On a beautiful Monday morning in July we had the pleasure of meeting Chloe Phelps and
Rachael Pilston, makers and Founders of the Peckham Craft Show. We visited their sun-
drenched studio in the heart of Peckham and found out all about their creative talents and
the process behind organising a craft exhibition for over 50 makers!
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and how Peckham Craft Show began?
Thrown together at Art School by the class register (we both have P surnames) we have
been playing with textiles, separately and as a team for years and years now. Chloe is a
knitter with an industrial knitting machine tucked in a studio corner and Rachael works in
patchwork specialising, these days, in naturally dyed colours.
When we graduated, we both spent our fair share of time behind craft stall tables and at
festivals selling our work, but it so often feels the success of a craft market relies on good
sales (which were rare for us) so we became a little disheartened. We thought there was
just so much more to celebrate about craft and making. We were also avidly following
London Craft Week, which is amazing as it highlights craftspeople but at that time was
more focused on the luxury market and was underrepresented in South London.
After many discussions in the studio wondering how we could get involved with London
Craft Week, knowing that there was such a wealth of makers in South London, we decided
to put on an exhibition of craft that would bring London Craft Week to Peckham. With 3
weeks to go before London Craft Week 2017 began we spoke to Copeland Yard to see if
we could use the gallery space and they had just one day available. We organised the
whole first show in 3 weeks including excitedly contacting our favourite makers, building or
finding plinths, putting everything up and taking it down in 24 hours. Somehow it was a
success and we've done it every year since.
The real focus of Craft Show is to offer craftspeople an alternative to a craft market to
share their work. A craft market is usually made up of lots of little booths where each maker
has their table filled to the brim with their work alone, and nothing interacts with each other.
We are interested in the idea of mixing makers work together, curating the space into vistas
that resemble a homescape. We give the objects space.
What are the three key elements of the show?
Craft Show is made up of a showcase of craft, a fun and engaging series of workshops and
a small, curated shop area. The showcase takes the work of up to 50 makers and
craftspeople curated into a series of still-life's or vistas which we invite people to come and
see, hoping that this helps them envision how the works could fit into their homes and
lives. The shop element gives people the opportunity to make this a reality and take a little
piece of the handmade home with them. It has always been important to us that alongside
this is a series of workshops, held within the exhibition space, to connect the works and the
act of making as well as introducing people to new skills and the opportunity to meet their
Where does your passion for craft and creativity stem from?
RACH: It's been a long game with a family of makers and artists spanning generations and
generations I've been making something since I could hold something. The passion for
spreading a love of craft and creativity comes from a slightly different drive, I suppose, it's
the idea that making something with your hands is truly good for you, meditative and
healing, and that everyone should get to do it and much more often than is the case right
now. Promoting craft is important to us in many ways but in the current climate a connection
to how the things we own, and buy are made is so intrinsically linked to the changes we
need to make as consumers and humans.
CHLOE: I come from a very handy family and have always made things. All of the women in
my family can whip up a jumper and a pair of curtains without the bat of an eyelid. When I
started my art foundation, I was sure I would study fine art, but felt most comfortable
creating objects out of cloth and wanted to learn everything I could about the technical side
of things. Only afterwards I realised it was an interest in craftsmanship and skill, I've always
felt empowered in the ability to make things. I'm really interested in craft reconnecting us to
our environment and hope to use our workshops teaching textile skills to explore the value
of material and objects.
Where do you draw inspiration from and how do you find new artists and makers to
We find so many pockets of inspiration, there is a stack of beautiful craft books at the end of
our desk mostly about the brilliant women of art and craft, but a huge part of our inspiration
comes from the mundane and every day to.
We are always interested in what people are drawn to and what they collect, and so much of
the show is about giving work a context. Everything we select has to have a value in that it's
either functional, useful and if it's non-functional it's beautiful, relevant and unique.
Whilst we have an application process, we do find a lot of makers on Instagram. The show
has always been built from social media connecting us with makers we wouldn't have
otherwise come across. We love watching different makers collaborate, share mutual
inspiration and celebrate each other's work. We are often searching for something that we
feel is missing from the show, something that will compliment a new maker that we want to
work with. We are also keen to work with makers just starting out and usually the first place
people put work out into the world is on Instagram.
What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?
RACH: Meeting and connecting makers, the moment at the show when two makers meet for
the first time in real life is always a highlight for me. Crafting and making can be an almost
lonely existence with long hours, few colleagues and lots of time alone in a studio so many
makers turn to Instagram for community, seeing people who have formed a relationship
there finally hang out in real life is pretty special.
CHLOE: We knew we'd both say the same thing. The first year we put on the show we just
stood there and watched people run up to each other and hug for the first time, after months
or years of chatting on Instagram. Lots of makers feel excited to be exhibiting next to other
makers they have been admiring for years. We celebrate each maker equally - whether they
are established or are just starting to explore their craft.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting up a business with their
Just go for it, it will make you even better friends.
Can you walk us through a typical day in your lives?
At the moment we are already busy plotting the next show and a series of workshops that
we'll be releasing tickets for really soon. In reality that means spending our evenings and
weekends either side of a desk at the studio, with snacks and often a wine, in between our
Days during the show are pretty full on, during set up we arrive at the gallery early doors,
take a quick scout around with a coffee and then get started on some mammoth task or
another, this year it was the transportation of 150 breeze blocks and a 5-metre-long
concrete table. On the day the show opens we'll have been there from 6am with our brilliant
friends/helpers working up to the minute it opens at 6pm when we'll dash in to the bathroom
for a quick costume change before milling around the show thinking about when we can run
away to Flamin' Mangal on Rye Lane for celebratory halloumi kebabs and prosecco.
How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?
RACH: I try to buy clothes that I can wear again and again, that will last and are well made
but try to buy less often. Layering is a big part of this as well as one or two great jumpers
and staple dresses. I will not buy something if it doesn't have at least two big pockets, girls
need pockets too.
CHLOE: Loving textiles is pretty handy when buying clothes, I always feel fabrics and make
sure I'm buying something well made that will last forever. I tend to love and wear things to
death and can often be found in a charity shop purchase from 2004. I wear a lot of jeans
with great jumpers that make me feel good in all situations, we are doing a lot of multitasking
and moonlighting at the moment.
What are your go-to wardrobe staples?
RACH: There are not many outfits I wear that don't involve a roll neck jumper and it's the
end of August, so I found myself looking forward to getting out my black tights from the back
of the wardrobe.
CHLOE: I wear birkenstocks the whole year round, I just hate socks.
If I wasn't running Peckham Craft Show I would be...
CHLOE: Researching material futures or planting trees
RACH: Setting up a textile art centre in South London somewhere or running away to the
countryside to patchwork full time and get a polytunnel.
My day isn't complete until I've... We both won't go to bed without eating our 10 fruit or
vegetables a day which can make for some interesting pre-bed snacks.
My ideal breakfast...
RACH: I'm not much of a morning person so my ideal breakfast is a 11.30am and consists of
a quiet coffee but if I have to have breakfast a poached egg, greens and toast is ideal. CHLOE: Breakfast is my favourite time of the day, I can't wait to get out of bed so I can eat. I
live for eggs and greens too! My two favourite things.
Words to live by...
RACH: Reduce, reuse and recycle...
CHLOE: Don't buy it unless you love it.
My guilty pleasure...
CHLOE: So many things I love could be considered a guilty pleasure, how could I select
RACH: I nearly exclusively listen to music that is pre 1970s and it's almost all country music.
A holiday destination I love...
RACH: Greece is the place for me to go back to again and again, they have got the tempo
that life should be lived at down. My boyfriend and I spent a few months living on the island
of Corfu so that has to win really but a holiday that spends a few days in Athens then ferries
over to one of the Cycladic Islands is the dream. Chloe and I have done that one and it's
hard to beat.
CHLOE: Anywhere with a mountain and a body of water to swim in.
My favourite London hangout... We spend so much time in the studio catching up these
days our favourite hang outs tend to be in a 1-mile radius of it, in Peckham. We are often
spotted on a great big blanket in the park near our homes, being outside is something we