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Face of Crafts

by Rachael Chambers

Published: September 2011

Rachael Chambers talks with Angie and Paul Boyer - the faces of... craft&design magazine

Rachael says:

With immense passion, knowledge, empathy and determination Angie and Paul Boyer are totally dedicated to the industry they have represented for nearly 30 years.  As independent owners and producers of craft&design magazine and creators of the Selected Awards and Craft and Design Month Angie and Paul tirelessly endeavour to support and nurture British craftsmanship and all this is achieved by the two of them from the office at the bottom of the garden! Many of you know them of old and some of you are still to meet them, but all of you are about to learn a little bit more about these two incredibly devoted individuals.

Angie & Paul say:

A feature about ourselves in our own magazine might seem rather strange, but it came about because so many people have asked us recently about what we do and how we do it. Many assume that we have large city offices with dozens of staff, which couldn’t be further from the truth; Rachael’s interview with us here gives you a little glimpse of our lives!

The magazine has been around for nearly 30 years, when and where does the story of craft&design begin? 

Angie: “Well.... let’s see if I can remember that far back! Paul and I met in 1976 when we were both working in design, advertising and photography in London’s West End. They were fabulous times, with masses going on and such a whirl of creativity in every respect from art, craft and photography to theatre, dance and music, it was an amazingly innovative time. By 1981 Paul had started his own graphic design business and we had a baby in tow, we were also selling our textile-based greetings cards and Paul’s paintings at craft fairs in an effort to keep the wolf from the door. Then Paul saw a ‘gap in the craft fair market’ - there was little or no information available to craftspeople or the public about where and when craft fairs were being held, so in December 1983 we launched Craftsman Magazine. Well, ‘magazine’ is a rather grand name for the quarterly, 16 page, 2 colour newsletter-cum-magazine but that’s how it began.

Why isn’t the magazine based in London anymore? 

Paul: “I fell in love with Yorkshire when Angie brought me here to walk the Cleveland Way and we decided that one day we would move here, so in 1987 we upped sticks and moved to a little village in the Yorkshire Wolds and started to concentrate solely on the magazine.”

Angie: “Our decision to move when we did was rather led by our business than our hearts though. We were very busy in Sussex with both the magazine and Paul’s design business, we had a suite of eight offices and a number of employees. We organised projects such as the National Spinning Competition, which we ran annually for ten years at different venues around the country. Then in 1986, with more than just a little help from our friends, we organised ‘CraftAid’, a national fund-raising auction of donated craft work at Clandon Park, a National Trust property in Surrey.  It was a phenomenal project to co-ordinate, a huge challenge, and through the sale of all manner of craft including some highly collectible Lucie Rie pots, we raised a sizeable sum of money for Save the Children, as well as making some life-long friends who are still very dear to us. BUT, we were so engrossed in all of this that, without putting too fine a point on it, we rather lost the focus of our own business and found ourselves in a bit of a pickle financially. In common with many small business owners our equity was in our house, which we decided to sell, making the move North just a few years sooner than anticipated so that we could square things up.”

How many staff do you employ?

Angie: “Over the years we’ve employed a number of staff and had offices in the nearby town, but times change, people move on, and our old friend ‘technology’ has enabled us to make significant developments to the way we work in recent years. Now there is just the two of us, we have no employees at all, and we do pretty much everything between us on the production and distribution of the magazine plus all the associated projects such as the Selected Awards and Craft and Design Month. It must be said though, that we couldn’t hope to manage it without the dedicated support of our wonderful team of freelancers (all pictured on Page 3, where else!). They’re based all over the UK and each one of them has their own business, which puts them in an ideal position to bring their special  brand of expertise to craft&design on a regular basis.

What have been the highlights of the past 30 years in business? 

Angie: “For me one of the highlights must include the friendship and camaraderie that we were lucky to be part of during the early days of craft fairs. We would exhibit at about 30+ shows a year, usually staying on site in our caravan, the evenings were a time to gather together and share a few drinks and some food with friends. Our daughter grew up in very special times in the craft world as there was so much fun and freedom for the children. Another highlight is seeing the reaction when we announce our Newcomer Award Winner at the British Craft Trade Fair every year. The winner is often close to tears and the other makers are always hugely supportive with big rounds of applause. It’s wonderful to see how much the Award means to that young person just starting out in business.”

What changes to the industry have you seen over the years?

Paul: “When we started the magazine the whole industry was based on craft fairs and craft shops. We had 4,500 shows listed in 1984. In those days most exhibitors didn’t work full time at their craft. You could have a top end potter next to a bank manager selling wooden toys. Almost every village in Britain had a craft shop or two. Then came the 90’s property boom and the villages lost their shops. The part timers didn’t have to supplement their incomes anymore and people had more disposable income. Consumers wanted to have things that no one else had so galleries started to emerge. Most galleries now want to sell top end contemporary crafts and young makers have come along to fill that space.”

Why did you change the name and style of the magazine a few years ago? 

Paul: “Because of the change in attitudes towards craft and my feeling that I wasn’t putting my whole heart into the design of the magazine we sat down and had a long discussion as to what direction we wanted to go in. As normal we found a few people who don’t like change, but I think in all we are now reflecting the craft industry much better than we ever did before”.

It seems craft&design magazine’s support and enthusiasm for the industry spreads beyond the realms of the pages of the magazine into initiatives such as the craft&design Selected Awards and more recently Craft and Design month. Who has funded these projects and what has been achieved?

Angie: “These two projects are managed solely by us and our small team of freelancers, and nothing we do receives any funding at all. Actually, I have rather strong views about funding, although I wouldn’t say no if the lottery numbers come up! I think that funding is fine on a short term basis, to help buy tools of the trade for someone starting out, for example. But it’s my opinion that if a business or project needs continual funding to survive or develop then it’s probably not really financially viable and is unlikely to ever stand on its own two feet, in which case it begs the question as to whether there is actually a demand for the business or project in the first place. Equally important is whether it’s competing fairly with other, non-funded independent businesses and organisations. So everything we do, including our Selected Awards and Craft and Design Month is funded by us, although it must be said that we’re hugely grateful to our advertisers and readers, without them there wouldn’t be a magazine, let alone any additional projects.

Paul: “The Awards are now in their third year and are shaping up to become an industry leader in contemporary craft. And we are also hoping that after a very successful Craft and Design Month in May this year, with over 700 events taking place all over the country, that this too will make more people aware of what a wealth of talent we have in Britain.

With such dedication to the magazine and to craft and design your lives must be incredibly full, do you have time for anything other than the magazine and its peripheral activities? 

Paul: “Sometimes! Angie is a qualified yoga teacher, so on Thursdays she changes her hat and teaches yoga classes in the area. And for almost 30 years, up until last year, we had dogs, so walking with them was a big part of what we did every day.  In quiet times we both enjoy reading, music, theatre, cooking and gardening. Angie would like to write a book, and I talk about making furniture and we both help our daughter Jennie and her husband Adam with their business from time to time. They have a farm nearby with sheep and agricultural land, as well as a rapeseed oil press, so copy writing and packaging design is on the agenda when they need it. Last year we joined the ‘grandparents club’ when Charlie was born. Jennie and Adam now take him with them to some of the farmers markets and shows where they sell their oil products; life seems to have gone full circle somehow!”

What does the future hold for the magazine?

Paul: “Like many small businesses getting enough profit to employ someone or two, to take over from the originators, is a real problem. I’m not getting any younger and reach retirement age this year, but I will hopefully go on until I drop off my perch or fate brings us two people with real enthusiasm for the industry and enough money to buy us out. There used to be a joke going round the industry that said: What would you do if you won the lottery? Answer: Keep going till the money ran out - a bit like us really.”

 
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