Speaker Biographies

Sir Christopher Frayling

Sir Christopher Frayling has a deep interest in art, design and craft, and has written extensively on the subjects, including his book On Craftsmanship. He was Chairman of Arts Council England 2005­–2009 and has also been Chairman of the Design Council, Chairman of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, and a Trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum. He was a governor of the British Film Institute in the 1980s.

Christopher Frayling was awarded a knighthood for Services to Art and Design Education in 2001. He has written and presented television series such as The Art of Persuasion on advertising, and Strange Landscape on the Middle Ages.

Genevieve Sioka

Genevieve is Artisan & Craft buyer for the National Trust, last year launching their Artisan & Craft collection featuring the work of Sasha Wardell, Sue Binns, Scott Benefield and Wallace Sewell to name but a few.

Tasked with sourcing products with provenance, authenticity and spirit of place, Genevieve works closely with established and emerging makers alike to develop pieces for the National Trust shops, forging sustainable and profitable relationships for both parties in order to continue to support the National Trust in looking after special places for ever and for everyone.

With a background in lecturing Textiles and Printmaking and with a Masters in Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking, Genevieve now thoroughly enjoys being able to bring great British craftsmanship to the National Trust audience, encouraging shopping for a cause whilst telling the stories of great makers.

Felicity Irons

Felicity Irons is a designer and weaver whose life with the English Bulrush began in 1992 when she was working in the antiques trade. With invaluable support from The Prince’s Trust she started her business with rush harvested locally in Huntingdonshire by Tom Arnold, the last in a centuries-long line of cutters. When Tom died in 1994 Felicity took over the business. Now, several workshops later, Rush Matters employs two people based on a farm in Bedfordshire and a small team of local women working from their homes.

Her passion for all things rush led her to start designing and making. She and her team now cut 4-5 tons of rush a day during the summer harvest. They hand weave a range of work: rush floor matting, tableware, log baskets, handbags, cushions, hats and shoes.

Their work can be seen in National Trust properties in the UK, the Chateau Azay le Rideau in France, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY and they work with many designers, architects and shops here in the UK and overseas. She also teaches her craft here and in Europe. Felicity was made a Yeoman of The Worshipful Company of Basketmakers in 2009 and in 2011 Rush Matters was awarded the CPRE Mark in the Living Countryside Awards.

Richard Eaton

Richard Eaton, who was born and brought up in London, initially came to Denby Pottery in rural Derbyshire as an enthusiastic young student on work experience for his Master of Arts degree.  Richard instantly felt an affinity with Denby’s stoneware clay, designing and putting into full production a unique, and now collectable, range of giftware.

Richard returned to Denby in August 1987 after completing his M.A. in Ceramics and a B.A. in 3 dimensional design.  Within a short time Richard was promoted to Head of Design and subsequently Design Director.  Over successive years Richard has built up the Denby Design Team which comprises six designers and five technicians.

In addition to his work for Denby, Richard encourages the work of young new designers.  He has been a member of the panel of Judges for the Royal Society of Arts design competitions and an advisor on the Princes Youth Business Trust.  Richard was until recently an external assessor for M.A. in Ceramic Design at Staffordshire University and is currently undertaking special projects with a number of Universities.

Veronica Main

Over one, under two – Straw plaiting for the hat industry was an occupation for tens of thousands of men, women and children throughout the United Kingdom in 1800s but with the introduction of imported straw plait from the Far East in the 1870s the skills began to die. By the 1930s the number of plaiters in the country could be counted on one hand. Veronica’s presentation will tell her personal journey to rediscover these skills. Her journey, started in the 1970s has taken her around the world and leads her to become a museum curator looking after the nationally important Hat Industry and Headwear collection at Wardown Park Museum, Luton.