Crafting the County: 3 Essex craftspeople
PUBLISHED: 11:15 13 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:33 24 March 2017
While it may not be everyone's impression of the county, the people who know Essex, know that it is a county of entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. We meet three inspirational craftspeople making handmade goods that are proving to be a hit
Maggie Morgan is a talented quilter and owner of The Beehive in Colchester. She has always had an artistic feather in her cap and, like many craftspeople, she has always had an interest in the creative process of making. In her case, her passion is textiles, machine embroidery and quilting.
Her love of quilting began in 2005, while visiting her mum back home in South Africa. ‘We had just walked past a shop selling beautiful fabrics and sewing machines, and their Bernina embroidery machine grabbed my attention because it was sewing out a very large, multi-coloured butterfly,’ Maggie explains.
The fabric shop owner then approached her and invited her to join in with the embroidery group in the workroom at the back of the shop.
‘Every month this group would sit together and create squares to form into a friendship quilt and they showed me how it worked. I was mesmerised from that exact moment on and the spark that had been flickering in my head roared into life,’ she says. ‘This was a huge turning point for me and when I returned to the UK, I made it my mission to discover everything I could about this seemingly magical process!’
Those who know Maggie will acknowledge it has always been a big ambition of hers to own a quilting shop. In 2015, she turned her dream into reality and The Beehive was born.
Maggie explains: ‘I acquired a quilting shop before, which sadly had to close its doors. But since then, I relocated to a beautiful medieval building in the heart of the Dutch Quarter in Colchester, the Stockwell Arms, which is one of the oldest buildings in the town.
‘The building has a very light and airy feel about it, which makes it perfect for crafting with plenty of natural daylight,’ she adds. ‘The shop itself offers quilting and patchwork suppliers, machine embroiderers and soft furnishings all under one roof. The Beehive reflects the nature of crafters everywhere; all working together around a large table where we hold classes and workshops.’
Maggie encourages people to attend her open days, where people like her can bring a project to work on, start on something new or just for those who need inspiration or help from others.
‘I have found that crafters are always willing to help each other and learn different ways of achieving the result they desire, which is such a lovely quality,’ she says. ‘It is more important to finish a project with a few imperfections than try to be perfect; after all, there is nothing that a button or motif can’t disguise!’
It is evident that Maggie is passionate about these beautiful crafts and wants to share her passion with the world. ‘I want to keep embroidery and quilting crafts alive. I believe that unless we engage with all ages, including the youngsters, all the knowledge and experience will disappear for the next generation. We also hold classes and workshops, including children’s classes in the school holidays. It is amazing just how adept some of our young crafters are at learning new skills.
Priest Brothers in Chelmsford is a family-run business, producing quality, solid oak and bespoke furniture. Established in 1975 by Ronald Priest, it has been passed down the generations and is now co-owned by his grandson Bradlee and Bradlee’s mother, Jodie.
The company’s ethos, from opening its doors more than 40 years ago, is to manufacture the finest, traditional English reproduction and contemporary furniture.
Bradlee has followed his grandfather’s footsteps in the furniture business to take over as the third generation family member, after his dad Ron, and reveals how this career had always been his ideal job.
‘I have such a great passion for manufacturing and creating unique items of furniture that show quality and attention to detail,’ Bradlee explains. The family-run manufacturer business offers all types of modern, contemporary and reproduction furniture to cater to a wide-ranging client base in and around Essex. It boasts an extensive range of oak furniture that includes pieces for the dining room and bedroom, including contemporary and rustic items, as well as offering a bespoke service.
‘Bespoke furniture is a massive part of Priest Brothers and it is something I really enjoy working on,’ adds Bradlee. ‘The service is a completely unique process for each individual and the overall personalised piece of furniture then becomes a one of a kind piece in the home. The advantage of bespoke furniture is that it can fit into the smallest, most awkward of spaces in a particular area that would have been a struggle to utilise with generic furniture.
‘However, this service doesn’t just mean you are selecting the design you want. Our designers also consider your particular room dimensions, quirky architectural features and your specific taste, as well as your lifestyle.’
From start to finish, Priest Brothers’ main focus is customer satisfaction and to ensure you are part of the whole process. ‘The customer is involved in every aspect, including the design and choice of colour, and can even watch while we make the item itself. As we specialise in bespoke, made-to-measure furniture, we are able to provide a unique service that not a lot of high street retailers can offer.’
Bradlee adds: ‘We take a genuine pride in putting our customers first by supplying quality products. Our speciality solid oak furniture is manufactured with European oak of the highest grade and quality. To accommodate customers’ individual needs, the companies resources are geared to offer options of different timbers.
‘The passing of time enhances the natural beauty of timber and its great variation of colour, grain and luster should be appreciated accordingly. Every single piece of wood is unique, just like a fingerprint. If you want perfect colour matching, don’t waste this marvellous resource.’
Constable Bathrooms was founded in 2012 on the basis of years of experience and vast knowledge in the bathroom industry, aiming to provide the best, high-quality bathroom supplies in the UK.
All the craftspeople behind the handmade, bespoke bathroom business are all high-end, experienced experts in their field, with detailed knowledge about designing and manufacturing products.
Innovation is key for this company, as Mike Eltham from Constable Bathrooms explains.
‘Design and fashion are huge influences on how we create fresh designs and collections,’ says Mike. ‘We have several amazing products in the pipeline for this year, which is very exciting. I believe we’ll certainly be turning heads as we’re combining modern fashion with the distinguished look of the traditional bath.
‘Certainly for myself, ideas come from looking at previous bath collections, looking at the bath and thinking which part works best, and then eventually combining several ideas together. It is a never-ending cycle and ideas do come from almost everywhere. Also, we tend to find that our clients inspire us. When they decide they want something totally different and individual, it pushes us to think outside the box.’
According to Mike, bespoke is the way forward if you want to create and customise your space into something special.
‘If you have the inspiration, we can try and help you turn your vision into a reality. We give our customers a unique involvement in an area that they would not have been able to access before. As most baths are bought off the shelf, this is an opportunity to be involved in the design of a centrepiece of a room that everyone visits, allowing the customers to express their inner wishes, design and ideas. We are talented enough and able to put these ideas together and create something truly unique for you!’
These bathroom specialists like to break down design boundaries and create inventive masterpieces for their clients. ‘I have some particular favourites, including a new double-ended slipper bath, where the backrests are so comfortable and supportive we defy anyone not to be relaxed by the time they decide to pull the plug on their experience. We took the standard double-ended bath and have just made it even better!’
Each Constable Luxury bathtub is 100% hand-crafted to order with the utmost care, ensuring you are provided with the most elegant bespoke bathroom essentials on the market. All or any part, of your bathroom can be supplied, with a variety of high quality options available.
Mike continues: ‘From order to dispatch, we generally allow for six weeks. For instance, if the bath is bespoke, it needs to be shaped and patterned, then approved. Once agreed, then we can get tooling from the clay or foam former and then we create a one off tool. But if the style is to be duplicated, all the work and its costs are shared by all.
‘To make the bath, the isophalic enamel coating is applied, then the multiple layers of our heat-retaining marble mineral formulation is added and allowed to cure, before we add feet fixings. The bath is then polished to the highest level and the feet set is removed so that the bath and its feet can be painted or have the required finish applied. We then carefully wrap the bath, palletise it and then dispatch it to the new owner.
‘We have also trawled through the available chinaware, taps, showers and enclosures to bring together the highest quality products that complement our baths. We always want to go that extra mile.’
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