THE TWENTY-second Christmas Craft Fair got underway on Friday evening with over 100 exhibitors, including 30 first-timers, displaying their handcrafted products.
The event, run by Shetland Arts and Crafts, takes place in the main and bowls halls at the Clickimin Leisure Complex until teatime on Sunday.
Among the 100-plus exhibitors are a growing number of newcomers producing traditional isles knitwear along with a broad range of craftmakers and designers ranging from photographers and painters to glassmakers and jewellers.
Shetland Arts and Crafts Association secretary Wendy Inkster said this year’s craft fair was being launched with “heavy hearts” among committee members, as it is the first event since popular and “irreplaceable” chairman Ian Gidney passed away in early summer.
“It’s a sad year for us as a committee because we’ve lost Ian, our chairman, but he wouldn’t have wanted any fuss made, and we’ll just make sure we put on a fair that he would have been proud of.”
Wendy said she was pleasantly surprised when she totted up the number of newcomers which, at 30, is almost double what she would normally expect.
“That includes a lot of knitters, so there’s quite a big resurgence in the knitting – and within the knitting group there’s quite a lot of young folk come back into knitting, which I think is to do with Wool Week.”
One of those is 22 year old Terri Laura, from Cunningsburgh, who says the success of Wool Week had encouraged her to start up her own business full-time. She works from her grandmother’s workshop but hopes to get her own space shortly.
“Other people that exhibit here are so enthusiastic about it and keen to get more people to come,” she said. “Knitting has picked up all over the world.
“Fair Isle knitting and Shetland traditions is known all over the world, and that’s a big help being from Shetland and learning.”
Among her products are cowls, hats, headbands and gloves, greetings cards and a new idea, a Fair Isle pinboard (see photo), while she also has her sketchbook on hand to give people a sense of how her designs – either traditional or patterns made up by her family over the years – came together.
“I would say that Fair Isle designing is nearly like handwriting,” Terri said.
“When you see somebody wearing something, if you know the designers you can nearly pick out who made what, which is really exciting, especially in Shetland where it’s traditional and lots of people are doing it.”
A longer-standing craft fair exhibitor is Glansin Glass, a fused glassware business started nearly a decade ago by Cheryl Jamieson from Unst.
She said the craft fair was “the biggest weekend of the year for us” and an unparalleled opportunity to get her products seen by people from all over the islands.
Cheryl does all the handiwork herself from a portacabin next to her Uyeasound home, though she does get husband Derek to help set glass pieces into driftwood and act as “my star salesman” at the craft fair.
“I wanted to have a craft business and discovered fused glass on a trip to Norway,” she said. “A kind of eureka moment that changed my life really – I gave up my job and do it as my main income. I started in 2008, so it must be about ten years of the craft fair, which is kinda amazing.”
This year she has come prepared with a healthy stock of nip glasses having sold out of them in double-quick time at the 2016 fair.
“This year I’ve got over 60 made because we sold out by 20 past eight on the first night last year,” she said, joking: “We’re promoting responsible drinking by making it a peerie nip glass!”
Cecil Tait of Paparwark Furniture, formerly based in Scalloway and now operating from his workshop in Bigton, has developed a strong reputation for high quality bespoke wooden furniture and gift ideas since establishing in 2003.
This year he has been experimenting with spirals and is delighted with how a line of stylish triple spiral handmade trivets have turned out, and has also smoothed off the shape of his original candle holder designs.
Meanwhile, following a cultural exchange to Norway, he has put together a sturdy flatpack glass coffee table using a slotted wooden frame built in a style similar to how wooden homes were traditionally constructed across the North Sea.
With a host of jewellery businesses, textiles, mosaics, pottery, ceramics, aromatherapy, cakes, soaps and crochet among the small-scale, high quality produce on offer, and two pop-up cafes in operation throughout the weekend, Wendy says it is an ideal way to spend a couple of hours on what promises to be a fairly dreich weekend of weather.
“It’s a perfect time of year for folk shopping for Christmas, whether just wanting to buy or still in time to send stuff abroad,” she said.
“We’ve got the whole weekend – tonight, tomorrow, Sunday – and the entry fee is still only £2. I don’t know if we’ve ever put it up, to tell you the truth!
“So it’s quite good value for money, I would say, and on a weekend of weather like it’s going to be, it’s probably a pretty good place to be.”
- Shetland Arts & Crafts Association’s Christmas Craft Fair runs from 7pm-9pm on Friday (10 November), 10am-6pm on Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday at Clickimin Leisure Complex. Admission costs £2 (£1 for concessions).