I suppose the title is a bit of a misnomer - there was a previous Craft Rally in London which I attended, however I took no photos and made no notes so I never blogged about it.  In essence, don't go looking for my 'part 1' as you won't find it!

 Helen Carnac at Craft Rally Sheffield         Craft Rally 2: Sheffield

SO: Crafts Council have decided to start a programme of CPD for makers at all stages of their careers - and the craft rallys have been somewhat of a call to arms for makers to get involved, find out more, and shape that CPD.  The London rally was all day long, and had a very large number of attendees.  The Sheffield rally was more intimate with approximately 50 people in attendance, and was just for one afternoon.

I preferred the Sheffield programme to the London programme.  London felt disjointed and unfocused, and at times I found myself wondering what the point was.  There was still an element of that in Sheffield - particularly as the small groups we were broken into unanimously wanted more time to network and chat instead of more speaker time - but the speakers themselves were interesting and a lot of people seemed inspired and energised by the examples we were shown.  I still wonder whether the event was pitched in the wrong way - it was really more of a showcasing/networking event rather than what I consider a rally - in that there was no formation of a strategy, or any actions to be taken forward.

Grizedale Arts: Craft Rally Sheffield       Grizedale Arts: Craft Rally Sheffield

That said, I found myself particularly inspired by two of the speakers.  Firstly, Adam Sutherland - director of Grizedale Arts - spoke at length about the work Grizedale have been involved in within their rural Lake District setting.  (I particularly liked the coffins he showed - they were curious and interesting and very different to the traditional coffins we know!)  I like seeing the work of other arts organisations when they deliver exciting participatory arts that go beyond the usual mosaics and lantern parades.

The other speaker who interested me greatly was Rebecca Earley, from Chelsea College of Art and Design.  She spoke at length about her work with TED - specifically the development of textiles processes and methods which were sustainable and had very low environmental impact.  She described her own work using second-hand textiles and a lot of man-made fibres which she then transformed and upcycled into items of beauty and value.  I've been interested in 'upcycling' for sometime - but hadn't seen it implemented so beautifully.  It's relatively easy to take a baggy man's shirt and transform it into a beautifully tailored woman's blouse complete with ruffles and pintucks.  What Rebecca does is far beyond that - using innovative printing methods to completely transform the fabric itself into something original and desireable.  All of the work TED is involved in is interesting and inspiring. 

We were given opportunity to take notes on 'tablecloths' positioned on each of the tables we were sat around.  I like this form of note-taking and engagement - similar to using a 'graffiti wall' but much more suited to a space when you're unable to move around too much.  Other people didn't seem to engage with the cloths as well - I wonder if that is a reflection on the process itself, or the fact that the afternoon overall had very minimal facilitation, and little time to spend writing things on the cloths.  Given that the audience were all 'creative' to some degree, I was surprised people didn't automatically take more risks - but then is that another false assumption - that creative = risktaker?

Tablecloths: Craft Rally Sheffield       Tablecloths: Craft Rally Sheffield

The day gave me much food for thought, and a list of interesting practitioners I can go away and research.  I'm curious to find out what - if anything - the Crafts Council will do with the information they gathered from the participants on both days.  There is meant to be a Craft Rally blog - but it doesn't seem to be on the main CC page currently, so perhaps 'watch this space'?