The Cotswolds is bursting with creative talent, with a wealth of contemporary crafts designed and made locally. Entrepreneurship and making is at the heart of our community, supported by local colleges, guilds, craft centres and an appreciative, well-informed creative audience. All this will be beautifully celebrated at Craft Festival Cheltenham with 100 of the finest makers from across the UK coming together again at Cheltenham Town Hall, November 17-19, just in time for Christmas.

We spoke to three participating makers about their work, inspiration, the challenges, and opportunity of running a creative business in the Cotswolds.

Great British Life: John Crossley of All in the Making at Craft Festival Cheltenham. Photo: Crossley of All in the Making at Craft Festival Cheltenham. Photo:

John Crossley from All in the Making, based near Moreton-in-Marsh, makes beautiful handmade furniture and homewares. He recently took the step into full-time professional making and won Best New Business at Craft Festival Cheltenham’s spring show.

Originally from North Yorkshire, John moved to the Cotswolds in 2005 when his partner was studying at the Shakespeare Institute. Starting out as technical manager at Compton Verney, 20 years on he’s a professional maker, married and their first child arrived this summer.

‘My craft business is a start-up and it’s going great,’ he says. ‘I have work in some galleries and craft shops now. The buzz has been really encouraging. My first ever show was Craft Festival Cheltenham in March and so many good things have come from that: exhibition and gallery invitations, commissions, and I’m now stocked in some very cool craft shops. I’ve also had referrals plus the direct orders from my website have grown, too.

‘My collection now includes stools, side tables, coffee tables, serving boards, chairs, benches. It’s growing and evolving,’ he adds.

Great British Life: Bench by All in the Making. Photo: by All in the Making. Photo:

‘I’m inspired by vernacular furniture from across the British Isles, with an emphasis on hand-tooled wood working. I don’t completely eschew mechanical processes for the sake of productivity and safety; I’m from a workshop background, but I am moving towards hand finishing. Good sharp-edge tools are such fun to use, you can really feel what you’re doing and what the wood is telling you.

‘I source my materials locally; my supplier is just six miles from my workshop. We live on a farm, on a large estate, so I also draw upon local fallen timber. Provenance and sustainability mean a lot to me. All my wood shavings go onto the stable floor, and onto our allotment, too. It’s a good way to be.

‘I’m enjoying being a professional maker. I work just three miles from home now. The work is physical, but I’m invigorated in a way I haven’t been in years! It’s great.

‘Craft Festival Cheltenham garnered so much opportunity for me and accelerated my business and awareness of my work that I want to build upon. I want to keep meeting people face-to-face at events to complement my online business; I like the variety and meeting customers. I learn so much from them and it’s helping me fine-tune my range,’ he concludes.

Great British Life: Katie Allen of Loopy Ewes. Photo: Alun CallenderKatie Allen of Loopy Ewes. Photo: Alun Callender

Katie Allen of Loopy Ewes, sustainable knitwear and homeware, is a shepherd of rare-breed sheep and professional maker based at Great Cotmarsh Farm, North Wiltshire. She hand-crafts 100% traceable knits from wool from her flock. She designs and hand knits pieces that are distinctive and eye-catching.

‘I’m an organic sheep and cattle farmer and want to connect with all aspects of livestock farming,’ she says. ‘Our focus here is not just on food but fibre. I’m working with wool from the sheep and we’re looking at leather from the cattle.

‘I’m not from a farming background; my family all think I’m crazy! I started to learn about organic farming, and the chemicals in skin products and clothes after experiencing an allergic reaction, and that set me off on a new journey. I did a smallholder evening class at agricultural college and some training at Daylesford, and I also started growing veg. In 2014, I bought a farm in Cornwall, started a market garden, and acquired some sheep.

‘I was convinced their fleece was important and shouldn’t be wasted and went on a journey to find out about how to do things with wool and how to become a maker, building on my background in graphic design. I did an A-level at Cirencester College then went onto Bath University with the goal of developing a fashion collection. I wanted to find my style aesthetic and discover the making process.

Great British Life: New glamping at Great Cotmarsh Farm, with textiles by Loopy Ewes. Photo: glamping at Great Cotmarsh Farm, with textiles by Loopy Ewes. Photo:

‘Four years ago, I launched my graduate collection at Craft Festival Bovey Tracey in Devon where I won the Tony Piper Memorial Award for Craft Excellence – it was overwhelming. People love my jumpers, and now I’m developing a hoodie and cardigan plus I have a home ware range,’ she says.

‘We now have a new farm near Wootton Bassett, and I want to develop it as a place people come to stay, for training and learning, to visit the organic vegetable garden and new dye garden I’m developing. I want to grow plants and extract the pigment to create organic natural dyes myself.

‘We have a mix of businesses to make it all work. We’ve just launched a glamping site, and we want to develop the educating side, not just for fashion but also for food. We’re ‘enterprise staking’ – with a range of enterprises, so we’re more resilient. The farm was the big dream; I had to find a way to make it work. It’s everything we knew it would be, with problems and hurdles to overcome, but we have long-term security now.

‘As a maker, one of the pluses of living in the Cotswolds is that there’s a strong market here, with curated events like Craft Festival Cheltenham and centres like Brewery Arts in Cirencester. It’s beautiful, inspirating countryside. I love living here with my husband and kids on the farm.’

Great British Life: Jayne Tricker, ceramicist and painter from Cheltenham. Photo: Tricker, ceramicist and painter from Cheltenham. Photo:

Jayne Tricker, accomplished painter, and ceramicist from Cheltenham, will be a first-time exhibitor at Craft Festival Cheltenham. She has been a professional maker for many years.

‘I make ceramic bowls of light,’ she says. ‘It was an ancient tradition in communities that the elders would make simple bowls to celebrate new life, or as a coming-of-age gift. The bowl symbolised your light, that spark, your energy in the world. I also make sky-hole bowls in black clay, designed to be filled with water to reflect the sky, earth, and air… and I make bowls that have constellations punched out of the sides, so when you light them, you see stars,’ she adds.

Jayne worked in education for many years, specialising in autism support. ‘Art and being creative is how I’ve always expressed myself – and the vehicle for me to help others with learning difficulties, or different life challenges, to express themselves – through colour, form, and three-dimensional work. My skill is hand-building ceramic bowls and sculpture,’ she says.

‘I use my creative energy to process many of the challenges that came with being a mum, and supporting my children who both have complex health issues. They were educated through Gloucestershire Hospital Education, who were fantastic. We were also supported by Great Ormond Street Hospital.

‘My keen sense of spiritual centre informs my work; it guides everything I do. You’ll find symbols and words, soul-lead affirmations, in the layers and on surfaces. They help the creative work hold a sacred, heart-centred soul. That’s my intention.

Great British Life: Jayne Tricker Ceramics. Photo: Tricker Ceramics. Photo:

‘I use circular marks on my ceramics; it’s a very important symbol. It signifies unity. My greatest wish going forward is about co-creation and working together. I hope we do that more readily, and to connect effortlessly in our future. Other symbols I use include fire and backwards ‘g’, the symbol of sage, the change maker. I also channel words whilst I’m making. All my creative work is made on key dates, so each is like a time capsule.

‘I’ve faced challenges working locally, and generally in our profession. But I love it. It’s a rare creative that’s also a good businessperson; I’ve had to work hard to make it work. My local network of friends and, in particular, my network of strong, tenacious women helped me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family, friends, work colleagues and local community,’ she finishes.

All three makers will be exhibiting at Craft Festival Cheltenham, which takes place November 17 to 19 at Cheltenham Town Hall. One hundred of the finest contemporary makers have been selected from across the UK, plus craft workshops for adults, craft demonstrations, free children’s festive creative activities and café.

For full details and tickets visit