Christmas gifts in Coggeshall


EXG DEC 13 ART PAGE - Credit: Archant

Intricately carved woodwork, hand-made Christmas cards and delicate, bejewelled gifts are all things which you might expect to find at a traditional Christmas market in Germany. Yet this year the Guild of Essex Craftsmen will be descending upon one of the county’s oldest buildings to bring traditional festive craftsmanship to the East of England.

Founded in 1984, the Guild of Essex Craftsmen has spent nearly 30 years cultivating the finest artistic talent in the region. As a not-for-profit organisation, its principal aim is to stimulate a wide and well-informed appreciation of genuine hand-made crafts in Essex. Guild members are skilled in everything from stained glass to soap-making, but membership is prestigious and, as a result, rather difficult to achieve.

‘Every individual is selected for the outstanding quality and originality of their work,’ explains Malcolm Brown, a prominent member of the guild committee whose craft of choice is photography. ‘The guild currently has more than 200 members involved in a wide range of crafts and the committee organises numerous events every year to help promote the work of these amazingly talented craftspeople who live and work in Essex.’

One such event is the popular Christmas Fair held at one of Europe’s oldest timber-framed buildings, the 13th-century monastic barn at Coggeshall. With its hand-built wooden rafters, National Trust status and warm, rustic atmosphere, Coggeshall’s Grange Barn is described as the perfect setting for a festive arts and crafts exhibition.

‘Each year we have 20 to 30 members exhibiting at Grange Barn,’ says Malcolm. ‘For them it provides a great opportunity to showcase their work and any surplus profits go to local causes such as the Essex Air Ambulance. Last year the guild and its members raised more than £3,000. The event also allows people to buy some really personal and meaningful Christmas gifts for their friends and family.’

From potters to pyrographers, the Guild of Essex Craftsmen’s Christmas Fair regularly features exhibitions from every kind of talented craft worker. This year wintry paintings and cards, artisan woodwork and basketry, and beautiful hand-made jewellery will all be found nestling in the cosy corners of the barn, waiting to be given as gifts on Christmas Day.

‘We are always extremely proud of the quality of the goods which the Essex Guild of Craftsmen is able to produce. It’s not uncommon for visitors to find one-of-a-kind presents at our events – original, unique, hand-made gifts. Every stall is decorated with a Christmassy feel and with the rustic atmosphere of the barn and the charitable donations, it’s set to be a great event.’