We have a long and illustrious history. Formerly known as Clerkenwell Green Association, the organisation was a forerunner in establishing a community of like-minded designer-maker. We opened the doors to Pennybank Chambers in 1970 to support the development of craftspeople and protect the future of Craft. Workshop spaces were predominantly inhabited by jewellers and associated crafts, and later grew to include exhibition space and a national network membership.
The organisation rebranded in 2008 under the name Craft Central to indicate more clearly the intentions of the organisation, and in 2017, when our lease was due to expire, we moved into the Forge on the Isle of Dogs where we undertook a significant renovation to a Grade II listed industrial building. Nominated for a New London Award, the building is stunning, and a fitting home for contemporary craftspeople.
Today, Craft Central houses around 100 artists, designer-makers, and creative businesses and continues to offer opportunities to support business growth and foster a community of collaboration. We run a Graduate Support Programme each year, offering a fully funded studio to emerging makers, and also offer self-funded residencies for makers who need time and space to develop a new project or specific piece of work.
The organisation continues to develop, finding ways to strategically embed craft into the local community. We have aspirations to build a stronger network of partners locally, nationally, and internationally through links with higher education and other creative organisations, supporting the next generation of designer makers in their journey.
Located on Westferry Road, The Forge was built in 1860 for CJ Mare & Company (engineers and shipbuilders). It is one of the last buildings from the golden age of shipbuilding on the Isle of Dogs. At the time of Brunel’s famous paddle steamer, The Forge – part of a 5,000-strong workforce – built the keel for HMS Northumberland; one of the earliest ironclad battleships.
Built of robust, Flemish bond brick, The Forge then had a varied history. After becoming a workshop for Joseph Westwood & Co (structural engineers and bridgebuilders) in 1889, the vast building went into decline. At one point, there was even a risk of demolition.
2003 saw The Forge gain Grade II listing and most recently, Craft Central approached Emrys Architects with a brief to create a collection of studio spaces, creative workspaces, and a gallery for exhibitions.
The sympathetic renovation ensured that many original features remained. You’ll find huge feature windows, exposed brickwork, eight former furnace chimney breasts, old gantries, ironwork, and industrial fittings – even two overhead cranes (in full working order!). One of which is particularly rare; built by the Vaughan Crane Company in Manchester, it dates back to the late 19th century and comprises a timber gantry frame, under-braced with a timber gantry.
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