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SA craft does well at UK show; four Western Cape Craft icons named

The Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI) is celebrating its tenth anniversary with eight of its producers succeeding at the Top Drawer London trade show and four new Western Cape Craft Icons added to its roll.

UK triumph

Eight Western Cape craft and design companies turned over about R203 200 (£16,000) and netted enquiries worth well over R254 000 (£20, 000), at Top Drawer, one of Britain's leading trade shows for design-led gifts, lifestyle and fashion accessories.

The trip and long-term training around the event were organised by the CCDI for the second consecutive year. Representatives of four Western Cape companies travelled to this show, while another four companies' products were tested.

The four main companies taking part were Imiso Ceramics, Potina Ceramics, Veldt (homeware and fashion products) and Master Wires and Bead Craft. The product testing companies were Sithabe African Crafts, Chic Fusion (wool felt and natural fibre products), Moonbasket (crochet lamp shades) and Head on Design (3D sculptures of African animals in leather or recycled board).

"The sales this year were higher than 2010 (R150 000) said Vuyisile Mshudulu, CCDI manager for Market Access: Export & Retail Outlets. "There was also a significant change in buyer confidence and buying patterns, as buyers were more willing to commit to orders at the show rather than to wait.

"Buyers were also more receptive to our products and prices this year. This can be attributed to consistency in the market. The highlight of our participation is always the reception and feedback we get regarding the product presentation and stand look and feel."

bTest purchases could lead to orders

A success story was having buyers from John Lewis (a large London retailer) showing interest in Moonbasket's crochet light shades. Order negotiations are in progress. Imiso Ceramics also received a large order of 500 pinch bowls from a perfume manufacturing company that supplies established perfume brands in Europe. There could be a large demand for this product, depending on the success of this test order.

"A number of things were re-emphasised for us. Amongst them was that consistency in the market place is important to build buyer confidence. It is also important to have a professional presentation of our products at the show.

"We have also learned that the market tends to warm up to a product over time and they are inclined to accept the prices for handmade goods if they understand the philosophy behind the products," added Mshudulu.

Three-year programme

The CCDI also learned that South African products have huge potential in the UK. There is scope for growing the value and volume of exports and Top Drawer is a relevant platform to do so. The CCDI runs an on-going three-year programme for participants in Top Drawer. The 2011 participants were selected in an open process initiated in 2009. Next year will be the final year for the current participants and then there will be a new opportunity for other craft enterprises to take part. Companies need to be export-ready and export-compliant to qualify.

In preparation for Top Drawer, the CCDI facilitated a number of pre-exhibition workshops focusing on various aspects such as the market, feedback from Top Drawer 2010, product and price points.

The CCDI also held a creativity workshop to stimulate ideas for new products and product presentation. "The pre-exhibition workshops were very useful for the group as they allowed us to prepare better for this year's show. We analysed all the feedback from the previous show and discussed ways in which we could incorporate that feedback into our plans for Top Drawer 2011.

"When they attended the trends workshop (held as part of the trade show programme), the Western Cape companies realised that they were very much on a par with trend forecasts around the world," concluded Mshudulu.

Icons project

The CCDI established the Icons project in order to honour local craft producers and designer makers who have excelled as designers, innovators, entrepreneurs, job creators, role models, trendsetters and leaders.

The 2011 icons are master wood turner Bert Parker, ceramicist Lisa Firer, metal smith Nic Bladen, and bead and wire worker, Bishop Tarambawamwe. Since 2004, 57 people have been named craft icons.

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