Autumn 2022 will see the opening of the new Ad Gefrin Visitor Experience and Whisky Distillery in Wooler, Northumberland, and the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project (RDCIP) have been working with them to help find local designer-makers to showcase Northumbrian creativity.

The Ad Gefrin Design Challenge has been an opportunity for Northumberland based artists and creatives to work with the RDCIP in a series of workshops to develop product ideas before submitting their proposal to representatives from Ad Gefrin with the aim of securing a contract/commission to supply their Visitor Experience shop.

Three workshops, delivered by Nick Devitt: Senior Design Associate for the RDCIP, Dan Newton and Chris Taylor, were focused on the process of generation of ideas, testing different concepts and then developing those concepts to create their proposed product(s).

Nick explained, “The Ad Gefrin Design Challenge showcases Northumberland and the rich culture here, drawing on that culture as inspiration to create something beautiful and meaningful. The workshops were a way to convey that to those involved and each session was full of energy. We have seen such an amazing craftsmanship, design thinking and talent during each of the workshops and I was very much looking forward to seeing the work that would be submitted for this challenge and I have been blown away by what I have seen.”

After receiving 15 high quality submissions, the Ad Gefrin panel have agreed a shortlist of six local, small businesses, however they hope that those not shortlisted continue to develop and find outlets for their amazing products. They have chosen:

  • Ravn Clay, a traditional pinch, coil and slab work pottery, based just north of Wooler, for the concept of a traditionally made water jug.
  • Biteabout Arts are on the shortlist for their proposal of willow sculptures and intricate handmade baskets.
  • Joseph Hillier, sculptor has chosen to focus on ancient materials and methods of making to create jewellery that is modern and yet traditional at the same time.
  • Using yarns made from their own Angora goat and Wensleydale sheep, Whistlebare are shortlisted for their proposal for the use of these yarns to create bespoke rugs.
  • Sandra Russell Production’s proposal of original illustrations within shadowboxes has earned Sandra a place on the shortlist.
  • Finally, Be Therapies have submitted their concept of artwork made using pigments from the Northumbrian landscape.

The aim of the Design Challenge was to work with Ad Gefrin to really showcase some of the best that Northumberland has to offer in terms of design and products. What the RDCIP have been able to do is engage and support these suppliers through the design process from concept to prototype so that they are in the best position to put their ideas forward.

Eileen Ferguson, Partner in Ad Gefrin with her husband, Alan, said: “We are really grateful to everyone who has embraced the Challenge and we hope everyone who has been involved has got value out of the support provided. I am proud to be from Northumberland and the level and quality of the work I have seen as part of this design challenge is so impressive. Very inspirational people doing very inspirational, contemporary work. People will be coming to visit Ad Gefrin from all over the world and we want them to see for themselves what it is that makes Northumberland so special. We take our inspiration from the Golden Age of Northumbria, and want to continue the tradition of hospitality, welcome and warmth that Northumbrians are renowned for. For our visitors to be able to purchase something which has been lovingly made by a local artist is truly amazing and something that will remind them of their visit for years to come.”

The shortlisted businesses are now invited to attend the final pitch event on 12th January 2022 where they will put forward their ideas and concepts in further detail and demonstrate any prototypes where appropriate, after which the judging panel will make their final decisions and the winner(s) will be announced.

Local Designer-Makers to Showcase Northumbrian Creativity

The Rural Design Centre Innovation Project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and part-funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority, provides business support to SMEs in the North of Tyne area. The support is fully funded, and they also offer match funded grants to eligible businesses. To find out more about the work they are doing visit;

If you would like to find out more about Ad Gefrin please visit;

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