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Community / Christmas Craft Fair returns after two year absence

The atmosphere was electric as customers bustled around from stall to stall, browsing, trying samples, and buying gifts. All photos: Gordon Siegel

WELL OVER 1,000 people piled into Clickimin on Saturday to browse what exhibitors had on show, ranging from furniture makers to artists and painters, photography, textile, knitting, jewellery and more.

For many, the Shetland Christmas Craft Fair is an essential part of those weeks in the run up to Christmas. For the crafters it’s an excellent opportunity to sell their creative designs, and for the shoppers it’s the perfect place to get a thoughtful Christmas gift. However, because of Covid, Shetlanders have had to go without for the last two years.

But the craft fair has now returned with a three-day event which got under way on Friday evening. Secretary of Shetland Arts and Crafts, Jennifer Tait, said it was “brilliant to be back”.

“There’s a lot of folk who have said they’re so glad it’s back as they can come and get their Christmas shopping done, and catch up with everybody,” she said.

“We’ve got loads of artists this year. There’s photography, there’s wool, there’s furniture, weaving, knitting. It’s just brilliant.”

Margaret Anderson, whose stall sat right by the main entrance, said: “It’s so good to be back and see people coming in the door with smiles and their faces all happy to be here.” She was selling a book she’d written on trowies, as well as her own hand-spun hats, and brooches.

Anderson added that while it’s excellent to sell their products to customers, the craft fair is also an important networking event for the exhibitors. She said: “I was speaking to one of the other crafters and they were going to link me in with someone who can do more illustrations for me.”

Dawn Mainland was exhibiting at the Christmas Craft Fair for the very first time.

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Dawn Mainland was exhibiting her art at the craft fair for the first time after retiring from teaching. She taught at Scalloway Primary School for 18 years.

She said: “Even though I got my degree years ago, I’ve never really put myself out there.

“I was really nervous until yesterday, but once I got my display set up the way I wanted it, I had a big sigh of relief. I know it’s a small stand. Some of the folk here have got fabulous, big, open stands where you feel like you’re in a shop. Maybe one day I could do that.”

Her paintings feature Shetland scenes, primarily from the South Mainland or Shetland skies. Her work will be exhibited at the Scalloway Museum in 2023.

Shetland Arts & Crafts chair Cecil Tait.Photo:Gordon Siegel

Cecil Tait, the artisan behind Paperwark Furniture and chair of Shetland Arts and Crafts, has been exhibiting since 2003 and has seen the event develop and grow.

He said: “It’s grown immensely, the first year it didn’t quite fill the hall and the stands were terrible – well my one was anyway! But then people started to build screens, and there’s so many more folks doing stuff. Everything is so thought through now.”

He added it was ‘lightsome’ to be back at the craft fair, saying: “There’s a lot of folk you only ever see at the craft fair, so it’s fine to see them all again.”

There are up to 80 stalls, and organisers have seen 500 people flood into the Clickimin on Friday night, while a further 1,000 had visited by Saturday lunchtime. Stalls filled up both the bowls hall and the Main Hall at the Clickimin.

Exhibitors ranged from well-known Shetland companies like Island Larder and Shetland Jewellery, to smaller crafters who make things as a hobby.

Sophie Whitehead from Shetland Jewellery.
Photo: Gordon Siegel

Shetland Jewellery have been selling at the Christmas craft fair for years. Workshop manager Sophie Whitehead was proud to be showing off the new ranges.

She said: “The craft fair is always such a nice weekend, it’s got a good vibe and it’s really positive and sociable. It’s great that folk are back out and seeing everything.”

Whitehead added that the talent in Shetland was ‘overwhelming’, saying: “It’s not all big companies. There’s a lot of folk here who do it as a hobby or on the side, and it’s great to see it all being exhibited.”

Other exhibitors included Morwenna Garrick who was exhibiting her textile designs spun with Shetland wool; she said the craft fair had been ‘a miss’ the past couple of years and was enjoying getting to mingle with the public again and sell directly.

Another popular Shetland makker shared this sentiment, Melanie Mouat of Mella Soap was showcasing her eco-friendly scented candles, soap, and skincare products.

She said: “This is my fifth craft fair. We are just so happy to be back, everyone is really enthusiastic about being back.

“It’s been fine trying it online, but it’s not the same. It’s so much nicer meeting people, hearing their news and getting their feedback on what you’ve been doing.” 

Morwenna Garrick with her niece Lacey Work (12) at the Christmas Craft Fair 2022.

The atmosphere was electric as customers bustled around from stall to stall, browsing, trying samples, and buying gifts. There was also a café set up, so visitors could enjoy some tea, coffee and homebakes.

Linda Richardson is an artist/printmaker who has lived in Shetland for six years. She has been coming to the craft fair to sell her prints, cards, and line work pieces. She uses Shetland wildlife as the inspiration for most of her pieces.

“It’s been so busy, we had 500 people here last night and it’s going to be even busier today. It’s lovely to be back in Clickimin with all the craft folk and visitors,” she said.

There were plenty of stalls getting into the festive spirit by selling Christmas decorations and advent calendars.

The craft fair continues Sunday 6 November for its final day. Entry is £2 and £1 for concession.

Mella Handmade Soap on display in the bowls hall at the Christmas craft fair at Clickimin.
Photo: Gordon Siegel

 

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