It may be fashionable to profess admiration for craft, but few give it contemporary relevance like The New Craftsmen does. Tucked into the west shoulder of Mayfair, it’s been a beacon for collectors and makers alike since opening four years ago. Every designer showcased in store arrives having passed a “taste test” with its three co-founders: Natalie Melton, previously commercial director of charitable organisation Arts & Business; Catherine Lock, formerly a product developer for Habitat and John Lewis; and Mark Henderson, chairman of Gieves & Hawkes and the London Luxury Quarter. Their collective expertise makes the shop not only a reliable source for those with a roving decorative eye, but also an influential force shaping the British craft canon today.
The airy main space has a relaxed, contemporary aesthetic, with natural light illuminating the handmade furniture and objects within. Ceramics, textiles, jewellery, glassware and baskets are arranged in a casual but inviting way, with smaller pieces on wooden trestle tables and open-bracketed shelves, allowing visitors to linger, touch and feel each one. A sculptural scorched ash dining table (£7,000) by Sebastian Cox might sit alongside traditional straw-backed chairs (£2,250) by Gareth Neal and Kevin Gauld, illustrated tiles (from £100 for four) by Laura Carlin, or painted cushions (from £320) by Rose de Borman. House and garden tools (from £18), such as willow wood brushes (from £90), are artfully executed.
The store’s bespoke service has been given the spotlight this year, with the launch of a studio where clients can peruse an inspiring library of materials for commission. This enclave is paradise for lovers of serious craft. Archivist drawers open to reveal textile samples, woven handles, collage segments and ceramic glazes. “People can really get a feel for things in here,” says Henderson, “They can leaf through portfolios, handle textures, discuss design details.”
Like a traditional gallery, the shop curates exhibits out front while behind the scenes the owners nurture makers through design, production and delivery. Melton recalls that LA jeweller Irene Neuwirth was one of the first to commission a bespoke piece, and regular clients include Charles Saumarez Smith, CEO of the Royal Academy of Arts, as well as designer Michael Kors. They come for the fashionable tinted-glass jugs (£195) by Michael Ruh and timeless ruffled lampshades (from £800, to order) by Aimee Betts, and in doing so support craftspeople across the British Isles. With makers on its books from Dalston to Orkney, via Sheffield, Sussex, Donegal, Norfolk and Paisley, The New Craftsmen is becoming an exciting channel in the sustenance of British and Irish craft.