Manchester Craft & Design Centre

Learn about the importance of crafts in the city's famous Northern Quarter

By Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Manchester Craft & Design Centre is a collection of independent studios and makers in the heart of the Northern Quarter. Andrew Jarred, Previous Marketing Manager at Manchester Craft & Design Centre, explains the history of the centre and how it has built a reputation for unique hand-made gifts.

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 1
00:00

How was the Craft & Design Centre founded?

The centre started in 1982 when it became Manchester Craft Village, started by Manchester City Council. It was in 1973 that the retail and poultry fish market closed down and that was because of the changing landscape of shopping in the city centre. The Arndale opened and that was major competition for the old Smithfield Markets. Our building wasn’t being used anymore and they wanted to find a new purpose for it, so it became an artists’ co-op, specialising in craft. That was in 1982. Then in 2003 it became a not for profit limited company and now it’s a charity. 

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 2
00:00

What was the area like pre-Northern Quarter days?

Some could say that the centre was kind of at the vanguard of the independent creative Northern Quarter, starting that whole thing. The actual term 'Northern Quarter', rumour has it, was coined here because it used to be quite famous for bands and parties when it was an artists’ co-op. It would be quite a bohemian place and there were a lot of after parties back in the eighties when it first started. 

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 3
00:00

How is the building set out?

We’ve got 19 studios, all home to independent businesses, and there are usually one or two makers who run their businesses from each studio. The unique thing is that the makers create their work in their studios and sell from those studios, you can see the thing being made in front of you and you can talk to the people making the work. There are not many places in the UK like that. There’s Oxo Tower in London and just ourselves in Manchester.

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

The building isn't  listed but it’s one of the last remaining Smithfield Market buildings. Smithfield Markets went across the whole of the Northern Quarter and this was the retail fish and poultry market and was built in 1873. It’s a really beautiful building, very light, very airy, sometimes it’s quite cold in the winter, warm in the summer, but it’s a beautiful building.

Virtually explore an artist's studio

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 5
00:00

Do people often commission work?

We have some glassmakers, so we often get large scale commissions for corporate events, they might be awards. We also have a pewter smith, who also makes awards. Linzi Ramsden, one of our ceramicists, is also often busy creating large scale art works for people's houses. We're especially well known for wedding rings and engagement rings - those are probably our most frequent commissions. On the first day that we opened, straight through the door were a recently engaged couple here to have a consultation about their engagement rings, and that was really nice. 

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 6
00:00

Is the uniqueness of your products the key element?

The items here are extremely individual. The authenticity comes from everything being hand-made. The craft market’s really growing. You know here that everything is very hand made by highly skilled people from scratch. We have a very strict policy at the Craft & Design Centre, so you can be guaranteed everything is actually hand-made.

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 7
00:00

Do you think more people are looking to buy craft now?

Definitely. I think one of the positives that has come out of the lockdown is people thinking about where they spend their money. There’s been a real resurgence in wanting to support their high street and local businesses, because they realise how valuable they are and they want them to stay there because they’re such nice places to visit. And also people are realising that buying better but less might be more valuable and actually there might be more pleasure in that as well.

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 8
00:00

How does a maker start out and get a place at the centre?

We’ve had makers here that have been here just one or two years and they often start in a studio that’s owned by a more established maker as an affiliate. So, they might use the studio one or two days a week. And then as studios become available they decide to have their own studio as their own business. Some makers might have other jobs and then eventually it becomes their full-time job. 

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 10
00:00

How does your location play into your business?

It's what makes unique, a haven away from the main city centre places. We are part of the Northern Quarter, so you get that genuine independent vibe. It’s full of cafes, lots of other local independent shops as well. 

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 11
00:00

Are there any unusual commissions your makers create?

We get all sorts really. Andrea from &made is a really popular maker, she’s been here a long time. She’s a former animator and she creates these peg people, so for weddings people will commission the whole wedding party as these little miniature people and she’ll create likenesses of the whole wedding party. They’re really fun. Clare Hillerby creates jewellery that can have personalised if you’ve got say a document or a map or something that's important to you or a postcard, she’ll collage those into jewellery, making a piece unique to you. Clare makes cufflinks for men as well, and it might have a map or some kind of photo in it.

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 12
00:00

Do you work with the community?

We have a programme of changing exhibitions and we love to share our enthusiasm for craft and design with schools in Greater Manchester as well.

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

CD Centre 14
00:00

What is unique about Manchester as a destination?

The industrial history of Manchester is really important and the fact that we make things here connects us really well with that history. Also, we connect with that independent ethos of the city. There used to be a lot of these kind of places in Manchester, where the Corn Exchange was etc, but the Craft Centre and places like Affleck’s Palace still keep that alive in places like the Northern Quarter.

We’re also really well-connected with places like the Whitworth, with the National Football Museum, with all of the city's other cultural venues. The Science and Industry Museum hold an annual Science Festival and we love to host craft and science events here for families as part of that. The cultural and the retail offer in Manchester really is second to none.

Manchester's Crafts and Design Centre (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Is there a final message you’d like to share?

Simply to encourage people to remember how important these places are to the local economy. If we don’t spend and support local businesses, then they won’t exist. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps