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The Devon Guild of Craftsmen – A True Gift to Bovey

Thu 1 Oct 2020

By Lisa Robillard Webb

Occasionally, I like to focus on local issues in a non-political way.  I recently met with Laura Wasley from the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.  We are so fortunate to have the Guild right here on our doorstep; for locals and visitors alike it acts as a magnet pulling us in to view the remarkable creations of our local crafts-people.  Laura’s enthusiasm for their work is inspirational.  She is keen for the Guild to play an important role within our local communities.  Some changes have been made recently and I was delighted to hear about a series of exciting new plans at the Riverside Mill. 

We have all found different ways to cope with lockdown and the Covid-19 crisis. Many of us have turned to creative things to occupy our mind and settle our feelings. Whilst the practical matters were dealt with by many heroes (individual or organisational), our new circumstances led many of us to take an artistic, imaginative approach to our days.  To me, art comes in many forms.  You don’t need to be a professional artist to appreciate and create art. Art can be found in everyday occurrences – a beloved garden, soulfully-created food, thoughtful words, belongings sympathetically arranged – the possibilities are endless and accessible.  We are constantly creating something external that gives us pleasure and meaning.

As part of the Bovey tapestry, I have sometimes taken the Guild for granted.  I hadn’t fully appreciated its rich history and contribution to community activities.  The Devon Guild of Craftsmen was founded in 1955 by local furniture-maker Edward Baly and a group of artisans who wanted to share skills and support each other in their craft making.  They set up an annual summer exhibition which was held at various locations until the Riverside Mill became its headquarters. From an original membership of just 18 the Devon Guild has grown to its current membership of around 260 makers from South West England.  In Bovey, we are so lucky to be at the centre of this hub.  

Working with a local ceramicist, I regularly see the importance of community to artists and craftspeople.  They are often driven to share their support, inspiration and skills with others.   This is echoed in the Guild’s main aim which is to promote activities that encourage interaction with craft, to help design-and-making skills and to increase confidence and well-being. The Guild sets up activities which funds makers and artists to go in the community, schools or colleges where they run hands-on workshops in various crafts. In 2019, they enabled 1,100 young people to learn about crafts and through their residencies worked with disabled adults and older people.

The Guild maintains its facilities/services through Arts Council support, membership subscriptions, shop sales, commissions, charitable donations and project grants. There are many ways we can locally support this vital asset.  Pop in to buy a card or present, visit the exhibitions or look out for their events. Tell your friends, family and visitors about the Guild, it is well worth a visit.  To make a donation visit the website: . 

Attending their next exhibition - a showcase of members’ work - will be a joyful priority for me.  It opens on the 12th September 2020.  Let’s give this valuable resource our support.  Our area is enriched by the Guild’s presence and the opportunity to see the creations of our dedicated craftspeople is a true gift.


Other columns by Lisa Robillard Webb

Black Lives Matter - Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere - Tue 7 Jul 2020
Central Devon – A beautiful place to fight for - Tue 11 Feb 2020
South Dartmoor Community College - Mon 2 Dec 2019
Our Local Post Offices - Thu 1 Aug 2019
Political Choice - Fri 3 May 2019
High Streets – At the centre of our communities - Thu 24 Jan 2019
The Shame of UK’s Indefinite Detention - Thu 8 Nov 2018

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