Makers put their distinctive mark on creative Sheffield
Six months into Sheffield's successful Year of Making, the city's creative talents have another outlet from which to sell their wares.
The Sheffield Makers shop was set up at the end of last year as a temporary ‘pop-up’ venture in the Winter Garden, but has now become a permanent affair, selling a wide range of items from lino prints, cards and ceramics to clothes, jewellery and bags.
Photographer Kate Cooper and artist Jen Mickelborough, who are helping to lead the collective project, have been busy making the final preparations ahead of an official launch - and they said their locally-sourced stock has already found favour with customers.
“Customers really love the fact that they’re now coming and getting something made by someone in Sheffield, and not going to a big faceless corporation,” said Kate.
The shop started when an empty unit in the Winter Garden was advertised by the council for a short-term Christmas let.
Kate invited 13 other Sheffield-based artists and makers to fill the shop with their work. With just one week’s notice, the plan came together, and six more local manufacturers soon came on board.
“Between us we thought it would work as an ongoing thing,” she added. “People have really noticed what we’re doing. The council have been really encouraging too.”
Each item on sale is made by a Sheffield resident. Familiar lines such as Ernest Wright and Son scissors share space with curiosities such as Giles Grover’s Small Machines - wooden-framed mechanical robots designed as educational aids.
Many of the artists work in studio spaces that have sprung up in old industrial buildings including Exchange Place, Persistence Works, Portland Works and Butcher Works, and a collaborative approach is being taken to staffing arrangements, namely that the makers are pitching in themselves with manning the shop.
Kate said the location was important.
The Winter Garden pulls in people happy to pause for a coffee and a browse.
“Because the location is good there are quite a lot of tourists, so it’s like a showcase of what’s going on in Sheffield in terms of a creative industry. We have a lot of people setting up small businesses and making things. There’s something for everybody in the shop.”
Kate continued: “A lot of people previously sold at the Nether Edge market, or Sharrow Vale Market, but they’re very sporadic. They’re now able to say to people ‘Find me in the shop, available all the time’.”
Jen said: “There’s a programme called ReNew, which is a funding stream for people opening up independent shops in Sheffield city centre as a way of regenerating the high street as a place for people to go to. We were lucky enough to get funding from them.”
The grant paid for new tables and units, and allowed for the shop to evolve and grow.
Kate works as a wedding and portrait photographer, while Jen has been a textile artist for around 12 years, while holding down other jobs at the same time. She currently makes small stained glass stars which she sells throughout the year.
Both agreed that making a living as an artist is not an easy business, and any route to consistent sales should be welcomed.
“It’s a difficult industry to be in,” said Jen.
“It’s definitely good to have a regular income and a build a profile.”
Kate said: “For me now, having a kid, I can’t go out and do markets in the same way I had been. With the shop, sales are ongoing month by month rather than there being a big push. Generally people have been really encouraging about it - they still ask how long we’re here for.”
n The launch event runs from 5pm to 7pm next Thursday, June 16. There will be demonstrations, giveaways, special offers and a chance to ‘meet the makers’. Refreshments will also be served.