Highlights of the craft tour

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A COMMUNITY craft tour has been hailed a success after strong sales and visitor numbers.

The Highlights Rural Touring Scheme has completed its seventh contemporary craft tour across the north, which saw exhibitions and workshops at five venues, including Pegswood Community Project.

The Meadowsweet tour showcased the work of felt maker Ellie Langley, artists’ bookmaker Sarah Mitchell and jeweller Allyson Gee, and all three artists took part in workshops with schools.

More than 200 children participated, making folded paper books, felting and butterfly-inspired artwork, which formed part of the displays.

A total of more than 1,200 visitors attended the exhibitions, while almost £2,000 of artwork was sold.

Tour Officer Karen Babayan said: “The exhibition was really well received, with over 1,200 visitors all loving the variety of top quality craft on show and also enjoying the connections with work by local children on similar hay meadow themes.

“The real surprise of this year’s tour was the sales.

“A high proportion of the exhibition work itself was on sale, with part of the commission going to the venue, but each artist had also created items to be sold, from butterfly jewellery and felted cards to hand-stitched notebooks and journals.

“In all, we sold £1,907 of work, a huge boost for the artists and also for the venues, all staffed by volunteers.”

The tour was supported by a number of organisations, including the Northern Rock Foundation, Arts Council England and One North East, but it was the final year of a three-year Northern Rock grant for events and workshops.

However, organisers hope to find alternative funding to keep at least part of the programme going.

Ms Babayan said: “The Northern Rock Foundation money has enabled us to develop the quality, the profile and also participation in the craft tour.

“We are particularly keen to continue the work with schools, giving children in remote locations opportunities to work with craft artists and to see their work on display to the public.

“It is going to be a challenge, but I really hope that we can find funding to make this happen next year.”

Next year’s tour will have the theme Vanguard — Progressive Craft and will feature artists who use digital technology in their work.