The pressure of buying a present in time for Christmas is one thing. Getting a present that’s unique, interesting and original is another. Rachael Clegg has found the solution – and it’s Made In Sheffield.
We WRESTLE in crowded high streets on Christmas Eve and become delirious from late-night Amazon sessions.
But there is another way – and it ticks all the boxes.
Just down the road from high street mayhem, at Persistence Works on Brown Street, is Yorkshire Artspace, in which dozens of artists are creating reasonably-priced artefacts that won’t be seen in shops everywhere.
The space – a huge, purpose-built building – contains painters, print-makers, bookbinders, jewellers, silversmiths, ceramicists, sculptors and urban artists – all creating unique artefacts that are then shipped across Sheffield, and all for a reasonable price.
For just £40 you can bag a pair of beautiful handcrafted silver earrings inlaid with gold by Jennie Gill, whose clientele includes The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde.
Jennie has been working from Yorkshire Artspace since the facility opened more than 11 years ago.
“My work’s really gathering momentum now,” she said. “My customers have got older as my business has got older and now many of them have grown-up kids who have left home but they’ve stuck with me.”
All her pieces are one-offs, ranging from small earrings to jewellery made from antique diamonds.
“It’s the big diamond pieces that I enjoy doing most. I design each ring around the diamond, they’re not like the standard-cut diamonds you see on the high street.”
Just down the corridor is a very different type of Christmas gift – Penny Withers’ ceramics. Penny has been making vases and other porcelain artefacts for more than 25 years. “There are pieces I can sell for as little as £50,” she says. “Most of them are one-offs.”
But while Penny is renowned for her stunning, twisted white vases, she is moving towards more experimental pottery, playing with abstract shapes. “I love this one,” she says, holding a piece that looks like a mathematical conundrum. “It’s made from just one piece of clay.”
Penny also leads ceramics workshops from as little as £8.
For an edgier crowd, up-and-coming international urban artist Florence Blanchard is selling her surreal, striking prints and notorious ‘Drop Men’ mini-cushions.
Florence, who has a PhD in biology, works full time as an artist, creating wonderfully bold prints and adorning streets across the globe with her cheeky ‘Drop Man’ – a bearded man whose face is encased in a tear-drop shape.
Some of her images are influenced by Brooklyn, where she used to live, others take inspiration from key figures in science such as Barbara McClintock, Nobel Laureate in 1983.
Florence’s art prints of bold shapes, intriguing figures and dashes of colour start from as little as £30 if bought from the studio. She has produced a fanzine, which is limited edition and is available at the end of this month.
Jo Peel, on the next floor, is a master of print-making. Jo, originally from Sharrowvale, has been documenting London’s streets as an artist for years, and now she’s returned home to Sheffield she is working from her studio.
Her prints are detailed, stylised impressions of a city in flux – they show construction work and battered buildings. In Jo’s images, the old and the new co-exist to create deeply engaging, gritty images.
But it’s not just London she depicts. Jo’s also made a wonderful screen print of the Henderson’s Relish factory off West Street.
“I’ve worked all over the place,” she says. “But it’s working outside doing murals that I like best.”
But the real print veteran is Neil Woodall, whose intricate etchings show fields, rivers, wildlife and landscapes.
“Not many people do etchings these days,” he says. And for this reason, Neil’s work is selling well.
Bookbinder Heather Dewick’s intricately-bound books start from £20. Heather uses all manner of materials – from leather to vintage-looking fabric, to adorn people’s favourite books. Stepping across the threshold to her studio is like stepping back in-time to a pre-commercial age.
Reams of paper line the wall and old books pile up on a wooden desk. “I take inspiration from the content of the book,” she says. “But I talk to the client about what they want first.”
Just around the corner from Heather is silversmith Charlotte Tollyfield with her bookmarks topped in ebony, maple, olive and oak grips. Charlotte’s latest project is a six-year series of silver Christmas decorations inspired by the Twelve Days of Christmas.
This year’s two productions include a Christmas tree trinket depicting the three French hens – little birds surrounded by Eiffel Towers.
And there’s Pete Evans, an abstract artist who takes inspiration from nature to create his lush, painterly landscapes and bold statements of colour.
Who needs multi-national stores when you have all this, just around the corner, and all Made In Sheffield.
Anyone interested in work by the artists at Yorkshire Artspace can access individual artists’ sites via artspace.org.uk or arrange a visit to the space itself by calling 0114 2761769.