Businesses branch out with the GROW ‘Roots to Craft’ Project

Local rural craft producers visited Latvia as part of the GROW Roots to Craft project
Local rural craft producers visited Latvia as part of the 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 at the end of October, five Antrim and Newtownabbey crafters stepped 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 took in a range of artisan producers over the course of the four day visit, from ceramics workshops to carpentry, weavers and jewellery. The aim of the trip was to 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 did they share the origin stories of their own craft, but they explored Latvian traditions and cultures and learnt 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. 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 the 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. For more details on ‘Roots to Craft’ call the GROW team on 9448 1311 or email grow@antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk