Walpole Insights | Contemporary Craft: A Global Movement in the Making

The total value of British craft sales increased from £883m in 2006 to over £3b in 2019, and the number of contemporary fine craft buyers has increased by almost 280% in the last 12 months, according to global platform Artsy.net. The pandemic has propelled an underlying trend to acquire the unique and handcrafted – with Millennials the driving force.

Ahead of the 17th edition of Collect (the Craft Council’s International Art Fair for Modern Craft & Design) on Friday 24th, Walpole invited experts Joanna Bird, Natalie Melton and Caitlin Warfield for a webinar to explore the commercial opportunity contemporary craft represents – as revealed by new research – and how luxury brands can, and should, support this valuable market.

Less exalted than luxury products, but often more powerful, craft is a promise of quality in different way; rooted in people, physical disciplines and vernacular stories. And the potential of global brands and contemporary craft to intersect with and enhance each other is immense.

Crafting has grown steadily in popularity for decades now, but in a pandemic year lacking in tactility and connection, craft objects have become even greater totems of imagination in our own spaces. Over 50 per cent of UK adults took up some kind of crafting during lockdown, and paradoxically, this accessibility now feeds into exclusivity, fostering a deeper understanding of the artistry of the work seen in spaces such as February’s international Collect art fair.

Digital platforms have also transformed buying and selling for makers, taking work out to wider audiences with ease — but equally profound is a growing shift in outlook, particularly among younger consumers. Increasingly concerned with the integrity of material, form and concept, Gen Y’s desire to connect emotionally is the top driver for craft purchases, second only to wanting to support and invest in artists. Luxury brands, too, have a valuable role to play in endorsing, celebrating and accelerating makers’ careers, a synergy that has already led to innovative collaborations, from the Burberry Makers House in 2016 to the launch of the Loewe Craft Prize.

Ultimately, consumers are searching for something new to alter their perceptions about the world, and the luxury of an elevated experience is the sweet spot between craft and high-end consumption — whether through collection pieces, hotel installations or public showcases of work in corporate spaces. In this way, luxury brands can be patrons and powerful mediators to the wider public for craft — while also benefiting from the uniquely unfettered innovation and energy offered to them via the raw artistry of the craft movement.

Watch the webinar On Demand here.
The Crafts Council would like to invite all Walpole members to the VIP Preview of Collect today, Thursday 25th February – please click here for your invitation, and follow the links to read a report and new research into the relationship between craft and luxury.

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