A little bit about us . . and how we came to be
A little bird told me that Elmslie House has a growing reputation as being a community asset for Malvern – which is an absolutely lovely thing to hear. For those of you who don’t know about Elmslie, we have lots of exercise classes running every week, a growing number of Art Exhibitions each year, lots of varied and eclectic Music performances and gigs – and then there are the Craft Markets. And these are my particular passion!
Blue Magpie started out as an idea many many years ago when I was dabbling with the idea of setting up or taking over a Craft Gallery. I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a Magpie – but there are already numerous businesses out there with that name, so I needed to find another identity. It was shortly afterwards that I came across an image of a Blue Magpie – and that was it! Great colours. Strong. Bold – perfect for a Scandi-type graphic design!
I had originally asked a designer, then based in Brighton – Jane Foster – to do my logo. That was before her designs were picked up by Make International and Clothkits – but at the time, circumstances meant that I didn’t have the money to go ahead with the commission, and in between having my three girls the craft gallery idea never quite managed to get off the ground.
However, in the meantime, quite a bit of my time was spent visiting galleries, craft markets, exhibitions and collecting lots of info and contacts and business cards – all of which have been the foundation for launching The Blue Magpie Contemporary Craft Fairs.
Fast forward to buying The Grove. I contacted Jane Foster again – by which time she had moved to Devon. We happened to be on holiday there, so I was hoping to go and see her to pick up the dialogue that had started almost a decade before, so it was a real blow to learn from Jane that she wasn’t able to accept the commission due to other work commitments and contracts. This is where fate played a hand – as in Kingsbridge, where we were staying, there just so happened to be a local exhibition on in the town hall – and there I saw some wonderful bird drawings done by another local illustrator – Tor Allen. When someone closes a door, a window opens!
And so – from there, I worked with Tor to arrive at the Blue Magpie logo.
And then, we bought The Grove.
I didn’t have the capacity with young children to run a craft gallery full time – not least because the house was a building site for several years! And in order to facilitate the repairs, we opened up the hall to rent, first for exercise classes. Then, encouraged by the previous owner, Julia, we started running music gigs. This has been growing steadily over the past few years – going from running less than one event a month via a TENS licence – to now almost having the hall in use 7 days a week, with a fully licensed premises – and our own bar!
But – I couldn’t quite let go of the Magpie. So, four years ago – I visited Emma Hardicker – a printmaker based in Birmingham – at her studio at The Custard Factory and asked her to come and exhibit at the house. I loved her work – as I do still – and wanted more people to know and enjoy it too. And – did she know anyone else who might come?
Those first makers took a leap of faith for which I am still very much in their debt. I selected work of other craftspeople I had met and bought from in all my previous visits to other events. And they came together and started the Blue Magpie Markets.
Along the way, things have been tweaked here and there, and improvements have hopefully filtered through year on year. There is always more to do – more social media outlets to use, more promotion, more exposure. Not ever having organised events before – I am always learning and the feedback I get from the makers who exhibit here is the most powerful resource I possess, so it’s lovely that many of them say that they love coming along because of the beautiful setting and the quality of their fellow exhibitors – and the cake!
Because as every craft-goer knows, where there is craft, it’s always much better when there is cake too! I have found, that actually, I can bake! So all the cakes that are on sale here at Elmslie have been made by me – in a crazy blitz that would rival The Bake Off (which my children think I should apply to go on . . .)
This year is my most ambitious year yet. Not just one day – but two full days AND a preview evening AND the launch of a specially commissioned artwork of Malvern, by none other than . . . Emma Hardicker.
We are only a small venue. We don’t charge admission, as the idea of the Blue Magpie was born out of wanting to share craft – with you! To promote and support designer makers, who through their talent and craft, make the world a more beautiful place. We all need art in our lives and I read recently of an initiative being launched for doctors to prescribe therapeutic art- or hobby-based treatments for ailments ranging from dementia to psychosis in a move that recognises the mindful way that creating something can engage us all.
So – thanks for reading this, and thanks too for your interest in the Blue Magpie.
I feel very fortunate to do a job I love, in my own home, and I hope, that in some small way, I make a difference.
Word of mouth is another mighty tool, so please, if you have enjoyed visiting the fair, do please spread the word, and quite literally, follow the Magpie . . .! (Please ‘like’ us on Facebook and ‘Share’ with your friends). And if you would be interested in finding out about the other events that run at the house, please do sign up to receive our newsletter – you can do this on the Elmslie House website – www.elmsliehouse.co.uk
Next year I will again be organising more fairs – one over the weekend of March 24/25th – a week ahead of Mothering Sunday – and another one for next November (15/16/17).
With thanks and best wishes
Anna Taylor, November 2018
Owner and organiser of Elmslie House events, and The Original Blue Magpie