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Reviews / Folk queue to admire local crafts

Oo'nique handbags: Shetland tweed is not getting the attention it deserves - Photos: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

ON A dismal Saturday, the prospect of spending a morning admiring the work of local craft producers was a welcome one, writes Genevieve White.

Devotees of shopping locally must have been heartened by the sight of the queue snaking out of the Clickimin just after eleven o’clock. Those waiting in line knew that this year’s craft fair was a bumper edition, spreading out over two large halls.

On entering the main hall, the stunning colours in Outi Kater’s mittens, hats and tams caught my eye. Kater has been knitting all her life, inspired by the colours of the wool she works with and her interest in history and ethnology.

Asked about the difference between Shetland and Finnish knitting styles, Outi explained that while Shetland designs tend to blend colours into each other, Finnish knitting separates colours into distinct blocks.

Outi was selling her designs rather than the garments themselves, which was sad news for unskilled knitters such as this one. Competent knitters, however, would be well advised to take a look.

Designer Joan Fraser with her luxury scarves.

Having long admired photos of Helen Robertson’s jewellery on my Twitter feed it was a delight to meet her in person. Robertson started out with fine lace knitting, inspired by the shawls that brides used to knit for themselves (and their future babies’ christenings).

Thirteen years ago, she was asked to make a tiara and incorporated a shape from one on these shawls into her design. “It just went on from there, really”, she said.

Robertson is inspired by Shetland’s natural life, and this was particularly clear in a pair of her earrings: feather light objects of real beauty knitted in silver wire and then oxidised to create a stunning colour effect.

Robertson’s work was displayed against a backdrop of photographs (the fruits of a collaboration with local artists Ria Moncrieff and Joy Allan), which served not only to showcase Robertson’s jewellery but also to highlight its connection with the natural world.

Mid Yell based Julia Smith’s tweed handbags were notable for the sheer range of styles they were available in. Many of these were quite unique, or rather Oo’nique (as Smith’s brand name would have it). Many of the handbags were in Shetland tweed: a textile, which Smith is keen to promote.

“Harris Tweed is promoted all over the world, and soft, Shetland tweed does not get the attention it deserves,” she said.

Fair Isle designer Mati Ventrillon.

It was hard not to smile at Freya Gronneberg’s Peerie Critters: not just at the loveable critters themselves, but at the story behind their genesis.

The first Peerie Critter was born out of Gronneberg’s reluctance to throw her young son’s much loved jumper away. A little ingenuity and Gronneberg’s handiness with a needle and thread resulted in a favourite family toy.

The first critter’s descendants made a colourful display at the stall, and Gronneberg told me she frequently receives commissions from people who, unable to part with a garment, ask her to immortalise it in the form of a critter.

Upstairs in the Bowls Hall, Niela Nell’s beautiful garments provided an inviting burst of colour and texture, and Shetland Can Art was doing a roaring trade in Beer maps, the most popular being a map of Shetland made out of the red aluminium from a McEwan’s Export can.

With such a wealth of produce on offer, this review can only scratch the surface. Suffice to say that a visit to the craft fair is not just an opportunity to enjoy the work of established Shetland craft producers but also to meet with new talent.

All this, and local food nearby too: little surprise that the venue was so busy.

The Shetland Craft Fair and the Shetland Food Fair are again open at the Clickimin Leisure Centre, in Lerwick, on Sunday between 11am and 5pm.