Glendale-based potter, Keith Webster, overall winner in Ad Gefrin’s Design Challenge for his “Meaningful Memento” - a small pottery jug.
Three Northumbrian creatives received a significant boost and milestone moment for their businesses when they were announced winners of Ad Gefrin’s Creative Design Challenge. Run in conjunction with the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project, this competition was held to find local designers and makers to be showcased in the Ad Gefrin Visitor Experience Shop. Keith Webster, of Ravn Clay, was chosen as overall winner for his glazed small pottery water jug, runners up were Alice Elsworth of Whistlebare, selected for her beautiful throws made from Cheviot sheep wool, and Joseph Hillier, for his bespoke bronze jewellery.
The key criteria for the Ad Gefrin Design Challenge were for products to be of the highest quality and celebrate Northumberland, as well as being environmentally sustainable and commercially viable. After receiving fifteen high-quality submissions, six makers were selected to give a “Dragon’s Den” presentation to a panel of judges.
On giving feedback, Eileen Ferguson, Co-Founder of Ad Gefrin, said: “We were blown away with the presentations and it was extremely hard to choose between the finalists as the standard was so incredibly high.
“Through this competition, we were looking for designers who are not only from Northumberland, but who are rooted in its culture and inspired by the landscape. All were extremely impressive, but we felt that these three had a particular synergy with our ethos and offered products at three different price points. We are looking forward to journeying with them and building long-term partnerships.”
“We chose Ravn Clay Pottery as the overall winner as we were all really impressed by Keith himself, the richness of the story he brought, and the thoughtfulness, appeal, and practicality of the product. We hope that this will be the beginning of a fruitful partnership, as there are clear opportunities for the usability of his pottery in the bistro and tasting room, as well as for retail in the shop.”
The Rural Design Centre Innovation Project ran workshops to help the applicants generate ideas, test different concepts, and then bring them to fruition. Nick Devitt, Senior Design Associate for the RDCIP said, “This was an opportunity for Northumberland creative businesses to demonstrate their talent and they did big time. The quality of creativity and propositions was exceptional. We were all so inspired by the quality of the entries.
“Congratulations to Keith, Alice and Joseph for their outstanding proposals, but also to everyone who joined us for the workshops and who went onto submit and those who were shortlisted. We are looking forward to running the next design challenge.”
RavnClay Pottery was set up by Keith Webster on the Ford and Etal Estate only last year. In an interesting and varied career, he has been an award-winning cheesemaker, book seller, primary school teacher, and archaeologist. His journey from pottery neophyte to prize winning studio owner is truly remarkable. The object that won-over the judges is a simple stone-glazed jug, ideal for watering whisky.
Keith adds: “It is an enormous boost to my business. I view myself as a potter, though I have not received any formal training. This external validation to enrich the Ad Gefrin Experience is fantastic for me. It also changes how I see the future, and how my little business is going to go forward.”
“The next step for me now is scaling up of the business, which sounds crazy as I only launched five months ago! I started with the idea that everything has to have purpose, and my handle-less jug is stage one of what I hope is going to be a long-term relationship.”
Whistlebare is a fibre farm near Bowsden, breeding Angora goats and sheep to produce high quality mohair and woollen yarn. Alice uses wool grown on her own farm or from Cheviot sheep from neighbouring farms.
Judges felt the vibrancy and range of colours were truly spectacular, woven into a wide range of textiles, including throws and blankets, or used for knitting. With her ethical and environmental credentials, she ticked all the right boxes for this challenge. They loved the attractive and colourful products that Whistlebare produces, and the initial bespoke designs for Ad Gefrin throws. They were also intrigued by plans to make more ranges using new materials such as kid leather.
Based in Prudhoe, Joseph Hillier is a well-known and nationally well-respected sculptor who has branched into pastures new. For Ad Gefrin, he presented a series of necklaces, inspired by the Anglo-Saxon gold and jewellery making processes. Made of bronze, each piece is unique and signed.
Joseph impressed the judges who thought his jewellery was stunning, and loved the story and appearance of the hand-wrought pieces. They felt his work is very much in keeping with the history, brand, and experience of Ad Gefrin, and that it would resonate with their target visitors.
“The Creative Design Challenge has more than fulfilled expectations and this is far from the end,” adds Eileen Ferguson. “Discovering the strength and diversity of the creative businesses we have in Northumberland has been a revelation.
“Ad Gefrin will be a destination like no other and at every step we will celebrate the best of Northumberland, and the work of all these Artists does just that. We have formed strong relationships with all involved and we very much look forward to working with them.”
From the outset, Ad Gefrin has been clear in their ambition to help create opportunities for local businesses by attracting more visitors to north Northumberland. Showcasing the creativity, ingenuity, and quality of the Designer Makers who work in the county will certainly help inspire many more people to come.
The Rural Design Centre Innovation Project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and part-funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority, provides business support to SMEs in the North of Tyne area. The support is fully funded, and they also offer match funded grants to eligible businesses. To find out more about the work they are doing visit; www.rural-innovation.co.uk.
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