Curating the East Midlands: National Centre for Craft & Design

The National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire is the largest venue in England entirely dedicated to the exhibition, celebration and promotion of international national and local craft and design. Its galleries showcase a changing programme of up to 20 exhibitions each year, from the most innovative, challenging and accomplished artists to new and emerging talent. It is home to Design-Nation, one of the UK’s leading professional development organisations for British designer-makers. Following a merger with artsNK in 2018, NCCD offers enriching arts and cultural experiences across the North Kesteven district, through a dynamic multi-arts programme of exhibitions, festivals, events, performances, community arts projects, retail and education initiatives. Its learning programme caters for all ages, skills and interest levels. NCCD, artsNK and Design-Nation are all operated by Lincs Inspire.

Find out more about NCCD and the programme at: and

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Charlie Birtles, Hatch 19. Photo credit: Scott Murray

Who’s in the programming team at NCCD?

The team comprises Clare Edwards – Director, Marion Sander – Programme Manager, Lesley Farrell – Exhibitions Curator, Sarah Elliott – Learning Development Coordinator, Lucy Lumb – Visual Arts Development Coordinator, Emily Luce – Dance Development Coordinator and Emma Bouch – Dance Development Coordinator.

How have you come to your programming roles?

Clare has been the Director of NCCD for 8 years.  She’s also the Director of Design-Nation which also has its home at NCCD. In 2018, NCCD merged with artsNK, North Kesteven’s arts development service.  Coming together as one team, NCCD now offers a multi arts form programme spanning exhibitions, learning, visual arts, dance and arts development.  This programme is managed by Marion Sander.  Lucy, Emily and Emma transferred from artsNK and Lesley and Sarah completed the team in early 2019.

Installation shot from From Papagena to Lady-Birds, Caroline Matthaei. Photo credit: Scott Murray

How do you work as a programming team?

The programme is designed to achieve the aspirations of a local cultural strategy and Arts Council England’s national portfolio goals whilst also standing alongside a regional and national context. Each season is developed through a ‘story of change’ process that challenges our understanding about what will change as a result of the specific initiative we are planning to do. This enables us to develop an enhanced and holistic programme of delivery, ensuring our strategic aims and audience objectives are always met.

Dance for Parkinsons. Photo credit: Scott Murray

What strands are there to the programme at NCCD?

Specialising in craft, design, visual arts and dance; we curate and produce an exciting, original and dynamic programme, including exhibitions, learning, education, community-based projects, performances, outdoor events, festivals and public art commissioning.  Alongside a renowned exhibition and learning programme at NCCD, we also deliver inspiring projects across the community, that are designed to meet both arts and wellbeing outcomes, including: the Ridges & Furrows Arts and Heritage Programme, Dance for Parkinson’s, Youth Dance Programme, Dance Fit, Front Room Art Club, Dance and Disability.

Unify Dance Festival 2019, artsNK. Photo credit: Electric Egg

How do you select the artists you work with?

NCCD has a strong curatorial programme that is very well integrated across craft and design networks both regionally, nationally and internationally. The majority of the programme is curated in-house and we also receive regular exhibition proposals. We take touring shows from partners and also tour our own programme. For project based activities, we select artists through a range of ways, including direct invitation and open calls.  Individual artists also approach the team with exhibition proposals, workshop offers, artist-led projects and residencies. We regularly advertise new opportunities through Artsjobs, CVAN and other networks.

Woodcarving Workshop for Heritage Open Days Art Commission with Mark Steadman at Cogglesford Mill. Photo credit: Arlo Brown

What’s happening behind the scenes at the moment at NCCD?

We’re currently delivering our Christmas season which offers fun, creative ways to engage with our programme over the festive holidays.  Preparations for our spring season are also underway with a busy and diverse programme focussed around arts and health.

There’s also a lot of excitement brewing as we prepare for a major refurbishment and extension of The National Centre for Craft & Design.  The capital development programme which starts in January 2020 will see increased studio, retail, café and gallery space with a new craft studio and mixed-used space.

Kate McBride, Hatch 19. Photo credit: Scott Murray

Who are the artists and/or partners that you’re working with at the moment? 

We are currently showing a touring exhibition. The Jerwood Makers Open 2019 a biennial initiative that recognises and promotes the significance of making and materials within contemporary visual arts.  This year’s cohort of artists includes Mark Corfield-Moore, Forest + Found, Lucie Gledhill, Bethan Lloyd Worthington and Tana West. Each artist received a bursary to support experimentation and the making of new work for this exhibition which showcases installations in textiles, ceramics, wood and metal.  Our roof gallery programme includes three selling exhibitions of beautiful work drawn from Design-Nation’s portfolio of UK designer-makers.  The theme is Pattern & Sequence and includes ceramics and mosaic, jewellery and metalwork, paper and wire, rugs, wallpaper and textiles. Artists on the 4th floor – Justine Allison, Kate Bajic, Jayne Childs, Lucy Elisabeth, Galt Designs, Anna Gravelle, Heidi Harrington, Nicki Jarvis, Hannah Lobley, Katie Lowe, Michaela McMillan, Melissa Montague, Nobuko Okumura,  Angie Parker, Katie Putt, Samantha Robinson, Zara Schofield, Julie Vernon, Sam Walker and Kate Welton.

In our window collection we are showing the work of Lincoln based goldsmith turned sculptor Caroline Matthaei. Caroline is also a Design-Nation member and ‘From Papagena to Lady-Birds’ is an imaginary showcase of a lifelong fondness for stories, mythology, folk and fairy tales, as well as a keen observation of all forms of life, human and animal, in paper clay, plaster, wood and metal.

FOREST + FOUND Max Bainbridge / Abigail Booth, Jerwood Makers Open. Photo credit: Scott Murray

Tell us about your upcoming exhibition or project.

Our upcoming season focuses on arts and health and includes a diverse mix of exhibitions, new participatory activities, artist-led workshops and inspiring education programmes. Check out our website for full & updated offer.

Upcoming Exhibitions:

Body & Mind: Seen & Unseen
1 Feb – 17 Apr 2020

Body & Mind: Seen & Unseen brings together a group of 13 artists and thought-provoking works which look at what it means to be well. The exhibition considers both visible health and less visible aspects of well-being, exploring personal experience of health issues and pieces that examine our relationship to our bodies and the treatment of illness.

Materials and the process of making are both key to the creation of all works in the exhibition. For some artists, making has been part of a process of recovery; for others it’s the exploration of the potential of particular materials to enhance our well-being; or to communicate an idea relating to health and the treatment of illness that is significant.

The show includes works of contemporary craft and design in a wide range of forms, including wearable items, installation-based works and sculptural objects. Running alongside the exhibition, a public outreach programme with both new partnership projects and workshops, and the promotion of existing activities will promote health and wellbeing outcomes.

Remember Me: Charlotte Hodes, Papercuts and Ceramics – 11 Jan – 22 Mar 2020

Remember Me profiles Charlotte Hodes’ long-standing engagement with the boundaries between fine art and craft practice. Her work draws from both the rich iconography of the decorative arts and her own hand drawn archive of motifs centred on the female figure. She uses collage in a unique way to challenge accepted hierarchical structures and presents a vision that is led by a female sensibility and poetic imaginings. Her ceramic installations, made up of multiple pieces of ready-made tableware as an alternative ‘canvas’, reference domesticity and the home.

Liz Pearson: Sense of Self – 11 Jan – 22 Mar 2020

Liz Pearson’s show focuses on June who is living with dementia, and the role of participatory design in promoting a ‘sense of self’ after a dementia diagnosis. The exhibition documents key aspects of June’s life with a collection of objects, photographs and artworks by June. Pearson’s own work in glass, made in response to June’s experiences, also helps to look past the condition and see the person as an individual.

Ellie Turner: Props for Play 1 Feb – 19 Apr 2020

Ellie Turner is a Scottish designer and artist, based in Aberdeen. She graduated from Gray’s School of Art in 2016 with a First Class Honours Degree in Textile Design, with a speciality in screen-printing. Her work explores the sensory qualities of materials and objects, specifically looking at how individuals’ with support needs can interact and benefit from stimulation through materials. Ellie makes interactive and playful objects that invite the viewer to explore their own sensory preferences. The window collection will display a selection of her tactile fabric samples and sponges.

Grennan & Sperandio Emblems for the Waddington Ridges & Furrows Trail. Photo credit: Electric Egg

What dates should we put in our calendars?

The Opening Weekend of Body & Mind: Seen & Unseen, which includes a Private View on Fri 31 Jan, 6–8pm, a Curator and Artist Walk and Talk on Sat 1 Feb, 11am–12pm. An Artist Talk with Charlotte Hodes on Sat 1 Feb, 1–2pm, and a Pottery Throwing Taster on Sat 1 Feb, 10am–3pm

What or who are you really excited about?

We have recently been awarded funding from the Jerwood Curatorial Development Fund and Artfund to deliver a programming research opportunity. The programming team and visitor experience team from NCCD will be visiting MAC, Eastside Projects and DanceXchange in Birmingham, in February 2020.

2020 is Design-Nation’s 20th anniversary and we will be launching our newly refurbished National Centre for Craft & Design with a hugely anticipated guest-curated exhibition.

Laura Youngson Coll, Angiogenesis, 2017. Commissioned for Jerwood Makers Open 2017, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Photo credit: Anna Arca

What do we need to see more of in the East Midlands?

NCCD is in rural Lincolnshire which is quite isolated within the East Midlands.  We need more partnership working which brings increased opportunities to support artist development, inspiring conferences, new technology and festivals.

Marion Sander. Photo credit: Scott Murray