Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Business View: We're learning fast how to create new industries

Northern Ireland's creative people are now making their mark with the help of industry body Craft NI, the organisers of Craft Month
Northern Ireland's creative people are now making their mark with the help of industry body Craft NI, the organisers of Craft Month

Craft is an important part of the creative sector in Northern Ireland.

But the art of making and designing things has in the past seemed a more closely linked with the Republic, rather than Northern Ireland. The Aran sweaters of the west of Ireland or the Claddagh ring – also of the west of Ireland, oddly enough – have always created clamour among tourists.

But Northern Ireland's creative people are now making their mark with the help of industry body Craft NI, the organisers of Craft Month.

Dr Sarah McAleer is one successful designer and businesswoman who's benefited from the resolve to increase the profile of the creative sector in Northern Ireland.

The jewellery-maker and goldsmith received a grant from the Arts Council to buy a 3D printer to help her in her work. She muses that being in a creative job is has more kudos now than in the past.

The impact of a mammoth TV production like Game of Thrones has demonstrated that artistic work can create jobs and generate profit, even if you aren't that cosmopolitan a location (nudge, nudge).

Twenty years ago expressing a love of film, artwork or showing any other creative bent could have earned you a jibe in school from an unsympathetic careers advisor. But every day we are reminded that art can create work and make money.

Creative artists are usually self-employed by necessity, and Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey has noted that the numbers of women in self-employment in Northern Ireland have grown more rapidly than the numbers of men.

However, he points out that is often out of the necessity of bringing more money into the household, rather than a burning ambition to become what's sometimes patronisingly called a 'mumpreneur'.

The types of self-employed work they are going into aren't clear – and Ramsey considers that it's an area that's ripe for research.

It will be intriguing to discover over the next few years whether high self-employment levels were a 2010s flash in the pan – or a new way of working that's here to stay.

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