A small creatives business in Billingshurst which brings together hand-made craftwork by locals is set to celebrate one year since its opening.
Billingshurst Creatives, based in Jengers Mead, currently has 45 skilled West Sussex makers with products ranging from ceramics to textiles, soaps, cakes to order, hand-craft furniture cards and prints.
“We’re coming up to our year anniversary and we’re doing well and hopefully in the second year we’ll do even better,” explained artist and printmaker Sophie Innes, who rents shelf space for items from her self-titled business.
“We have more space and there are a number of traders moving on after the first year but then we have a lot more interest. We’re going to rearrange the shop display slightly and we’ve also been guaranteed the lease for another two years which is great.”
It opened on September 15, 2012, after receiving funding from Horsham District Council and a Social Enterprise Grant from West Sussex County Council, and is run as a co-operative by all the artists and crafts people who annually rent shelf space.
“The shop really highlights the diverse creative talent in and around Billingshurst and gives talented people the opportunity to sell on the village high street which could otherwise be out of reach,” explained Billingshurst-based Jewellery designer Louise Scholefield, who showcases items from her business The Silver Torch .
“It was set up by the Billingshurst Community Partnership as part of a project to inject a bit more life into the village. It’s meant I’ve been able to get to know other people who have been trying to achieve the same thing and have got the support of the community.”
As well as the items on the shelves, all traders also accept bespoke orders allowing customers to work with the artist to create something unique for them, their home or as a gift.
Papercraft Therapy (www.papercraft-therapy.com) owner Susie Daniel, 57, has benefited immensely from the project.
She said: “I do paper craft which was initially to do with greetings cards and as the time goes on it’s evolving into decorated wooden boxes and other decorated and this is my first venture into retail.
“Being here has given me tonnes of confidence in the work I do,” she added.
“Everyone says ‘it’s lovely the work you do’, but you don’t believe it until people actually start buying your things so for me it’s been excellent and hugely inspirational.”
Makers are also able to sell under their own brands meaning there’s always one of the artists behind the till when customers come in.
“The shop just has so much personality which is reflected the way it’s run and the products we sell,” said 34-year-old Louise.
“I do The Silver Torch Jewellery (www.thesilvertorch.com) which is something I done as a hobby for a long time and then decided that was my passion and I wanted to do it full time, so I went back to college to re-train.
“I’ve been selling through word of mouth and through friends of friends and with a little array online but then the opportunity came up here so I snatched it and have been here since it opened.”
The team also regularly update the window display with themes on a monthly basis with their own work.
Sophie Innes, who studied textiles at college 25 years ago and whose business can be found online at www.sophieinnes.co.uk, explained how she became part of it: “After 12 or 13 years there was a transition in my life with starting a family and everything so I wanted to do something more home-based and so I now concentrate on the print making.
“It gives other people sparks to do something else like this but there aren’t very many places like it.”
Sophie also sells her designs to car publishers and since selling her goods at Billingshurst Creatives, she has subsequently done a project at a local school.
However, there is still shelf space for people to display their work.
To qualify you need to be local within West Sussex, hand-make all your products and meet trading-standard regulations but the business are very open and eager to showcase all arts and crafts.
For more information contact 01403 581057, visit www.billingshurstcreatives.com, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BillingshurstCreatives or on Twitter @BilliCreatives