Meeting the artists of Stockbridge
PUBLISHED: 15:54 16 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:54 16 April 2018
Whether you're into contemporary or classic, the pretty Test Valley town of Stockbridge is a mecca for arts and crafts. Viv Micklefield meets some of those bringing out the best on the High Street
The sparkling waters of the River Test flowing through its streets paint an attractive picture of Stockbridge, whatever the season. And whether for a weekend getaway or brief detour, there’s little doubt this is a town that can claim to be a destination with a capital ‘D’. The fly fishing aside – it is after all the UK’s finest, and vying for attention alongside a vibrant dining-out scene, this small corner of Hampshire also fosters a strong artistic streak.
Clearly not to be outshone by big city neighbour Winchester, among the galleries, craft emporiums and pop-up fairs that pepper Stockbridge’s wide High Street, is a desire to offer high-end quality at an affordable price. There’s even a trail of ten poems, set in stone to follow as you sniff-out a collectible.
Islay Crispin, Broughton Crafts
Something of a Stockbridge institution, this family business (broughtoncrafts.co.uk) celebrates more than 35 years in the town, with daughter Islay having taken over the day-to-day running a decade ago. The three large windows fronting the High Street provide a tantalizing glimpse of the myriad of crafts and gifts inside where household names like Emma Bridgewater rub shoulders with stoneware by Robert Goldsmith, founder of Selborne Pottery. And, Islay says, there are other Hampshire craft businesses sharing the shelves too.
“For the past year we’ve had some lovely pieces from Tregear Pottery on the Isle of Wight and from David Roger at Vinegar Hill Pottery in Milford-on-Sea,” she points out. “Another local maker is Kevin Longstaff, who carves wooden sailing boats.
“We also stock work from my husband’s business, Ed Crispin Photography. It’s mainly the landscape shots that are popular – and especially those taken of the River Test, as they make wonderful presents for the fishing community. A lot of people come to the area on holiday and we’ve had a few come down from London specially to do their Christmas shopping here.”
“The town has free parking all day long and there are more shops opening all the time”
Gerald Dodson, Wykeham Gallery
“If you’re a gallery outside of London you need to appeal to a very broad church so our art is very diverse, although we do have one of the biggest selections of bronzes outside of the capital,” says Gerald, who’s run this leading contemporary art business (wykehamgallery.co.uk) for the past 16 years. The gallery itself has been a stalwart of the High Street for over 30 years having been established by artist Sally Milligan, and as he points out, in a busy year of exhibitions, there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming months.
“Of the local artists Maureen Davies, who does wonderful scenes in mixed media of the Hampshire countryside, is part of a three-person show this month. And then there’s Soraya French, who paints unbelievable seascapes in oils and will be showing here in April. Meanwhile in May, we’ve Scandanavian artist Karl Martens back for his third one-man show of watercolours, which have an international following and will be one of this year’s highlights.”
And as Gerald goes on to explain, the exhibition space itself has been developed under his watch. “In 2016 we extended the gallery and in doing so created a feature of the back of the building. Our wonderful sculpture garden launched last year and has been a great success. Open all-year-round, we have sculpture, glass and ceramics on show here.”
“It’s very good for meeting-up with family and friends as somewhere to eat out, and we’ve also got the water meadows for walking”
Tracy and Chris Greenfield, Hampshire Framing
Having already successfully started-up a similar business in Bishop’s Waltham, Chris and Tracy Greenfield opened their second venture in Stockbridge just over 12 months ago. “We moved to Broughton, so Chris, who does the art framing, wanted the workshop to be more local. The search was narrowed down to Stockbridge when this old listed building became available,” says Tracey, adding, “It’s currently an ongoing project.”
The adjoining rooms fronting the workshop invite exploration, the couple’s aim being to offer a variety of media, including work that’s instantly recognizable as being by some of today’s best loved artists and illustrators.
“We don’t try and compete with fine art galleries, there is original art although we mainly stock limited edition prints. Sam Toft prints sell well, so too those by Annie Tempest, and Quentin Blake.”
And also catching the eye is the fused and stained glassware, which, Tracey says, has been well received by customers. “We are enjoying being in Stockbridge and want to keep building the business. When we get another member of staff at our other outlet I hope to be able to help Chris a bit more here.”
“We get lots of returning customers as people start to trust in you; it’s that kind of a place”
Margot Hartley, Stockbridge Contemporary Craft Fair
When jeweller Margot also turned fair organizer in 2007, she was determined to stage an event showcasing the cream of artisan makers, and now attracts over 1,200 visitors during the fair’s annual weekend in September.
“The whole of the Town Hall is devoted to high-end craft. I start planning the next fair as soon as the last one finishes,” says Margot. She continues: “Makers come from all over the country and I’ve got some really interesting ones lined-up for this autumn. Milliner Philip Ian Wright joins us, as does ceramicist Terry Riley; there’s also a very good furniture maker called Charles Ash from TouchWood Crafts, as well as glass, leather, and knitwear.
Meeting the maker is, she says, one of the things that visitors like most. “People often say ‘we didn’t expect to see such high quality work’. The nice thing is that we have things that you just don’t see elsewhere and, at the same time, you’re seeing all the love and energy from the maker.”
The Contemporary Craft Fair runs from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 September between 10am and 5pm. Admission is free and the Facebook page has the latest details.
“This has become a fashionable town to visit. There’s an interest in craft and support for British made goods”
Also worth a look
• The Kave: This home interiors and lifestyle boutique run by Katie Williams offers vintage paint courses and eco friendly hand-woven rugs made from yarn spun entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
• The Garden Inn: A florist that’s also packed with decorative ideas for indoor and outdoor spaces; just in time for spring are quirky metal mushrooms and an exclusive floral scented candle.
• Courcoux Contemporary: Originally based within the town, Ian Courcoux now stages exhibitions in unusual venues as well as at his home in Nether Wallop.
• The Gallery, Mottisfont: A five-mile stroll along the Test Valley Way leads to an ever-changing programme of renowned exhibitions. Until 15 April marvel at the eccentric world of Heath Robinson: Dreams and Machines. Admission charges apply.
• Hampshire Open Studios: Held in August and showcasing local artists, previous exhibitors include Peter and Elizabeth Rusby, Lisa Steincke, The Scout Hut Painters, and the quartet of Liz Dell, Clarissa Russell, Renate West and Tamara Clark. 2018’s open studios’ listings can be found at