Design: It's time to meet your maker

Why not take pounds 100 to Chelsea Crafts Fair next week and commission your own piece of art?

Can't quite find the perfect chair at Ikea? Weary of the style slavery on the high street? Over the next fortnight Chelsea Crafts Fair offers an unparalled opportunity to see some of the most innovative design- led contemporary crafts in Britain. It is also an annual reminder that commissioning craftwork is not a pursuit entirely confined to the wealthy.

Commissioning requires trust: trust in your own taste and in the craftsperson with whom you choose to work. At its most successful, commissioning is a collaboration of ideas between maker and client. But there are no quick shopping fixes here - if you like to know exactly what you are buying, commissioning is not for you. For others the element of surprise is part of the pleasure.

The first step in commissioning a piece is to track down a designer-maker whose style you like and to see as much of their work as possible. Chelsea is one of the few occasions when you can see a representative selection of many craftspeople's current work. With 220 exhibitors selected from 1,033 applicants, it also provides a comprehensive overview of the British crafts scene. There is always something fresh to see: over a third of the exhibitors are new to the fair, while established names often use Chelsea to launch new designs or colour ranges.

If your budget is smaller than your imagination, and mine certainly is - limited by my editor to a theoretical pounds 100 - it is well worth talking to your preferred designer-maker. Most are delighted to discuss what you want.

Ian McKay's (week two, stand 18) view is typical: "Commissions aren't a great way of making money but they are a good way of trying out new ideas. I'd do more if I could, but they take up lots of time. You need to think about a new set of problems." If your budget won't stretch to your most extravagant dreams, the maker might be able to suggest a compromise with which you'll both be happy.

McKay makes mechanical toys - boats, birds and rotund women - from English lime and driftwood which cost between pounds 20 and pounds 800. "pounds 100 wouldn't get you very much - probably something very simple."

Kate Wilkinson's (week one, stand 50) flamboyantly feminine chokers are way beyond my means, but she was full of alternative, and cheaper, suggestions, such as a set of three silver hairpins adorned with crystals and dyed feathers shown for the first time at Chelsea this year.

Asta Barrington (week two, stand 14) makes sublimely soft, hand-dyed and embroidered scarves, cushion covers and blankets inspired by the chalky colours of Cuban architecture. Her handbags are equally covetable but just too expensive. She immediately asked me to prioritise what was important to me about the bag. Colour and material I thought, then the embroidery. The answer was straightforward - simplify the embroidery and the bag becomes affordable.

It's unwise to try to push a designer in the wrong direction, however. Victor Stuart Graham (week one, stand 54), for instance, makes boats and other decorative objects out of driftwood, and often accepts commissions for his rows of driftwood houses. A small street was well within my budget and he would be happy to work from a photo of my sunny street in Yarm, North Yorkshire, but warned me: "It's not much fun, it's a chore to copy it exactly." Like most designers, he does his best work when given a free rein to interpret the brief.

Most makers have learnt the hard way about the constraints and opportunities of the materials and processes they use so it is helpful if you can be as specific as possible about what you want, but remain open to their suggestions and advice. Inevitably ideas need to bounce around and there will be some to-ing and fro-ing.

Don't worry that you might be thought weird - the makers I talked to racked their brains for commissions that they thought were rather odd, to no avail. Sarah Campbell (week two, stand 109) confessed to fruit-shaped hats - a pear and a banana - but quickly back-pedalled: "They were inspired by my flower-fairy hat which looks like a piece of fruit."

It is important to be clear about your budget from the outset - it saves a lot of time and heartache. Once you've agreed on a design and a price ensure that all relevant details are written down or sketched and that you both have a copy. There might be a charge for these initial sketches depending on their complexity. Make sure that you have discussed hidden extras like transport, installation costs and VAT, and how long the commission will take.

Ian McKay's order book is full until next Easter, but delivery times of six to eight weeks are the norm. You may need to pay a deposit before work begins, but not always. Then all you need do is sit back, relax and try not to be too impatient.

Chelsea Crafts Fair is held at Chelsea Old Town Hall, King's Road, Chelsea, London SW3, 10-8pm Tuesday to Friday, 10-5.30pm Saturday and Sunday. Week one: Tuesday 13 to Sunday 18 October. Week two; Tuesday 20 to Sunday 25. Admission pounds 6 single visit, pounds 8 for one visit each week, concessions pounds 4.

If you are unable to visit Chelsea, the makers' contact details are as follows: Asta Barrington, 0181 874 3001; Sarah Campbell, 01875 320909; Bridget Drakeford, 01432 860411; Ian McKay c/o Hitchcocks, 01225 330646; Victor Stuart Graham 01273 203168; Kate Wilkinson 01494 868332; Lynn Muir 01288 361561.

For further information on the Crafts Fair, contact the Crafts Council on 0171-278 7700

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin