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Farnham to become England’s Craft Town

PUBLISHED: 10:42 22 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:06 22 October 2013

Farnham Craft Town

Farnham Craft Town

Marek Sikora

Think of books and your thoughts may well turn to Hay-on-Wye. Think of an artists’ colony and it‘s probably St Ives that springs to mind. Now there’s an exciting initiative to place craft and Farnham in the same breath too. Here we look at the people and places carrying the ‘craft town’ torch

Farnham Pottery

Quennells Hill, Wrecclesham, Farnham GU10 4QJ

Web: 318ceramics.co.uk

The roots of Farnham’s engagement with craft can be dated back to the time when the town exported white clay to the Romans. Later, in the 16th century, potteries in the area were major suppliers to London. But its real emergence as a town with a special leaning towards craft came in the Victorian era and the establishment and great success of Farnham Pottery, with its reputation for the distinctive style of work known as Greenware (due to its copper-green glaze).It is now one of the best preserved examples of a working Victorian country pottery in England. Many famous potters have passed through its doors to learn their trade across the generations, including Sir Terence Conran. As well as 318 Ceramics, a newly formed creative organisation set up in conjunction with the Farnham Pottery Trust, Farnham Pottery is also home to the independent West Street Potters and Farnham Sculpture Group.

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University of the Creative Arts

Falkner Road, Farnham GU9 7DS

Web: ucreative.ac.uk/ Farnham

When The Farnham School of Art was established in 1880, a powerful reputation for crafts education was developed that has lasted through to the present day. Now known as the University of the Creative Arts, craft courses in jewellery, metalwork, glass, textiles and ceramics offer today’s emerging craft makers unrivalled opportunities in some of the best equipped studios and workshops in any specialist university in the country. UCA has also recently established a new School of Crafts & Design, celebrating the importance of their craft courses at a time when many universities are withdrawing their provision.

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Crafts Study Centre

Falkner Road, Farnham GU9 7DS

Web: csc.ucreative.ac.uk

Established by a pioneering group of educationalists and makers in 1970, the Crafts Study Centre is a charity created by artist-makers and educators to protect the best of modern British crafts. First established within the Holburne Museum of Art in Bath, it relocated to Farnham in 2000 in a joint partnership with the then Surrey Institute of Art & Design. However, there were Farnham connections right from the outset. Henry Hammond, a founder trustee, was head of ceramics at the then West Surrey College of Art and Design. The school architect David Medd was also a trustee, and he had been a member of the remarkable Camouflage Development and Training Centre at Farnham Castle during World War Two. Amelia Uden taught textiles alongside Henry Hammond and was also a long-standing trustee. Today, the Crafts Study Centre is home to internationally renowned collections of modern British Craft and inspiring exhibitions by leading artist makers.

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Farnham Maltings

Bridge Square, Farnham GU9 7QR

Web: farnhammaltings.com

Once a brewery, the Maltings was bought by the community in 1969 and is now a thriving creative arts centre. The project was made possible thanks to the generosity of subscribers and the practical help of large bands of volunteer workers who undertook clearance work in the old buildings. Now, crafts are central to its programme and the Maltings offers unrivalled opportunities to makers as well as audiences. Throughout the year, they offer large scale craft fairs, craft-based studios, residencies and a host of workshops for those looking to try one of our nation’s most popular hobbies. A recent project with Farnham Town Council saw a series of carved panels referencing Farnham’s craft heritage installed along the riverside walk at the Maltings.

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The Museum of Farnham

Willmer House, 38 West Street, Farnham GU9 7DX

Web: farnhammaltings.com/museum

While not a home to makers themselves, there are important craft collections held in Willmer House, a Grade I listed building that represents some of the finest brickwork in Farnham. From Stone Age hunters and Roman potters to hop pickers and beyond, their artefacts tell the story of the town and its inhabitants. These include Farnham Greenware (pictured left), produced at the Wrecclesham Pottery at the height of its popularity in the early 20th century. The museum holds collections that relate to many local artists as well as documenting the development of the Farnham School of Art during the Arts and Crafts Movement. Temporary exhibitions bring to life craft work by local artists and emerging craft makers from the University for the Creative Arts.

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New Ashgate Gallery

Waggon Yard, Farnham GU9 7PS

Web: newashgate.org.uk

Originally established in the late 1950’s, the New Ashgate Gallery has been located in a 17th century listed building in Waggon Yard since the 1970’s. Over this time, the gallery has administered the profits from craft and art sales to create prizes and scholarships, and for the purchase of artworks for local and national museums. Today, the gallery is a destination for buying the best of affordable contemporary craft by established and emerging makers. As a not-for-profit charity, it also fosters new makers in partnership with the University for the Creative Arts through mentoring, touring exhibitions and competitions. The gallery also hosts the annual Surrey Artist of the Year competition.

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The personal touch

Here we ask a selection of Farnham-based artist makers just what it is that they find so inspiring about working in the town

Laura Rose

Textile artist

“My studio at the Farnham Maltings is a really inspiring place to work,” says Laura. “I’m surrounded by other artists, designers and makers, so there’s a good creative buzz. The New Ashgate Gallery and Farnham Pottery bring lots of artists from all over the country into Farnham too, creating exciting new exhibitions. I exhibit at the Maltings festivals and teach embroidery workshops, and I’m always inspired by the people I meet. When I can, I love to take my sketchbook and escape to Gostrey Meadow, Birdworld or Alice Holt Forest, to draw and watch the world go by.”

Rebecca Skeels

Jeweller/metalsmith

“Farnham is a great hub for creativity; not only for inspiration, but for connecting with other practitioners, makers and artists in a variety of disciplines,” says Rebecca. “The town has a combination of modern and traditional shops set in an area where anyone can access the hustle and bustle of town and walk to the tranquil and quietness of open space or countryside. Despite Farnham’s small scale, there are also activities going on where we can see the history of crafts and Farnham at Farnham Museum and the Crafts Study Centre, exhibitions and shows at the New Ashgate Gallery and the Maltings Art Centre and a real mix of events at the University for the Creative Arts and within the town. Who wouldn’t want to be here!”

Luisa Cacciotti

Ceramicist

“Having just started at 318 Ceramics, which is in what used to be the old Farnham Pottery, I find this location very inspiring,” says Luisa. “Surrounded by the red brick and wood beams, with old tiles and kiln shelves stored in nooks and crannies, it is hard not to feel the history of the place. The same goes for Farnham as a whole. Wherever you look, you can see signs of the successful market town Farnham used to be. The Tudor cottages with their black beams and the red brick houses constantly remind me of patterns and earth. Apart from the massive inspiration of being somewhere that has such a strong and visible heritage in art and crafts, for me, Farnham blends the traditional with the new and creates an environment that inspires creativity.”

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