Cumbrians are being urged to support the county’s artists and creative companies who have been hard-hit by the Covid pandemic.
Many people in the creative industries depend on tourists to keep their businesses afloat and have struggled with the uncertainty as much as those in the hospitality and tourism industries.
Miles-Moore Ceramics is one such company, producing high-end dining ware for a number of the region’s hotels and restaurants - but has been left reeling by this year’s events.
“The pandemic has been a total disaster for us on lots of levels,” said Siobhan Miles-Moore, who runs the company with her husband, Martin, from their studio at Brathay Hall.
“Our clients are mostly hotels and restaurants and our big existing customers are not able to spend with the future as uncertain as it is. The problems hospitality and tourism is facing, all of that applies to us too.
“The core business is kind of gone for now.”
The pair, who are artists-in-residence at the Ambleside-based charity Brathay Trust, have built a reputation for creating one-off, handmade pieces that incorporate locally-sourced and foraged materials.
Top restaurateurs such as Masterchef finalist Oli Martin have helped showcase their work on a national scale, while their ceramics feature in private and museum collections around the world.
However, despite their reputation, the coronavirus has affected them just as it has artists across the UK.
Siobhan continued: “We were talking to two pretty serious restaurants before the lockdown started, but that never materialised, and none of our chefs that we work with are wanting to invest in new crockery at this moment in time, for obvious reasons.
“All artists and creatives make a lot of their money in the three months leading up to Christmas, but that doesn’t look like happening this year.
“Almost all of the art fairs that we sell at have been cancelled, so we aren’t easily able to pick up new clients.
“We’re lucky in lots of ways, because we have some really nice customers. We’ve had a handful of people who have wanted to make a purchase just because they know that we would be struggling - to them it might be a luxury purchase, but to us it can be life-transforming.”
Just as the lockdown was beginning, Siobhan’s father passed away. She admits that business wasn’t at the forefront of her mind during the incredibly difficult time for the family.
Many clients - who the Miles-Moores consider friends - maintained contact with messages of condolence, and Siobhan knows they can count on their support when hotels and restaurants are in a position to spend once more.
Projects going forward include a virtual studio tour and live chats on their website to allow people to ‘meet’ them online and take a look behind the scenes.
The Miles-Moore studio is based on-site at the charity’s headquarters at Brathay Hall, where they have a favourable rental agreement as part of their artists’ residency.
Siobhan is empathetic of the situation many artists and creatives find themselves in, and is keen to encourage people to support local businesses wherever possible.
She said: “We haven’t been able to access any financial support, but we’ve got by by having wonderful landlords - the arrangement we have has protected us from too much financial pressure. We’re also lucky in so much as we’ve got a house that we rent out and that income keeps us going.
“However, the Brathay Trust are the ones that need government support, and if that was more certain then we’d feel much safer too.
“In a world where people might not be holidaying abroad, maybe people might choose to spend their money on making where they live a little more beautiful. Of the four appointments we had last weekend, three were people who should have been on holiday but have decided to spend on something for the home instead.
“I’d encourage people to spend a small amount if you can with local artists, because that small amount could be transformative to them.
“We’re big fans of the Artist Support Pledge, which is being shared at the moment - where every time you sell a certain amount of work online, you pledge to buy another artist’s work.
“We all need to think of the positive things we can do to help others, and also think more about where our money is going and if we can spend that on local businesses instead.”
Grant Seaton, senior business lending manager at The Cumberland, said: “I have got to know Martin and Siobhan over the years and am a big fan of their work. We’ve been proud to help them through thick and thin and I hope that as people start to look towards Christmas they will think of buying work from local artists to support the Cumbrian creative sector.”