The best craftsmanship from the British Isles

If you wanted to discover a country from the inside out, one of the best ways of doing so would be through the work of its artisans. Here in the British Isles we are blessed with a diverse range of designer makers and craftspeople, for whom producing products with local connections is key to the way they work.

The British Isles has long been a power-house driven on artistic energy and innovation, and whether it’s textiles, ceramics, glass, bespoke jewellery, leather work, print making, wood carving, weaving, basketry or some other medium, there will be a crafts-person nearby plying their trade. Seeing craft makers at work, and learning about their techniques and processes gives a fascinating insight into their world and locale. Taking a tour around the British Isles, following an itinerary determined by local arts and handiwork, makes a wonderful way of discovering the country and its crafts. Here are some ideas of places to visit across these creative isles.

Scottish skills

Starting up north in Scotland you’ll find plenty going on of an artistic bent. Famous for its knitwear, tweed and textiles, this beautiful and rugged part of the world inspires great artistry and invention. Head to Craft Town in West Kilbride to take in a range of artists’ studios at the Barony Centre. At this exciting initiative you will be able to view craftsmen at work including silversmiths, ceramicists, weavers, basket makers, yarn dyers and more. Open all year round, the eight studios are generally open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but do call first to avoid disappointment.

English edge

Dartington Crystal is set in Tarka Country in deepest North Devon, and is a fascinating place to visit to learn about the ancient craft of glass making. Check out the glass blowers at work in the factory, creating delicate champagne glasses, sherry decanters and other fines pieces of crystal glassware. There are opportunities to buy from the extensive Dartington range and an onsite café also provides meals. Dartington Crystal has been established for over forty years and the distinctive glassware it makes is sold all over the world, making a visit to the site where it all happens even more interesting. The visitor centre is at Great Torrington and is open throughout the week, although the factory closes at weekends.

Welsh wonder

A visit to Wales should include a trip to Curlew Weavers in Ceredigion, where tours around the mill can be taken throughout the year. For traditional rugs, throws, bedspreads and more, the mill shop has a great range of unique authentic products. The craft of weaving has been practised for hundreds of years in this rugged and beautiful part of the country, and there are many artist trail events in the summer months with artisans and makers opening their studios to the public. With a rich and diverse artistic community to explore, Ceredigion and its surrounds provides rich pickings for those craft lovers with an intrepid streak and spirit of adventure.

A tour around the British Isles, following a trail of expert designer-makers is a great way of discovering new places and products at the same time. For a refreshing take on all that’s new and exciting in this creative niche, why not take a New Craftsmen tour around some of the leading lights in the crafts firmament? Who knows what treasures might be uncovered…

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