The Craft Centre and Design Gallery - Leeds

by Rachael Chambers

Nestled under Leeds City Library and Art Gallery you will find The Craft Centre and Design Gallery, which was established in 1982 as a registered charity with the aim of making contemporary craft and design available and accessible to the public. The Centre works “as a forum within which individual British freelance designers are able to showcase their work.” The Centre and Gallery does not own any of the work on display, but instead works solely on ‘Sale or Return’ terms with artists and makers showcasing their work in the regular exhibitions that are put on during the year, culminating in an abundance of showcases at Christmas.

Christmas 2009 sees no less than seven showcases: ‘Alchemy 10’, a showcase of fifteen selected jewellers; ‘Glass in the Window II’,  a collection of glass work in the Centre’s window areas; ‘Metal Marvels II – Keepsakes’, celebrating the work of five designers who all use metal as their primary material; ‘All I want for Christmas II – Mixed Showcase’, featuring thirteen mixed media designers’ work, and ‘Northern Lights II’, a select group of five northern based local makers. Further showcases include ‘The Animal Show’, a group print exhibition, and ‘In the Spotlight II’, showcasing five designers who work on a smaller scale.

With such an array of exhibitions and showcases you would expect the Centre and Gallery to be a huge building with many floors, but no, it is a relatively small gallery for all that it contains; the space has been utilised well with cabinets and shelves set out to enhance their contents. You will find plinths with large ceramics, window shelving that enhances colourful glass, waist height cabinets brimming with jewellery and plain white walls with framed prints.

When I visited I was drawn to the paper cut pictures by Helen Musselwhite, the bright acrylic jewellery of Gail Klevan, the dainty ceramic tea-lights of Wendy Jung and the large figurative and fun ceramics of Karen Atherley. The work on show is far ranging giving an eclectic mix of all craft forms, from the quirky to the quaint, it would be hard for anyone not to want to purchase something on a visit here and, as Jane Needham from The Craft Centre & Design Gallery explains, the visitors are as diverse as the products. “We have a real mix of customers who visit the gallery every day.  It is great to see students who visit us to be inspired, browsers and first time visitors who stumble upon us by chance and who become amazed at the work we have on display and those who visit us when they have someone special to buy something for. They know that The Craft Centre can provide the perfect gift that is unique from anything you can find on the high street. We have many regular customers who have supported us over the years and who enjoy our changing exhibition programme. So from day to day we never know who might pay us a visit, it’s always very nice to have new people visiting us who can then tell their friends and family about us.”

And so, as the knowledge of the Centre reverberates around Leeds and beyond, it continues to celebrate British Craftsmanship at its best.

2010 Exhibitions

Rings 2010: 23 January – 26 June. This exhibition includes ten established jewellers and explores the technical and aesthetic qualities of rings. Jewellers include Sue Lane, Charlotte Brown, Clare Troughton and Adele Brereton.

Amore: 23 January – 20 March. An exhibition of affordable gifts and keepsake items deemed perfect for Valentine’s, with ceramics by Stacey Manser-Knight, wood by Kevin Hutson, canvases by Liz and Kate Pope and jewellery by Gabriella Casemore, Kate Hamilton- Hunter and others.


The Craft Centre &Design Gallery
City Art Gallery, The Headrow,
Leeds LS1 3AB.

T: 0113 2478241

Open 7 days a week throughout December; Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sundays 11am-4pm.Open Christmas Eve 10am-3pm. Re-open Saturday

2 January resuming normal opening times Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturdays 10am-4pm, closed Sundays and Mondays.

While you are there

While you are in the Victoria Gardens/Headrow area of Leeds Cultural Quarter, it is worth visiting the Leeds Art Gallery, which is situated above the Craft Centre, and the Henry Moore Institute, which is interlinked to the Art Gallery .

The newly refurbished Leeds Art Gallery houses a variety of art from nationally acclaimed artists, including prints, watercolours, paintings, sculptures, photography, and contemporary art. Wandering between the rooms you will see well-known artists from the Leeds region, such as Henry Moore and  Barbara Hepworth, as well as work by a range of contemporary artists including Bridget Riley, Antony Gormley and Francis Bacon.

Recently benefiting from £1.5m investment, the gallery has had a major re-hang of its paintings and sculptures as well as adding a new multi-media exhibition gallery and exposing, for the first time in many years, the beautifully decorated Victorian Tiled Hall, which links the Art Gallery to Leeds Central Library and which is now a truly stunning location for their shared cafe. The tiled walls have portraits in relief and the vaulted ceiling is covered in mosaics and golden ceiling bosses, it’s a magnificent room that’s worth a visit on its own merit.

Until 21 February Leeds Art Gallery is hosting the Northern Art Prize, a prize for contemporary visual artists in the North of England. With its home in Leeds the prize celebrates and rewards professional artists of any age, working in any medium, living in the North East, North West and Yorkshire regions.

Entry to the Art Gallery is free. The Art Gallery is open Monday and Tuesday: 10am to 5pm, Wednesday: 12pm to 5pm,Thursday to Saturday: 10am to 5pm and Sunday: 1pm to 5pm, closed on Bank Holidays.

From Leeds Art Gallery there is an internal entrance to the adjacent Henry Moore Institute,  a centre for the study of sculpture, offering a series of exhibitions on the subject throughout the year. Leeds was the city where Moore began his training as a sculptor, so was a natural site for the Institute. Along with exhibition galleries the Henry Moore Institute also boasts a library, archive and active research programme.

Until 10 January you can visit their ‘Sculpture in Painting’ exhibition and from 18 February - 2 May ‘Alan Johnston, Drawing A Shadow: No Object’.

Entry is free. The Institute is open daily 10am – 5.30pm. (Closed during bank holidays).

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