Christmas Exhibitions: All the fun of the fairs

Buy bright, original homewares from gifted designers at this season's craft shows, says Ruth Darby
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The Independent Online

If you're still hunting for a distinctive Christmas gift for the home, many art and craft galleries nowhold exhibitions dedicated to present-buying.

Crafts such as crochet and hand knitting, embroidery and lace are enjoying a revival in clothing and in the home. A new generation of glassmakers, potters, leatherworkers, weavers, papermakers, basketmakers and candlemakers are rejuvenating traditional skills, and galleries are showcasing their often vital and innovative work. Galleries are keen to attract ordinary shoppers, and display exhibits in room-set formats so they can see how a wall-hanging or set of cushions or vases would look in a domestic setting. Prices at the Christmas shows can be very low, and many galleries now belong to the Arts Council's Own Art scheme (Collectorplan in Wales), whereby loans of up to £2,000 are available to be paid back interest-free in equal instalments over 10 months.

A number of galleries offer desirable gifts for the home. At Leicester City Gallery's Style-O-Rama exhibition, from 12 Nov to 7 Jan 2006, 15 contemporary designer-makers look to the Fifties for inspiration. The ceramicist Louise Gibb makes decorative hand-built and hand-thrown tableware using press moulds. Clare Nicolson's vibrant printed textiles combine digitally printed cottons and silks with vintage fabric crafted into cushions, tea towels and throws.

From 3 Dec to 4 Feb 2006, the Angel Row Gallery in Nottingham has its Christmas show, Present, which features work by emerging and established designer- makers. Fred Duthy makes sculptural paper lampshades with star shapes (£36), and Helen Johannessen, of Yoyo Ceramics, produces fun kitchen ceramics that replicate the look of plastic Tupperware in vibrant orange, classic mint-green and bubblegum pink (from £8 for an egg cup to £40 for an egg box). Rose Cobb has produced the Silent CucKoo Clock, a witty and discreet redesign of an old favourite (£20).

At the Bilston Craft Gallery, Wolverhampton, the exhibition Deconstruct: Reconstruct runs from 12 Nov to 7 Jan 2006, where visitors can learn about traditional techniques of textile construction and reconstruction. They can also buy blinds, framed wall-hangings and textile artworks and rugs, quilts and cushions. Lucy Smethurst finds vintage linens to embroider, print or appliqué, and makes them into blinds (£950-£1,650), cushions and lavender bags (£9.50). See also Sharon Walsh's distressed Louis XVI-style flocked chair (£980), and Keren Wheeler's tactile, tufted Luna rug (£530).

The Art Shop in Abergavenny is showing a unique exhibition of pen and ink drawings by the film-maker Peter Greenaway, whose illustrations have never been available for sale before in the UK. The Tulse Luper Drawings include framed working sketches from Greenaway's films (£750). The Art Shop is also holding a Christmas show from 25 Nov to 25 Dec, with ceramics by Virginia Graham, whose tea wares, vases and vessels mix florals with spots and stripes, and feathers with taps and keys (from £35 for a mug to £110 for a barrel teapot).

On 3, 4, 10 and 11 Dec, the Christmas Open House at 3 Florence Road, Brighton - the home of the potter Sylph Baier - will be displaying a variety of items for sale, including Nancy Angus's pierced ceramic night lights (£15-£30), Amy Cooper's organic porcelain lamps (£15-£100), Baier's hand-thrown ceramic tableware (£5-£250), Carol Butler's feltwork tree decorations and cards (£5-£150), and Sarah Paynter's porcelain hanging fish and feathers (£15-£150).

In London, Cockpit Arts in Deptford has a Christmas Open Studio on 2-3 Dec with work by more than 165 designer-makers. Ethical shoppers might prefer Worldfair at the Camden Centre, Bidborough Street, King's Cross, on 2-3 Dec. There will be more than 50 stalls selling wares such as Indian cotton throws edged with silver-block print (£65-£100), and embroidered cushions and lacquered Christmas baubles with mirrorwork, beading and crackleglass (£1.50-£6), both from Tana Mana, and curtain panels in silk, cotton and linen (£22-£65) from Araucaria. The Fairtrade fair takes place at Westminster Central Hall on 10-11 Dec, with stallholders including Sheena Day of Maison Bengal. Look out for the bathmat of plaited jute (£25), handy bottle carriers made of hogla grass with toggle tops (£10), and elegant leather desk items (£15-£48). Finally, there is Ganesha, with its fish-decorated papier mâché Wola Nani bowls from Cape Town (£7.99-£17.50), hand-appliquéd fabric parasols from Orissa (£125) and wool-pile tiger rugs from Uttar Pradesh (£299). They're set alongside Ganesha's selection of dangly sequin hangings (£2.99-£14.99) and colourful rickshaw art, painted on tin trunks (£65) and tin panels (£40).

City Gallery, Leicester (0116-223 2060; www.leicester.gov.uk/citygallery)

Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham (0115-915 2869; www.angelrowgallery.com)

Bilston Craft Gallery, Wolverhampton (01902 552507; www.wolverhamptonart.org.uk)

The Art Shop, Abergavenny (01873 852690; enquiries@theartshop.org.uk)

3 Florence Road, Brighton (01273 540552)

Cockpit Arts, Deptford (020-8692 4463; www.cockpitarts.com)

Worldfair, King's Cross (020-7354 4231; www.worldfair.org.uk

Fairtrade fair, Westminster

( www.fairtradefair.org)

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