9 top Dartmoor artisans to visit
- Credit: Carla Dinari
JEREMY FLINT uncovers the 9 top artisans who call Dartmoor their home
Dartmoor National Park features an incredible diversity of artisans that are some of the most skilled in the UK. The creative community of workers feature a mix of master craftsmen and women who have been fine tuning their talents for years and have built up successful reputations and businesses in their respective fields.
On your next trip to Dartmoor, why not call into their studios and workshops and see them at work? You can enjoy visiting artisans from a blacksmith and silversmith to a wood turner, willow artist and a fine art landscape painter.
There will be an incredible variety of skills and craftwork on display, created by local makers to inspire and intrigue you. You can even enjoy one of their fascinating workshops with more time on your hands.
Meeting the artisans and seeing what they do is an inspiring way to learn more about their crafts and its traditions whilst making a great travel experience that makes a great change to Dartmoor’s popular moorland and tor walks. Get in touch with the artisans for further details and enjoy a day out in Dartmoor along the artisan trail.
Here are 9 of the best creatives worth visiting:
1. Blacksmith Greg Abel
Greg is a traditional blacksmith who uses original tools and techniques to create his products at his 150-year-old forge in Moretonhampstead which he took over in 2000. He uses coal in the hearth (rather than gas) and works with hammers and anvils in the traditional way to create his unique items which include gates, candlesticks and decorative ornaments.
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If you would be interested in an introduction to the art of blacksmithing Greg offers a hands-on approach through his courses where you can learn how to make pokers, hooks and toasting forks.
2. Silversmith Miriam Boy
Miriam has been creating silver and mixed metal jewellery for more than a decade. She likes her pieces to be rustic, yet timeless and unique where each item is designed to last a lifetime.
Miriam’s studio is based in Chagford, where the beautiful natural surroundings offer endless ideas for her craft. Inspired by the ancient Dartmoor landscape, she uses designs inspired by the moors and wildlife. Miriam is an experienced teacher and runs (wedding ring) workshops on request.
3. Woodturner Sharif Adams
Sharif practises the age-old craft of woodturning at a barn on a working farm near North Bovey.
Using sustainable materials from local Dartmoor forests, Sharif loves to work with freshly felled wood turning bowls, cups and pots on a pole lathe powered by a treadle. He explains: “I cut all of the wood for my bowls using a chainsaw, bowsaw or cross cut saw”.
His interest in woodwork started in 1998 when he studied violin making at London Guildhall University before working with an antique furniture restorer near High Wycombe. Self-taught, he is honoured to have done his part in reviving this now viable craft and teaches at workshops and festivals around the country.
He adds “my products sell to a worldwide audience and my current fascination is making Scandinavian turned boxes (a round box with a lid and locking mechanism) with a commissioned piece going out to Japan soon.”
4. Willow artist Katherine Miles
Katherine has become well known in the Devon area for her wonderful life-sized animal sculptures made of willow. She works mostly to commission sculpting artwork for private gardens, stately homes and interior designers. She loves to weave with willow because of its earthy texture and makes everything from foxes, hares and rabbits to stag heads and highland cows.
5. Landscape artist Sophie Berger
Sophie Berger is an emerging contemporary artist specialising in atmospheric landscape paintings. She finds inspiration spending significant time working in the great outdoors capturing the ever-changing dramatic atmosphere of Dartmoor and the South West coast in her beautiful contemporary landscapes.
Sophie sketches as a starting point and lets the paintings take their own path when working on her pieces, choosing colours and texture influenced by her mood.
Since undertaking a fine art painting BA at Manchester School of Art and an MA in fine art at Bristol University, Sophie has won contemporary arts accolades for her work and does large scale commissions for luxury cruise liners, restaurants, public spaces and private clients in her studio on the moors.
She also shows her oils on canvas at art fairs and commercial galleries, where her paintings are becoming collectors’ favourites, nationally and internationally. Sophie provides art walks and painting sessions with the opportunity to go and paint with her.
6. Wood worker Ambrose Vevers
Ambrose is a Dartmoor artist specialising in hand-made contemporary furniture in Ashburton. Employing traditional techniques including steam bending and spokeshaving, he uses sustainable, local natural materials from a woodland he fells and manages.
The furniture items he makes includes chairs, benches, stools, tables and chopping boards and are made to order. Ambrose offers weekend furniture making courses for anyone interested in attending.
7. Printmaker Isla Middleton
Isla is an Ashburton-based artist passionate about creating aesthetically pleasing textiles for the home. With a degree in textile design, she specialises in design and beautiful printmaking using patterns, textures and form inspired by nature from plants, flowers and natural colours to her immediate surroundings. Isla has made designs for interior and clothing brands including Sanderson and Whitestuff.
8. Clare’s Preserves
Having wowed food industry judges and consumers around the country since the launch of her company in 2014, Clare Gault has developed award-winning quality preserves handmade in batches using traditional open pot methods.
Leaving saltwater adventures and her maritime career behind, Clare turned her attention towards her passion of cooking, gaining a distinction at Ashburton Chef’s Academy before producing a variety of seasonal preserves.
Clare sources the best fruit from local suppliers and scooped ‘best artisan made traditional marmalade in the World in 2018 in the World’s Original Marmalade Awards and champion sweet preserve in Taste of the West 2021 with her raspberry jam.
9. Felt Maker Yuli Somme
Yuli makes wonderful organic felt products from the region’s wool. Her beautiful hand-made items include hot-water-bottles, tea cosies and burial shrouds, a wool felt cocoon and traditional coffin alternative for natural burial or cremation.
Yuli has always had an affinity with wool and has been deeply influenced by the traditional weaving and knitting heritage of Norway, where she was born. She sources natural and sustainable wool to create her products ethically at her workshop in Moretonhampstead.
Take the trail to discover more
For more artisans like this you can visit the Dartmoor Artisan Trail. This is an art, craft and food trail that connects creative artisans within Dartmoor National Park. You can see the artisans in action on a self-guided tour whether by car, bike or on foot and discover how their products are made. Other craftspeople you can visit along the route include:
Alison Hastie, one of the world’s most ethical shoemakers who hand makes shoes from leather and vegan materials making resoleable shoes that last for decades at her workshop in Moretonhampstead.
Penny Simpson who has enjoyed making pots at her studio in Moretonhampstead for the past 25 years. Inspired by trees, plants and nature, Penny works with red earthenware clay, glazing her pots with layers of coloured slips.
Stuart Cote is an upholsterer based in Chagford. Visit his workshop for an insight into his traditional work upholstering period and modern pieces of furniture.