Surrey Guild of Craftsmen
PUBLISHED: 12:06 21 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:18 20 February 2013
Made up entirely of local, professional craftspeople, the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen will be hosting a major exhibition of their wares in Guildford this month, providing a welcome opportunity to shop for unique, Surrey-made Christmas gifts
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2010
Made up entirely of local, professional craftspeople, the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen will be hosting a major exhibition of their wares in Guildford this month, providing a welcome opportunity to shop for unique, Surrey-made Christmas gifts. Tinx Newton meets a few of the members to find out more
A love of art and all things creative can reap rewards in surprising ways. Just ask the chairman of the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen, Jenefer Ham, a glass artist from Guildford who says she will be ever thankful to her craft for making her move from the USA to England a little easier.
When she arrived in Surrey five years ago, she immediately set about finding other creative artists with whom she could share ideas, so she was delighted to discover the Guild and quickly set about joining.
As a newcomer, my art made it easier to get accepted here as an American, says Jenefer, whose striking glass sculptures are much in demand. People were fairly anti-American at the time on a political scale, so becoming a member of the Guild enabled me to meet people on a common ground and with similar interests.
Metal to mixed media
Formed some 30 years ago, the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen was initially started as part of a project run by the University of Surrey. The idea was to give local craftspeople a higher profile than they then enjoyed and to enable them to exhibit their work.
Now with over 120 members, the Guild continues to promote the
work of professional craftspeople across the county and provides a showcase for members work through exhibitions and a co-operative gallery/shop in Milford.
The standard of workmanship is high and the range of media diverse the current membership includes jewellers, textile designers, a kaleidoscope maker, metal sculptors, and a milliner, among others.
Through this community, members gain the confidence to explore and develop their creative avenues such as Alison Catchlove, for example, a metal sculptor from Woking, who has developed her particular style with support from the Guild.
My great passions at the moment are birds and bugs, and much of my work is based around these subjects, she says. But really my sole interest is to make quirky sculptures that make people smile, so I use bright colours or awkward poses to achieve this. For my larger pieces, I often take my inspiration from childrens stories, poems or illustrations.
The Guild is important to me because, as a group, we help promote each others work and I feel privileged to exhibit alongside peoples work that I really admire.
For craftsman Frank Higgins, an Odiham-based designer and creator of exquisite kaleidoscopes, the Guild has widened his creative circle and encouraged him to develop his unusual skill.
My craft is self-taught and, as far as I know, unique in the UK, he says.These facts were not an obstacle to joining the Surrey Guild, however, which selects on the basis of creativity, innovation and craftsmanship rather than qualifications or background.
Membership of the Surrey Guild has allowed me to reach a wide audience of discerning, craft-aware customers. Having 50 talented fellow-craftspeople as promoters of ones work at Guild events is a huge benefit.
Good social circle
The strong community feel and a co-operative spirit is evidently key to the success of the Guild.
Working as an artist can be a solitary occupation and perhaps the most important aspect of the Guild is the great networking opportunities
it offers for members.
Indeed, the image of the lone artist working away in a lonely garret is one that is far from members minds, as Carolyn Wallis, a hand silk weaver from Farnham, explains.
I value my Guild membership because I get to meet people who produce really high quality work of many different disciplines, says Carolyn, who creates beautiful handwoven scarves. This inspires and motivates me to achieve ever higher standards in the design and workmanship of my own work.
In addition to its regular exhibitions, 50 members of the Surrey Guild run the co-operative gallery/shop in Milford, a wonderful hub of creativity where visitors are welcome to simply browse or buy work on display.
Vice-chairman of the Surrey Guild, Lois Bellew, a textile and mixed
media artist based in Frimley, says its an important way of showcasing
The majority of our individual members come together at our Surrey Guild Craft Gallery where our work is on display seven days a week, she says. Our reputation spreads far and wide and we always welcome new members, too.
- Exhibition at the Electric Theatre, Guildford
The Surrey Guild of Craftsmen Christmas Exhibition runs at The Riverside Annexe near the Electric Theatre, Guildford, until Friday December 24. Visitors will receive a discount at the Electric Theatre Caf Bar. For more details about the exhibition, or joining the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen, visit their website at www.surreyguild.com