Today I visited The NEC, Birmingham to attend the Hobbycrafts, Sewing for Pleasure and Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch shows. The three exhibitions were hosted by the Internation Craft + Hobby Fair, one ticket (£8.50 in advance, £10 on the door) gave us admission to all three. As a crafter I lean towards fibre based crafts, primarily knitting and cross stitch with developing interests in embroidery and stuffed toy making. The exhibitions were going to cover a broad spectrum of crafts so I was looking forward to seeing some new ideas for the crafts I already do and possibly getting persuaded to try something completely new. Oh how disappointed I was!
The shows were laid out across two adjoining halls that formed a large L shape. One hall contained the Hobbycrafts exhibition which covered card making, jewellery making, woodwork, scrapbooking and gardening. The other hall contained both Sewing for Pleasure which covered cross stitching, embroidery, knitting, and dressmaking, and Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch which consisted of exhibitions of textile arts. We spent the morning browsing Hobbycrafts and the afternoon with all of the fibre based stands.
The overall layout and organisation of the three shows could have been better. From what we saw around 20% of the attendees today had a disability that affected their mobility – there were lots of people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walking sticks or crutches. The rows of stands were spaced around 10 feet apart, if the next hall along which stood empty had been used to spread the shows out it would have been far easier for everyone to get to see what they wanted. I also felt sorry for some of the less popular crafts such as woodworking and gardening, they were stuck in a back corner and I’m sure lots of people would have missed seeing them which was a shame as some of the work on display was brilliant.
I felt, walking around, that everything on sale was very familiar, and rather boring. There was very little that I hadn’t seen before and there were no innovative or new takes on any of the crafts represented. I came away with no new ideas and a general feeling of frustration. On a daily basis I am inspired by brilliant finished objects being posted on blogs and forums and marvel at the skill and imagination that is being used to make them. The Tumblr account I use to capture crafty things that I have loved contains ideas aplenty, so I feel really let down that a day spent walking around three craft shows left me entirely uninspired. Even the displays of work by current textile students failed to spark any ideas for things I could try myself.
My favourite part of the day was stumbling across a random cheese stall. Bexton Cheese produce ‘speciality cheese’ with added ingredients, we sampled all seven that they had on offer and ended up buying the cranberry, garlic & parsley, and sundried tomato varieties. I’m not entirely sure where they fitted into the Hobbycrafts set up, but they were a very welcome find!