Local Craft Businesses Branch Out With Grow ‘Roots To Craft’ Project

Breaking into new markets can be tricky; particularly if you’re a small producer running your own business, responsible for everything from making to marketing and everything in between.  GROW’s Roots to Craft cooperation project aims to support local rural craft businesses to improve their skills and look at the potential of export and this week, five Antrim and Newtownabbey crafters are stepping outside their comfort zone to gain a totally different perspective on their products and how they can develop them, by visiting the Kurzeme region of western Latvia.

Crafters will take in a range of artisan producers over the course of the four day visit, from ceramics workshops to carpentry, weavers and jewellery.  The trip will give the participants the chance to exchange skills and experiences with entrepreneurs from Latvia and Finland; joining them to exhibit and sell their own products at the famous Kuldïga crafts festival.  Not only will they share the origin stories of their own craft, but they will explore Latvian traditions and cultures and learn what works for different markets.

The local producers involved create a range of crafts from textiles to ceramics and woodcrafts.  Hanna McAlister of HanCrafted NI from Ballynure produces gifts and signs made from reclaimed wood; Jennifer Speedie from Randalstown creates unique hand-painted and stitched dolls for her business Crow House Dolls.  Doagh-based Julia Pollock hand-makes wire woven jewellery using natural minerals, crystals and fossils and Diane Whan, Parkgate Crafts, specialises in personalised gifts embellished with ceramic pieces.  Finally, Ballyearl designer, Catherine Nelson, screen prints her work combining old and new printing techniques to create a range of textiles featuring images inspired by equestrianism.

The visit to Latvia forms part of a wider cooperation project with partners in Finland and Mexico, working with crafters from rural Antrim and Newtownabbey to support local craft businesses to develop.  The project aims to help the crafters expand into international markets and build on their skills.   A total of 15 craft producers in our area will benefit from the project by taking part in elements of the craft festivals.

Each country partnering in the cooperation project hosts a festival exchange; with Antrim & Newtownabbey Council having hosted their own successful craft festival in Mossley Mill Square in September, and further events planned in Mexico and Finland in early 2020.

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This website was developed with support from Priority 6 (LEADER) of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas