Those of our readers who come to visit us at shows throughout the year will know that ‘we get about a bit’. At least once a month we’re on the road, exchanging our leather aprons for white cotton gloves and the noise of the workshop for the buzz of a craft fair.
Our mission takes us all over the country and the variety of landscape, scenery and people which we encounter along the way give us plenty to look forward to at the beginning of each month. This year we have particularly enjoyed a run of shows in the cathedral towns of England.
Our pilgrimage began in the spring with a journey to Canterbury where we exhibited at the Craft In Focus event and savoured oysters on the Kentish Coast. We enjoyed late summer sunshine in Salisbury, where the annual Craft & Heritage Fair is held in the cathedral close itself! By the time we reached Winchester for the Desire Silversmithing & Jewellery event in early November the autumn weather had truly set in and the cathedral was adorned with poppies in honour of Remembrance Sunday. Our last stop on the trail this year was Hereford where the Contemporary Craft Fair celebrates a wealth of craft and making on the Welsh borders.
The magnificent cathedrals of these four medieval towns served as our mile stones throughout our gradual journey from the most easterly to the most westerly regions of England, representing not only political and religious history but also a rich heritage of craftsmanship upon which all contemporary makers draw.
The awe-inspiring architecture of these immense buildings, the intricate stained-glass, expert carpentry and fascinating stonework are all testament to the skill of the stonemasons, glaziers and carpenters who built them and who maintain them to this day.
The cathedrals of Canterbury, Winchester and Salisbury are all members of the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship which, with the support of the Masons Livery Company, employs and trains stone masons for the upkeep and restoration of the crumbling stonework. Hereford Cathedral maintains a collection of astonishing books in its Chained Library, as well as an 11th century copy of the Magna Carta and its famous 13th century ‘Mappa Mundi‘ – all breathtaking examples of how skilled a medieval scribe was required to be in preparing his vellum, mixing his inks and plotting his maps of the Christian world.
At the end of this year’s ‘pilgrimage’ our faith in the appeal and significance of beautiful, well-made objects is as strong as ever. Just as the authors of the Mappa Mundi placed Jerusalem at the centre of their world, the art of making remains at the centre of ours.