I want to encourage others to get crafty
Emma Harrowing talks to Norwich artist and designer Kay Spalding about how her new business on St Benedict's aims to help other people bring out their inner artist.
Since the Makeplace opened its doors on Magdalen Street there has been an increase in the number of shops offering craft workshops.
From learning how to sew a cushion or apron at Makeplace or getting advice on how to make a corsage in the haberdashery department in Jarrold's or taking part in a seasonal craft workshop to make Easter, Christmas or Father's Day gifts and cards at Hobbycraft, to joining crochet classes at Glory Days on Wensum Street or learning how to knit with Norwich fashion designer Jo Couldrey, Norwich has taken a leaf out of television's Kirstie Allsopp's book and has gone craft crazy.
Now there is a new venue on the craft-making scene – Arts Desire on St Benedict's has been set up by Norwich artist and designer Kay Spalding with the aim to sell creations made by Norfolk designers and independent creators and to offer craft workshops for those who want to get, well, crafty.
'St Benedict's is a really exciting area,' says Kay. 'There's the Arts Centre and some great individual shops as well as restaurants, bars and trendy cafes. Hopefully Arts Desire will add to the eclectic mix.
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'The area is all about specialist shops where the owners are trying hard to offer something a bit different to the high street chain stores. In the current climate people are looking to move away from mass produced items and are wanting to buy something a little more special.'
The shop is a mix of everything from candy coloured textiles and pastel coloured art to bright accessories for the home and hand-crafted silver jewellery. Local jewellery designers Suzi Smith, Bee Jay and Julie Westmacott's Tamarind Designs are shown alongside other jewellery designers such as Jesa Marshall from Dorset and American-based Nkuku which also has leather handbags and bird-printed enamelware as part of its collection.
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Through the back of the shop is the craft lounge which hosts several craft workshops helping you learn sewing or knitting skills, felt making, printing techniques and how to make your own silver jewellery.
Says Kay: 'The emphasis of the craft lounge is not on how skilled you are but about trying new experiences and learning a new skill. The lounge accommodates up to 12 people so that you can get hands-on expertise in a friendly environment.
'Some of the workshops take place during the day but I'm also introducing evening and weekend sessions and workshops for hen parties so that groups of women can get together and make a piece of jewellery for the special day or something for themselves. I'm also planning to hold workshops for children – my three boys loved arts and crafts so I know how to make it fun and teach them something new too!'
The shop and craft lounge also has gallery space to give up-and-coming local artists the opportunity to showcase their work, which is something that is close to Kay's heart being an artist herself.
Kay studied at Yarmouth College of Art before completing a fashion degree in Harrow London. She then went to work at Courtaulds design group, designing ranges for Marks and Spencer, BHS and Littlewoods as well as stationary for WH Smith.
She returned to Norfolk six years ago with her husband Robert for a better quality of life: 'As with many people, Norfolk has always had a pull over me,' says Kay. 'I wanted to come home to the big skies, the wide open spaces and the chance to work with some of the country's best and most innovative artists. Our region is a very creative area with some fantastic artists and craftspeople.'
Kay's artwork, created using acrylics, is inspired by Marston Marsh near her home in Norwich. Her work is available to buy in her shop alongside other local artists' work.
Says Kay: 'The shop gives unknown designers the chance to sell their work alongside established craftspeople. It been a dream of mine for several years to have all the things I love in one business so I'm thrilled that this is now coming to fruition.'
Don't miss the new Life Matters craft column which shows you how to make items from fashion and jewellery, to greetings cards and cakes in Monday's Norwich Evening News.