Horsley based textile artist Jessica Kinnersley has been chosen as winner of the Belsay Design Challenge for her range of unique textile and print products. Jessica impressed judges with her hand-stitched Northumbrian scene and make-at-home gift sets for visitors to replicate her design.

The challenge, delivered by the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project (RDCIP), in collaboration with English Heritage at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens was developed to attract North East based craftspeople who could produce bespoke contemporary gift products of the highest quality with designs rooted in Northumbrian culture, unique and environmentally sustainable, as well as being commercially viable, and their winner delivered on all fronts.

RDCIP is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the England European Structural and Investment Fund Programme 2014-20 and the North of Tyne Combined Authority. For more information visit https://www.rural-innovation.co.uk/

Jessica Kinnersley smiling

Jessica Kinnersley Winner Of Belsay Design Challenge

The craftsmanship and quality of the submissions made it a challenge for the judges to choose, but they felt that the range of products Jessica had designed fit with the character of Belsay and would not only showcase the creativity and ingenuity of North East craftspeople, it would also appeal to all of the visitors Belsay welcomes each year.

The Belsay that visitors see today comprises three distinct but related elements: a medieval castle that was enlarged in the early 17th century, a Greek Revival mansion that superseded it as a family residence at the beginning of the 19th century, and an outstanding quarry and formal garden linking the two buildings. Over the past 18 months extensive work has been undertaken on the roof of the Hall, with further improvements to be made to the car park, café and a new play area. As part of this regeneration there will be a complete refit to the on-site visitor shop, which allows them a fantastic opportunity to review their product offer within the shop itself.

Catherine Smith, Head of Retail for English Heritage said, ‘This challenge brought together so many creative people, and we have loved seeing the different types of work being done locally to Belsay. It was a really tough decision picking the winner as the standard of workmanship was so high, and all the concepts so varied, and we are excited to work with Jessica going forward to develop her range as we know our visitors will love what she is making.’

Jessica was very excited to have been selected as the winner of the challenge and said, ‘I am overwhelmed with this result. This whole process, from the initial workshop with the RDCIP, and all of the specialist support we all received throughout has been immeasurable. I have been to Belsay many times and the place itself is so inspiring I had lots of ideas straight away as to what I wanted to develop and pitch to the panel. I am so pleased that my work is going to be in the new shop, I feel like I am representing Northumbrian craftspeople, not just myself, and that is a great honour.’

The Belsay Design Challenge developed and delivered by the RDCIP provided specialist innovation support, utilising the design thinking process to generate, test and develop great ideas for contemporary gift products as well as invaluable business insight and subsequent grant support to prototype their products with the overall winner being given the opportunity to stock the new visitor shop at Belsay.

Robin Earl, Chief Operating Officer of Advance Northumberland, said, “I continue to be impressed with the level of creativity and ingenuity within our local business base and it’s great to see small businesses from across the region get an opportunity to pitch and stock their bespoke products within key tourist attractions like Belsay Hall and Gardens.”

North of Tyne Combined Authority Cabinet Member for Culture, Creative, and Rural Cllr Glen Sanderson said: “Congratulations to Jessica. It was hard to pick a winner, but her idea captures the unique beauty of Northumberland and the creativity, ingenuity and tradition of which we’re so proud.”

If you would like to find out more about the workshops and challenges being delivered by the RDCIP please visit www.rural-innovation.co.uk for more information and to register your interest.

Alt "="