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Artist of the month

This month we hear from Alison Macleod who received professional development funding from the Scottish Arts Council towards the cost of attending this year's New York International Gift Fair.

Alison Macleod

Alison Macleod, a jeweller from Glasgow Scotland, has recently showcased a new collection of her work at Handmade, part of the New York International Gift Fair.  This high profile trade fair attracts over 45 thousand visitors bi-annually and is well known as a site for emerging talent.

Alison Macleod's new collection of delicate earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets is inspired by her fascination with junk shops.  Her interest in the stories behind objects has taken her from the west coast of Scotland to South America researching her own family history.  These influences can clearly be seen in the unusual jewellery which is made with sterling silver and features semi precious beads and found objects in vibrant pinks and greens.

'A first timer in New York' by Alison Macleod

'In February of 2006 I took the opportunity to show my jewellery at the New York International Gift Fair. I have only been in business for two years and was nervous about the venture. But looking back, I’m glad I did it.

Verdi Necklace, By Alison Macleod; Photo: Shannon Tofts

Why this event

The American Crafts Council runs shows in various cities around America but these are not open to work made outside the United States. These are roughly the equivalent of the UK’s Chelsea Craft Fair and would be the ideal venue to show my kind of product. However, in the New York International Gift Fair, the Crafts Council has found a good alternative.

New York International Gift Fair is the biggest trade event of its kind in America with 2800 exhibitors and 45-50 thousand visitors bi-annually.

The fair is held in Manhattan but visitors come from all over America. It is split into eleven sections of which I took part in ‘Handmade’. The Crafts Council area has built up such a reputation over the past 19 years that the right sort of buyers come especially to see it.

Firenze Fairy earings, By Alison Macleod; Photo: Shannon Tofts 

I was nervous at the prospect of my first international trade fair. It seemed such a huge event and I felt like a fish out of water. I had been asked to do the fair by Yvonna Demczynska, director of London’s Flow gallery and Design Eyes, the company which has been managing the Crafts Council area at the New York show since 1987.

Having had my work in her gallery since I started out, Yvonna was confident that it would fit comfortably into the American market. After accepting the offer I was excited and it was only when it all sunk in that I started to realise all that was involved.

Meminisse Necklace, By Alison Macleod; Photo: Shannon Tofts

Through my experience of a couple of Chelsea Craft Fairs and other events, I was confident that I could make the volume of work required and produce the marketing material. The things which were new to me were the display, which would either have to travel with me in my case (how do I make it small enough to fit?) or be bought over there (where do I start looking for a suitable display company in America?) and the pricing and shipping of potential orders (which seemed to involve a whole new language of terms and codes).

However through the support of a training day in London and the advice of some of the previous exhibitors I came to realise that these issues, once tackled, were easily resolved.

Rudi Necklace, By Alison Macleod; Photo: Shannon Tofts


The Department of Trade and Industry give you 50% of your stand and display costs after the show which makes a huge difference with the stand costing more than £2100.

I was also lucky to receive Scottish Arts Council Professional Development Funding which helped with flights and accommodation.

Should you do the Fair

The Crafts Council run a research mission to New York International Gift Fair, taking makers out to see if their product would fit into the market. As Yvonna had scoped out the market for me, I was happy to do the fair without this experience.

I do however think that it would be worthwhile to do the research trip if you were in any doubt about your suitability. The Department of Trade and Industry give you £500 towards the research trip which would only leave a small percentage of the final costs to be covered my yourself.

New York stand, By Alison Macleod; Photo: Alison Macleod

I’m glad I did the show. It would have been easy to be frightened off by the problems. But looking back on it, I made lots of contacts, took orders, and had a wonderful experience. I look forward to next year.'   

Alison creates her jewellery in a workshop surrounded by pigs, chickens and other farm animals based in the picturesque Dean Castle Country Park near Glasgow.  She is currently as artist in residence in the area and enjoys teachig in primary schools once a week as part of the project.  Alison has exhibited her jewellery extensively in galleries in Britain and abroad and her work is worn by stars such as Sienna Miller.

For more information on Alison please go to www.alisonmacleod.com 

Related links
* Features archive
* Craftscotland
* Crafts Council
* Alison Macleod
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