In 1974 a potter was my first tenant in the vast building known as the Ferrers Centre which had stood empty since before the Second World War. A great many artists and craftspeople have worked here since then. Over time we have brought all the rooms into use, and currently there are nineteen businesses based here. The range of skills and commissions is considerable; in the south west corner Chris Margett is still catching up on his backlog after completing a large order for Harrods, in the opposite corner Paul Gibson is making one thousand four hundred and eighty five white ceramic roses for the re-internment of King Richard the Third. Why 1485? That was the year of his death.
In this age of consumerism there is a tendency to view any destination as a retail outlet, but these are primarily workshops and studios, with the emphasis on making, for sale or use here or elsewhere. We look for high standards, and are currently offering a bursary to help someone get started in a unit recently vacated.
As part of our search we’ve been put in touch with Derby University, who may have suitable students on their books. It’s an interesting new avenue for us, but they are having trouble getting their heads around the way we work. The idea that a business relationship can be based on no more than a handshake and a short letter is outside their experience. This is the way our family has operated for more than a hundred years, based on trust and close involvement. As I learnt from my father and tell our children, your reputation for fair dealing in local business is your most important asset.