Craft fair unlocks creative talent in the community

November 30, 2013

Katherine Cromwell

HOME HELPS: Katherine Cromwell shows some of her 3D ceramic plaques of homes and her distinctive pet portraits at the Upton House arts and craft fair.



Brian Chant - wildlife photographer

PERFECT SHOT: Wildlife photographer Brian Chard of Broadstone shows one of his favourite images looking out to Brownsea Island at sunset.


Wooden trucks

WOOD WORKS: This stand of hand-crafted fifties-style wooden toys, are the hobby of one of the volunteers at Upton House. He didn’t want attention drawn to himself.



WELL VERSED: Heather Chamberlain shows a copy of her book Major Payne in Happy Bottom Fowl Deeds and Feathers. It was her first public outing in promoting this new book. It has been done in collaboration with illustrator Robin Edmonds.


STANDS were booked months in advance of a popular craft fair in east Dorset earlier this month.

The arts and crafts fair is annually organised by the Friends of Upton Country Park in the ground floor of the majestic country house and ran from 10am-4.30pm on the weekend of 23 and 24 November.

An array of crafts were on display including hand-made Christmas cards and similar items; wildlife photography; recycling wood products; hand-made jewellery and much more besides.

For a small entrance fee of £1, visitors were able to look out for some hand-made bargains for Christmas and to support local artists and crafters. In between look around stalls, people took the chance to walk around the gardens and partake of some refreshments at the kiosk near the front of the house.

Katherine Cromwell of Parkstone produces unique watercolour portraits of dogs, cats and other animals capturing the character of the individual animal and hand-crafted 3D ceramic plaques of homes and she welcomes commissions.

Her bespoke portraits of homes drew a number of visitors to her stand and one of the most famous buildings she was asked to do a portrait of was Hardy’s Cottage at Dorchester.

“I’m architecturally trained, so I’m trying to make them look right. It is air-drying clay and it takes about three to four days to do a bespoke portrait of a home. With my pet portraits, I try to capture the character of the animal.”

The Dorset Wildlife Trust attended both days of the fair and luckily for them, their representative was able to step into the breach as both of her county colleagues had both been laid low by sickness.

Included on the stand were some ammonite fossils found on the beaches at Kimmeridge and plans are afoot in the village to start up a fossil museum in the locality in the coming years.

Wildlife photographer Brian Chard of Broadstone travels across the country to capture some staggering images of birds, mammals and landscape scenery in all its splendour, and sometimes this has even involved the odd trip abroad.

Amongst images he was showing that caught the attention were stills of kingfishers diving into water to catch fish and as they were coming out with their prey. Such dedication often means sitting in one place for hours at a time to get the perfect shot.

Two images that particularly stuck in my memory are one of a brilliant red sunset looking out onto Brownsea Island and another of the Northern Lights in Finland.

Brian said: “I have a lot of interest from people about the photography and they want to get in touch with me so I can give talks. I have been doing this for eight years and I’ve done trips to Scotland, Norfolk, North Uist and the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides and the local chocolate box images of North Dorset.

Former teacher Heather Chamberlain was at the fair promoting a new interactive educational website and her new book, Major Payne in Happy Bottom Fowl Deeds and Feathers, to help primary school children improve their reading skills and at the same time make it fun.

Happy Bottom takes inspiration from a real village

In her teaching career she specialised in writing and story-telling, particularly of note being Brigadier Baz and Frumpton Farm. Her words are done in conjunction with the wonderful illustrations of Robin Edmonds to bring Happy Bottom to life.

During the latter stages of her teaching career she wrote and produced school musicals and gained permission from rock icon Chris de Burgh free use of his songs for one of her plays.

She is hoping that primary schools in the Wareham, Swanage, Blandford and Poole areas may be interested in being introduced to the colourful Happy Bottom characters including Major Payne, Marie, Fireside the cat, Napoleon the cockerel and Panic the mouse. She is willing to visit in these areas for free but further afield she would have to set a nominal fee to cover her expenses.

Heather said: “I would be pleased to talk to groups of parents about reading with children. I’d be happy to read to children in libraries.

“As a teacher I love storytelling and drama more than anything else. Creating the world of ‘Happy Bottom’ has been a joy, something I’m now eager to share.

“I’ve love nothing more than to inspire adults and children to embrace the art of rhyme and illustration.


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