A working life in the countryside can take many forms and it certainly does at King Street Workshops in Pateley Bridge, where a collective of talented craftspeople occupy workshops which overlook Nidderdale’s lush farming landscape.
Where once municipal refuse trucks were retired from duty overnight, a former council yard and its adjoining buildings have become the far more attractive proposition of a group of workshops for 10 creative individuals who largely specialise in traditional crafts, from painting and glass blowing, to sculpture and jewellery.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the yard’s conversion into an artistic space, thanks to owners Harrogate Borough Council, and to celebrate the milestone an open weekend is planned to demonstrate their talents and exhibit the fruits of their labours.
Among those with studios here are original tenants, glassmakers Andrew Sanders and David Wallace, who used to be based at Duncan Craft Workshops at a former worsted wool mill in Otley. When the wool business collapsed, the landlord converted the building into offices and the glassmakers’ time, and that of other craftspeople based there, was soon up.
During their search for a new base, a call to Harrogate Council proved timely.
Hartlepool-born David, 62, said: “When we got in touch, they said it just so happened that they had centralised refuse collection in Harrogate. This (David and Andy’s studio at King Street) was a bin wagon garage. The area outside was basically a council yard but they had plans to turn the buildings around it into workshops.”
Despite the obvious legacy of its functional former use, David knew they had found the right place.
“When we came to have a look there was a dustbin wagon in here, where our studio is now, but it was the right size and shape for what we wanted.”
With a bit of vision and the arrival of other craftspeople, including jewellery makers and husband and wife, Debby Moxon and Ian Simm who also relocated from Otley, King Street Workshops was up and running and has since become a place where creative rural enterprise has flourished.
“The biggest problem for rural artists is finding somewhere like this, with a landlord as amiable as Harrogate Council where you can come together,” David said.
“It’s good to have neighbours that are like-minded and it’s beneficial for passing on business. And if you look at the individuals working here, the standard of work they produce is phenomenal. You would struggle to find a more talented group of people in one place anywhere else in the country.”
Andrew and David make their money from the wholesale market and their biggest customer is currently the National Galleries of Scotland, which then sells the glass pieces from shops inside their art galleries.
In a typical year, Andrew and David produce 4,800 pieces of decorative glass and previous customers include Harrods and Nordstrom, the luxury department store in the US.
A special commission came in 2012, when the Royal Society of Chemistry enlisted their services to produce a scent bottle for a unique perfume which was presented to The Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
Ian and Debbie, who have also been at the studios since they opened, specialise mainly in delicately coloured titanium jewellery, from broaches to cufflinks, to wedding rings and necklaces. Their income is largely from craft galleries and through private commissions. Yorkshire Sculpture Park is also one of their customers.
The couple greatly value their own studio.
Debbie said: “We need a showcase here because we can’t survive entirely from the wholesale market. It’s a really nice workshop and we have a great view out over the hills. With the people based here at the moment, I feel it’s the best it’s ever been.”
Joseph Hayton is a sculptor who moved into one of the workshops five years ago.
“I’m lucky to be working somewhere where I’m surrounded by craftspeople, many of whom have been working for 30 years, who can offer advice, and a big benefit is that it’s open to the public. We speak to hundreds of people who are here exploring Pateley Bridge every year and we get returning customers.
“It’s a beautiful place to work, overlooking rolling green hills.”
Joseph was working on a boundary marker for the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty when I paid him a visit but he is also working on a project for the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership to create a body of work that reflects the area’s geological heritage, drawing on locally sourced crinoidal limestone - also known as Nidderdale marble - to create figures of the monks of nearby Fountains Abbey that will help tell the tale of the dissolution of the monasteries.
King Street is also the creative home of the UK’s 2015 bestselling artist, Alister Colley, at Zeitgeist Fine Art. The children’s illustrator turned painter was also appointed as the official artist of Yorkshire Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France.
He says the Yorkshire Dales has inspired his artwork more than anything else.
“This place is well suited to me because you go five minutes down the road and you’re in the Dales, where it feels perfectly isolated,” Alister said.
Neighbouring the studios is the Nidderdale Museum. Set in a former workhouse, it tells the stories of local people and rural life through the years.
And the success of King Street Workshops is another chapter to add to the story of Pateley Bridge at a time when its reputation is enjoying a real boon. After scooping the Best Village Award in last year’s Great British High Street Competition, it was recently named as one of the best places to live in the country by The Sunday Times.
The open weekend to mark the 25th anniversary of King Street Workshops will be held on July 8-9.
Former town mayor and local councillor Stanley Lumley is due to unveil a commemorative stone on the Saturday.
Also on the first day, Fiona Mazza, a ceramic artist at King Street will be firing up a kiln to demonstrate her craft.
Sculptor Joseph Hayton’s ‘Dissolution’ exhibition opens.
For more details about the artists and craftspeople based at King Street, visit kingstreetworkshops.co.uk