In the past it’s been stables, a hospital, and a university campus. However, the colourful history of Buxton’s Devonshire Dome gets a fresh lick of paint each July when Peak District Artisans bring their annual Art and Design Fair to town.

Beneath the soaring sweep of Europe’s largest unsupported dome, and with almost 50 stalls displaying works by members of PDA’s professional collective, there’s something special about meeting those behind the myriad unique artworks to be discovered here.

Run by members, for members, embracing new artistic talent has become a cornerstone of ensuring PDA, which was established over 30 years ago and counts Lord Burlington as its current president, remains dynamic and forward-thinking.

‘The Young Emerging Artist Award is now run by past winners and brings new impetus into the group,’ textile artist and PDA co-chair Alison Wake says. ‘There should be encouragement to be an artist at a younger age, which is what the aim of this is.’

Great British Life: Holly CliffordHolly Clifford (Image: PDA)

One such artist reaping the benefit of this biennial award is 2023 recipient Holly Clifford.

A keen fell runner, Holly’s affinity with the great outdoors, particularly the Hope Valley, is reflected in the 3D topographical wall pieces and jewellery she creates.

‘I’d had the initial idea for this collection during my art foundation course but didn’t start making the jewellery until 2018,’ she reveals.

‘As I started to get repeat orders, particularly for locations within the Peak District, I switched from hand cutting the wall maps to getting these laser cut. However, there’s still a lot of work to do, including all the soldering and engraving required. The jewellery pieces are completely hand cut.’

Great British Life: Contour Map Collection Stanage and Burbage Edge Pendant (brass and precious metals) by Holly Clifford Contour Map Collection Stanage and Burbage Edge Pendant (brass and precious metals) by Holly Clifford (Image: Holly Clifford)

Working in both brass and precious metals, with gemstones or gold acting as location markers within the detailed layered contours, mapping software is used to extract elevation data from across the globe. This has transformed the process which, as the business grows, she continues to refine.

Encouraged by PDA members to apply for the Young Emerging Artist Award, Holly was thrilled to be recognised.

‘It’s such an exciting opportunity that I want to make the most of, as the PDA community is very strong and really knowledgeable,’ she says.

‘I visited the Great Dome Fair a few years ago and never thought that I’d be showing there one day. All the work will be for sale and I’ll be taking commissions, having already done a map of a part of California and a pendant based on Petra, Jordan.’

Great British Life: Mama d'leau (River Mother) in acrylic by Sarah Joseph Mama d'leau (River Mother) in acrylic by Sarah Joseph (Image: SJD)

Another exhibitor whose influences can be traced to far-flung places is fine artist Sarah Joseph.

Swapping the sunshine of Trinidad for the edge of the Peak District may not reflect a typical creative journey yet, stranded in the UK by the Covid pandemic, Sarah and her husband joined family in Sheffield.

Turning adversity to her advantage, she became immersed within the welcoming local art scene and, four years on, believes the experience has energised her striking acrylic paintings.

‘We live so close to nature and the colours and scenery is so different from the Caribbean. I revel in the difference in weather and light, which has influenced my palette. I still have my bright colours, but now also have more muted tones.

‘I’m very interested in cultural references and might feature figures from Trinidadian folklore superimposed within the British environment. For example, my River Mother, a figure who watches over the wildlife, is superimposed into a different setting, which was well received.’

Meanwhile, Sarah’s work has gained an unexpected fanbase.

‘A Trinidadian archbishop asked me to do a painting for the front cover of a book about the Pope,’ she reveals.

‘A couple of weeks before the archbishop collected the canvas, he offered me the chance to present it in person… to the Pope in Rome. I couldn’t say no!’

Closer to home, Sarah hopes to build on her inaugural success at last year’s PDA Fair.

‘I was shocked when the public voted me their favourite artist of the show in 2023; it’s humbling to find your work resonates with the lovely people you meet.’

Great British Life: Sea Shore Waves Collection glassware by Thomas Petit Sea Shore Waves Collection glassware by Thomas Petit (Image: Simon Bruntnell)

Glassblower Thomas Petit, whose work is sold in galleries across the country, agrees that it’s an opportunity to attract new audiences.

‘The Great Dome sees a lot of the artists exhibiting and, as it’s on during the Buxton Festival, it’s a good time to show,’ he says.

His Matlock studio space may be miles from the nearest coastline, yet Thomas evokes the atmosphere of seascapes within his complex multi-layered designs.

Often sandblasting the hand blown or formed vases, paperweights and stoppered bottles in his collections, he emulates the natural look of sea glass recalled from childhood outings to the beach.

Although, translating ideas from pencil sketches into lustrous objects can be challenging.

‘It’s a case of experimenting with different colours and shapes,’ he explains. ‘Sometimes the happy accidents turn out to be the best pieces. The bigger works are the most difficult as the glass is heavy, so it’s labour intensive and physically hard.’

Yet, as he’s discovered, work can take off in unexpected directions.

‘I started out with a range called Waves and another called Flints. Whichever the galleries chose would be the one I’d continue making, but they took both. Then people started asking for different colours and the designs have flowed from there.

‘Weirdly, not everyone sees the sea within the coastal ranges, they think they’re based on something more local. Maybe I’m adding-in elements of my environment without realising.’

Drawing more literally upon people and places is artist Sue Prince OBE.

‘I joined PDA in 2005 having discovered my voice,’ says the self-confessed storyteller, who brings the ancient technique of Bonad folk art painting into the 21st century.

With a background in book illustration, and inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, the turning point came during a visit to Sweden.

‘As an eco-farmer and sustainability advocate, I discovered these amazing paintings which look like tapestry but are done on heavyweight linen using egg tempura,’ she reveals.

Applying a limited palette of largely natural earth pigments onto a gesso ground, Sue honed her craft, adding meaningful words to inspiration drawn from her doorstep.

‘My first big piece was of my husband Terry moving the cows up from the fields, even my landscapes have a human element,’ she describes.

‘I’ve done a picture, which I’ll be bringing to the Dome, of Buxton Crescent. It shows people dancing in front of it and others arriving at the hotel with their dog.’

Community projects are also a hallmark of Sue’s work, the most recent commissioned by Bamford’s history group. Having trained volunteer helpers in the Bonad technique, they now have a chance to leave their own mark.

‘Each community painting has a border along the bottom of figures I outline and everyone chooses one to paint and put their name against,’ adds Sue. ‘That makes it theirs. It’s such a shared experience.’

Great British Life: Eastern Lights, based on Haddon Hall's Long Gallery (wool) by Alison Wake Eastern Lights, based on Haddon Hall's Long Gallery (wool) by Alison Wake (Image: Alison Wake & Cognissart)

With many of PDA’s artists regularly exhibiting both together and individually – other popular events include showcases at Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall – July’s fair is set to shine new light on recent working collaborations.

For example, Alison has been combining her intricate stitch work with photographer Natasha Braithwaite’s striking black and white imagery. And, she says, visitors can also enjoy live demonstrations.

‘As well as painters showing-off their brushstrokes, photographers will be revealing how they create their shots and, on my stall, I’m demonstrating how I use wool to create my pictures,’ she concludes.

Once again, the Great Dome Art and Design Fair looks set to live up to the PDA’s extraordinary standards of individual creativity and collective excellence.