17 July 2012

Manchester Crafting!

The other day, I went to the Manchester Craft & Design Centre's new exhibition launch, Crafting History. The exhibition was celebrating the 30th anniversary of the MCDC, but also an effort at documenting the history of the building.

It turns out Manchester used to have a market, right in the center of town. On Tib St, in the Northern Quarter, there was a fish market. Actually there were two! A wholesale fish market, which was a massive open-air space, and a retail market, which once occupied the MCDC's space.

Several artists had created history-based exhibits, activities and installations. Chloe Hamill and Jordan Hargreaves created an embroidery workshop, where participants could make cloth fish, embroidered with the names of people who died on the fish boats that supplied the market.

Other artists created "Listening Posts," where you could listen to people telling their memories of going to the fish market.

Though I'd been to the Craft & Design Centre many times before, I'd never known it had been a market building. But as I wandered through this exhibition, I suddenly saw what it must have been. I saw the unfinished, half-open with stuffing falling out, fish laid out on the table.

And I saw through them, to the fish that were once sold here, gutted and laid out the same way.

These days, the building is used to showcase some of Manchester's finest arts and crafts. You can find some of the loveliest handmade gifts and jewelry here. Lots of brilliant artists and crafters rent small shopfronts inside, and sell their wares retail.

I didn't want to take too many pictures of people's work, though, so you'll have to visit to see all of the beautiful things on offer.

Most days when I visit, the MCDC is quiet, with the hushed sounds of people making delicate things. It's bright and spacious and clean. There's a cafe inside, on a wooden porch that seems like it should be outdoors, but charmingly isn't.

There's an inner balcony, allowing access to a second floor of shops. It also allows you to lean against the railing and watch people order coffee. It's a lovely place to look at art and beautiful things, to wander and think of the people you love... and whether they'd like this necklace... 

It's a quiet place, usually. 

Back when it was a market, that building was probably thriving and loud and full of activity. Fishmongers yelling and people picking out their evening meal.

That's why I enjoyed the Crafting History exhibition so much. For once, there were loads of people there, talking and chatting and making noise. People sewing and embroidering and making art and shopping for gifts. Kids running about.
It felt like we were recreating a little tiny bit of history that day.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog post, Nija! Like the idea of you feeling you were also part of history in the making.