Craft experts in Berkshire share their stories

PUBLISHED: 14:18 01 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:22 01 April 2019


Now that spring is here, people around the county are taking up new hobbies and crafts. We spoke to three talented locals who make a living from…

Here in Berkshire, you could be in the mood to visit a local craft show, or go to a workshop to try a new craft now that spring is here. After all, expressing your creativity can relieve stress; and learning a new skill is great for building confidence.

We spoke to three locals about how they’re making a living using their creative skills; we bring you the best craft places and fairs to visit in Berkshire; and turn the page to discover 10 spring-time crafts you can do as a family. What are you waiting for? Grab your scissors and get crafting.

The Ceramiscist

Emma AlingtonEmma Alington

Emma Alington lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her partner, Josh, and puppy, Herbie, and has a studio in Maidenhead

“I’ve always had a creative streak,” says Emma. She first took up ceramics as an A level. “I loved working with clay, and took to thinking in 3D rather than always working 2D on paper. Working on the potter’s wheel is the starting place for most of my products. It’s an ancient process (albeit the electric wheel is a relatively new invention) and the maker’s marks that are left in each shape are what I tune into − all the ripples and unevenness of the pots I throw are left to give a tactile finish.”

Emma set up her business after graduating with a 1st class honours degree from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2013. “It was after a degree show that I realised people and shops were asking for my products, so I bought a kiln and set up my studio in my parents’ shed. I painted it white, bought a workbench and a wheel on ebay, and I was good to go.

“In the five years since, I’ve produced a range of ceramic homeware and tableware products, either under my own brand, or collaboratively with restaurants and interiors brands.

“I tend to use either a white stoneware clay or porcelain. All of my tools and materials are bought through British suppliers. I even source my packaging from British outlets; keeping all elements of my business on home soil is an integral part of my ethos.

“My classic yet contemporary mug is by far the most popular product! I offer a customisation service, too, which is popular for both the restaurant and gift industry. My inspiration comes from everyday objects. I love the idea of taking something that is easy to look at as ‘mundane’ and turn it into something beautiful with sentimental value.

“I have a few stockists in the UK, including Fortnum & Mason and Fenwick, a few in Japan, North Korea and the US. Most of my work comes from bespoke orders and collaborations; my clients include The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head, Boots, schools, The Arts Club and University of the Arts London.

“My products will always be manufactured in England. I feel passionate about contributing to the growing British ceramics industry. My mission is to add value to everyday objects through beautiful designs.”

The Jewellery Maker

Gemma Mikayla ZivanovicGemma Mikayla Zivanovic

Gemma Mikayla Zivanovic and her husband live in Maidenhead near Boulter’s Lock with their rescue cat, Bella. She makes jewellery and set up her business Brave Lotus in 2014

“I have been making jewellery since I was 12 years old, stringing necklaces and making friendship bracelets! I went to university to study a degree in jewellery design and making. I then worked in London with an amazing jewellery designer for 10 years.

“I wanted to make my own jewellery that was beautiful, with touches of symbolism. Connecting East and West plays a big part of Brave Lotus’ signature style, combining whimsical details like feathers and iridescent stones with edgier oxidised metals, a combination that I describe as boho for the urban dweller,” she says.

“I have always been attracted to sparkly things and collecting gemstones as a child. I think I was a magpie in another life! I’m fascinated by the way we have been adorning ourselves with jewellery for 10s of thousands of years. We love to decorate ourselves; the clothes we choose, the jewellery, make-up and perfume we wear are all little symbols of the tribes and communities we belong to.”

Gemma uses brass, silver and gold from bullion suppliers in Hatton Garden in London to make her jewellery pieces. “The brass is then plated in fine silver and 24k gold,” she says. “I am always on the hunt for beautiful gemstones and antique pieces. My favourite gemstones to use are Labradorite, Moonstone and Turquoise.”

So what is her bestseller? “My ‘Feather In The Wind’ necklace remains my favourite and most popular piece,” she says.

Gemma’s pieces are sold online on her website and at pop-up events. “I also have a few boutique stockists and stylists who I work with. 2019 is an exciting year for Brave Lotus. Alongside creating jewellery, I’m also hosting jewellery-making workshops,” Gemma says. “These will create space for women to come together and be creative.”

The Willow Weaver

Erica AdamsErica Adams

Erica Adams lives with her husband, Philip, in Newbury. She has five children. Two years ago she gave up her day job as an operations director to become a willow weaver

One summer 17 years ago, Erica went to a summer craft camp to do some pottery, but the class was full so she did basketry instead; which she loved. Two years ago, she gave up her day job as an operations director to complete a City & Guilds in Basketry and Willow Weaving full-time.

Erica is passionate about continuing this sustainable and environmentally friendly craft but says it an endangered craft: “Basketry lost out when plastic became a packaging material.”

Her willow comes from Somerset, although she has just harvested her first crop of 500 willow cuttings she planted in her garden last year. The willow is soaked in a cattle trough for a few hours or weeks, depending on the variety.

“At 55 I’m relatively old to be starting basketry, my hands aren’t as strong as they used to be but I can still produce artistic works,” she says. “Every culture has woven basketry; in Japan they use bamboo and rattan to weave baskets. In Africa baskets are made out of grasses. I like the history of basketry and discovering how people use local materials to carry things.”

Her house and workshop contain all shapes and sizes of basket work − even dog baskets and bird feeders. And Erica has been a member of the Basket Makers’ Association for 10 years.

Erica also teaches at her home in Berkshire. She says: “Willow weaving is repetitive; you get into a rhythm and find it relaxing. People go away calmer and with a sense of achievement. I encourage people to build up their skills and to have fun.”


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