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25 Years of Publishing

by Angie Boyer

Published: November 2008

I sometimes think I’ve led a charmed life, looking back over the half century or more of it that I can remember, and in particular the last 25 years or so. I am in good health, I have a lovely husband, a gorgeous daughter (and son-in-law, too now!), supportive parents, fabulous friends and a successful business. There have been the inevitable ups and downs along the way, of course, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed, usually helped by a bit of clear thinking from Paul and a long walk with our dogs. In addition to publishing this magazine with Paul, I am a qualified, practising yoga teacher, which for me involves a whole lot more than a routine of keep fit exercises; it encompasses the more subtle and philosophical aspects of life, including the concept of trust - trusting that the pattern of life can hold treasures (and tragedies) that are yet to unfold, all of which are there to learn and move forward from - and also to trust one’s own instincts.

But had I trusted my own instincts 25 years ago when Paul suggested to me that we should consider publishing a national craft magazine, I wouldn’t be here writing this now, for I have to admit that I didn’t exactly give him my wholehearted support for the idea! But our bank did, the chap Paul spoke to there had sufficient vision to see the potential of the project and agreed to help us along the way - so thank you to that chap, wherever you may be!

And so it was, just before Christmas 1983, that we launched what was then a little quarterly 16 page publication, sending 30,000 copies out to craft fair organisers all over the country to distribute at their events for us. We were exhibiting at shows ourselves then, selling our range of hand made greetings cards and recycled paper products - quite an innovative concept at the time. With our own fledgling graphic design business running alongside this, we certainly had all the skills to put a magazine together and at that time there was nothing like it in the industry - well, there still isn’t really, is there?! This issue, our 200th, also rather tidily marks our 25th year, so it seems an appropriate occasion to reflect on some of what has occurred during that time. A number of our readers know the story well - and indeed some people still have copies of the early issues of the magazine - but we have lots of readers who don’t know us quite so well, so here’s a few brief recollections, in no particular order.

With only three years’ experience of publishing the magazine, and with the guidance of Pauline Walker, The Button Lady, we launched into organising the National Spinning Competition. Teams of six people would take a raw (that means mucky!) fleece and transform it into a child’s size sweater within little more than four hours. A race against the clock using a pattern that was a closely guarded secret until the start of the competition, the fleece had to be picked over and sorted, prepared and spun, then knitted up - all good fun and hugely popular. We ran that competition annually for ten years at various venues and still have our Ashford spinning wheel at home, the one that David Wareham taught our daughter Jennie to spin on when she was just a little girl. And it was in 1986, again just three years after starting the magazine, that CraftAid entered our lives. Well, it turned our lives upside down really. It was the time of LiveAid and the whole world knew what charity events could achieve. One of our readers, batik artist Judith Browning, suggested to us that we might spearhead a craft based fund raising project. Veronica Burningham, a friend and assistant to me on the magazine, was roped in to help and so this huge project was launched. And it grew... and grew... and grew. Craftpeople all over the country donated work for auction, friends and family acted as collecting points, no-one escaped... if they didn’t have a role in it all, we soon found one for them! We hired a spectacular National Trust property in Surrey for a weekend in December, where everything was set out ready for the auction and sale. We invited lots of celebrities to come and officially open CraftAid for us - anyone who was anyone who lived nearby really, including Phil Collins - well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and we were aiming high on publicity! Needless to say we weren’t very successful on that point, but no matter, we raised a very substantial amount of money for Save the Children and forged some life-long friendships.

I suppose, looking back, that’s been the key to the whole business for us, really - the friendships; it’s never been just about publishing a magazine, running a business and doing a job. Throughout those 25 years we have continued to exhibit at events; when Jennie was young we would hitch up our caravan and travel the country to set up our stand at the shows, just like thousands of other craft people - often attending about 30 events in a year. People outside the industry thought we were an odd bunch, but that was our life, it was what we did at weekends. For a long time we continued to make and sell our greetings cards as well as publishing the magazine, it kept our feet on the ground and kept us in touch with the very aspect of the industry that was at the heart of our magazine - and it led us to organising some excellent evening barbecues on the exhibitor campsites at shows! As the magazine established its place in the industry, we were invited to sponsor various awards and still continue to do so. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously, as an award from us has helped many young makers on their creative journey. We are always thrilled to learn of their growing success and are still in touch with lots of our award winners from years gone by, indeed we have caught up with some of them with features in this issue.

For a few years we organised our own exhibitions, too - The Craftmakers Materials Shows in London and Harrogate - goodness only knows where we thought we might find the time and energy to do all of that on top of everything else! Eventually we came to realise that we weren’t invincible, that it was one project too many for our very small team and we made the decision to once again focus solely on producing our magazine.

Like lots of people who work in crafts in this country, we have weathered many storms - sometimes quite literally, when wind and rain have brought even the strongest marquees down at a show, or when floods have created havoc and even reached danger point. On other occasions the disruption has been caused by events such as the foot and mouth outbreak or national recession. Sometimes the problems have been of our own making, I remember when the so called Chernobyl virus hit all our computers just days before going to press with the magazine and we lost everything we had, all the pages we’d prepared for the printer - a hard lesson to learn, but we’re fanatical about backing up data now. And to think that when we first started our magazine, there wasn’t a computer in sight and the web belonged to spiders!

We continue to work from our idyllic, peaceful setting in the East Yorkshire countryside, just Paul and me, with Wendy joining us two days a week, Phil popping in to keep the books up to date and Michael, Rachael and Helen contributing from their respective bases in other parts of the country. Miraculously, between us all, our tiny team really does do everything except print the magazine; from the editorial, advertising, layouts and production, right through to handling the subscriptions and managing our website. Even I am beginning to wonder how we achieve it all and it’s maybe as a consequence that we find ourselves exhibiting at fewer shows these days. But there are galleries to visit, people and places to see that simply did not exist 25 years ago, such has been the development of the British craft industry in the last quarter century.

I hope and believe that through the pages of our magazine we have had a positive part to play in that development. Over the years Paul and I have had experience as designers, makers, event and exhibition organisers, business advisors and much more - there aren’t many aspects of the industry that haven’t touched our lives one way or another, in fact I struggle to think of any. Which was why last year we decided to trust our instincts again and heed the advice we so frequently offer others. We looked at our product and the market it relates to and realised it was time to make some changes. We took our magazine, redesigned it, renamed it , rescheduled it and relaunched it - gave it a thorough shake up and came out the other side with what you see now. We think craft&design is the bees knees now and hope you do, too!

Paul and I have thought long and hard about how to mark this 25th year and 200th issue and concluded that the best thing of all is to simply say thank you to everyone who has made it possible for the magazine and website to be what they are today; our readers, advertisers, writers and contributors, family and friends... and especially Michael, Wendy, Rachael, Helen, Liz, Liz & Dave and Julie & Martin... it’s a long list and I could go on, but I’m sure you all know who you are. I’d thought about ending this by saying “Here’s to the next 25 years”, but perhaps not, we think it’s probably time now to start looking for our successors!

 
British Crafts at Blackthorpe Barn
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