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Strabane husband and wife team return for Guildhall Craft Fair

07 November 2016

‘Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ is a well-worn phrase but Strabane couple Tracy and Declan McCrossan are happy to keep a separation between their careers and their hobby for now.

Their Ballynagran Crafts woodturning venture has experienced significant success since they first decided to dip their toes into the commercial waters last year.

This weekend they will showcase their products at Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Guildhall Craft Fair, one of the biggest events of its kind in Ireland, but they have no intention of giving up their day jobs any time soon.
Declan spends his weekdays teaching in Derry and he has found a suitable tonic in the evenings and weekends in working with wood at his home workshop.

“Declan started doing a woodwork course recreationally at the North West College a few years ago”, explains Tracy who works in the Western Trust. “He quickly progressed from general woodwork to woodturning with Paul McGonagle at PMG Woodturning.

“He found woodturning was enjoyable and therapeutic, so he started making bits and pieces in his workshop at home.
“When we decided to take it to the next level and sell the items I took over the marketing side of things and we began supplying to Omagh Craft Collective Pop-up Shop, the Walled City Crafters in Derry’s Craft Village and more recently Handmade, in Castlederg.

“At the moment it’s a fantastic hobby but who knows, it might be something we look at as a retirement income for the future.”

Ballynagran Crafts offer a wide range of items including fruit/salad bowls, Celtic Wedding Goblets, egg cups, spinning tops and bespoke pieces.

They joined over 40 crafters at last year’s Guildhall Craft Fair and had no hesitation in returning this year after gaining significant confidence from the experience.

“The first show we exhibited at was last year’s Summer Guildhall Craft Fair,” Tracy continued. “The Christmas Fair then showcased us to an even wider audience.

“We gained great inspiration from the feedback and success we had last Christmas and have since exhibited at the Meet the Makers event, hosted by Craft NI in Belfast, where we secured a considerable commission from Queen’s University Belfast.

“We have also had our stock in the Northern Ireland Assembly Gift Shop at Stormont.  While our range of products can be viewed this weekend at the Guildhall Craft Fair, we can be contacted through our facebook page any time for personalised orders.

“When you start up a small business you are constantly learning and getting the chance to meet other crafters from all over Ireland. Talking to them gave us great belief that we were moving in the right direction.” 

Visitors to this weekend’s Guildhall Craft Fair can look forward to sampling Ballynagran’s signature pieces which include celtic wedding goblets, yarn bowls and yarn spinners, and they will also be selling a range of Christmas items including tree decorations and festive-themed candle holders.

“Every piece we sell is different, even wood from the same tree can have different grain patterns, so you will be buying a unique gift.  We also offer personalisation on any of our items using the art of pyrography”, Tracy noted.

“Everything is sourced locally from home-grown trees; Elagh Tree Surgery in Derry are one of our main green wood suppliers.
“Once we source the wood it needs to dry for a considerable length of time before we can use it, so it’s a long process from chainsaw to chisel.”

A total of 40 crafters will take part in the Guildhall Craft Fair from Friday November 11th to Sunday November 13th, including 9 new exhibitors who will be selling their products there for the first time.

A Live music programme will help get visitors into the festive spirit as they take a break for some coffee and cake at the Craft Fair Coffee Shop set up by Café Guild in the Main Hall.

Parents with little ones will also be delighted to know that Christmas Craft Workshops will run free of charge from 12pm until 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday.

The Craft Fair will begin on Friday 11th November beginning at 2.00pm until 8.00pm, Saturday from 10.00pm until 6.00pm and Sunday from 11.00am until 6.00pm.

For more details about Council’s ‘Light up your Christmas’ programme see www.derrystrabane.com/christmas.