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
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

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

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform