinsically more ‘precious’ and ‘valuable’… the readily available silver or the fragile lichen covered twig that can never be replicated?

We also managed to sit down and have a quick chat with Sophie to find out more about her inspirations and processes.

What’s your most interesting item in your studio?

My collection of lichen covered twigs. They have really exciting forms, textures and colours and their fragility gives them a very precious quality.

I also have some really interesting old books, my favourite being my Plants and the Planet book, with gorgeous scientific illustrations and beautiful descriptive text, it’s endlessly inspiring.


Who are your craft heroes?

There are so many amazing crafters and art jewellers that inspire me. But my absolute heroes are Hanna Hedman, Nora Rochel, Tanel Veenre and Marta Mattsson. Their surreal, fantastical pieces inspire me to push myself everyday and try to create innovative, one-off pieces of wearable art.

What have you got coming up?

I’ve already got quite a packed schedule this year. I am currently working like mad on my upcoming installation and solo exhibition to be on display at The Shire Hall in Stafford from 21st March. It’s titled ‘Overwhelm.’ and addresses the common feeling of becoming overwhelmed with daily life – visually represented as fantastical growing forms.

I have also been selected for the Rising Stars 2015 exhibition at New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham. Alongside work by other recent graduates of contemporary craft courses, my three pieces will be on display from 20th March – 9th May.

As well as this, I am currently in the process of creating a brand new collection of art jewellery pieces for The Jam Factory in Oxford. Using my previous collection ‘Hybrids’ as a starting point, I am creating more manmade vs natural hybrids and this time I am incorporating even more industrial materials, such as concrete and manipulating the natural forms further.

To finish up the year, I also have an exciting internship planned with one of my favourite jewellers, Tanel Veenre!


Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?

I love fairytales so I would have to say Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll has to be my favourite book, I just love the mad language and how it is described as ‘literary nonsense’.

At the moment I’m about to start reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, as I’ve just seen the film and I think the descriptive language in the book will be even more visually magnificent.

Have you got a favourite film?

I have lots but I think some of my favourites are Pan’s Labyrinth, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Star Wars Trilogy and of course, all old Disney films.

Where would you most like to see your work exhibited?

I would love to have my pieces exhibited in world renowned art jewellery gallery, Galerie Marzee and as part of the international art jewellery event Schmuck. But I think mostly, I would just love my work to be exhibited in the company of some of the best art jewellers in the world.

Here’s your chance to get on your soapbox – is there anything that makes you angry or frustrated within the world of craft?

I think the most frustrating thing about the arts and craft world is the high costs of exhibiting/selling work. A lot of investment is required to start up as a maker and be able to keep going until you actually start selling. There needs to be more programmes like ‘Cultivated’ to give new graduates the platform to bridge the gap from student to professional maker. Not only is there funding and a studio space but also professional mentoring to help develop a unique craft business.


Do you ever question what you’re doing?

All the time. I have a tendency to over think things and when I’m stressed I question everything I am doing. I think the best way to tackle this is by taking a break, stepping back from the work and concentrating on what elements are working well and really excite you.

What’s so special about the materials you use?

The lichen, twigs and other found materials I use are special because they are completely unique and I know I will never be able to find the exact same piece again. They therefore need to be treasured and used well in my designs.

I also like to use materials that are completely ordinary and mass produced and then sensitively craft them into new, beautiful things.

What do you do to take time out and relax?

When I’m not making and researching jewellery, I like to watch films, go for walks through the woods and make upcycled furniture with my boyfriend.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

No, I focus on the present and future and try not to look back too much.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

Of the many exciting exhibitions I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in since graduating, I consider being chosen for the 2013 Beijing International Jewelry Art Biennial, at the Millennium Monument in Beijing and Metallophone: Personally at AV17 Gallery in Lithuania my best achievements.

I also feel very proud to have been chosen as one of the best emerging graduate makers in the UK when selected for the Rising Stars 2015 exhibition/competition.

Another one of my greatest achievements so far has to be being selected for ‘Cultivated’ as I feel that it will really help me to centre my business and pull all my many ideas together. Even though I have only been at the gallery for a few weeks, I already feel I have learnt a lot from the talented artists around me and I feel truly privileged to have been given this amazing opportunity.

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