Keswick School of Industrial Arts

Here at Keswick Tourism Association we have been producing the annual Keswick Visitor Guide for many years. One of the oldest guides in our archives, dated 1932, carries an advert for the Keswick School of Industrial Arts. The KSIA was set up in 1884 by Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and his wife Edith. Canon Rawnsley was inspired by his friend John Ruskin whose ideas paved the way for the Arts and Crafts movement. The school started by offering free evening classes in woodwork and metalwork with the aim of combatting local unemployment. The sale of the items covered the materials and tools needed, whilst the men learned valuable skills they could use to make things in their own homes. Silver, copper, pewter and brass were just some of the items produced in the school.

The school became so successful that in 1894 it moved to the purpose-built premises as featured in the advert above. The building still stands today and now trades as a restaurant. The school continued to flourish for 100 years, surviving 2 World Wars and eventually closed in 1984 succumbing to competition from mass produced items from overseas. Early pieces from the KSIA are now very collectable. Keswick Museum holds a decorative art collection with around 80 items consisting mainly of metalwork. 

Whilst the Keswick School of Industrial Art may have closed some decades ago the tradition of locally made goods by artists and craftspeople continues strongly to this day. A wide selection of jewellery, sculpture, ceramics, furniture, pottery and mosaics can be found in Keswick’s many galleries and shops alongside original paintings and photos.

Here are some of our favourite galleries to browse round, whether you are looking for a special gift for someone, a memento of your visit or a special piece of art or furniture to enhance and add style and personality to your home. 

Thornthwaite Galleries is located in the village of the same name, just a couple of miles from Keswick. It is a veritable treasure trove and displays the work of over 140 exhibitors. Items on display in the gallery include original paintings and print, jewellery, wood turning, sculptures, furniture, glasswork and pottery.

Virdian Gallery, in St John’s Street Keswick, includes permanent collections of water-colours by owner Diane Gainey as well as work by exhibiting artists each with their own exhibition area. There are also displays of jewellery, glassware, ceramics.

Northern Lights Gallery, in St John’s Street Keswick, represent over 80 artists in the gallery. Browse through 3 floors of paintings, ceramics, glassworks, pottery, sculpture and jewellery. Each month the Blencathra Gallery hosts a solo exhibition show-casing a new talented artist with most of them being local to the Cumbria area.

Treeby and Bolton is easily recognisable by its 12 foot giraffe welcoming customers to the shop and gallery on Lake Road Keswick. The gallery offers a range of contemporary art, sculpture and glass from the country’s most innovative and talented artists. Art events and exhibitions take place throughout the year, launching exciting new collections of work.

At Fultons Lakes Jewellery Works in Keswick you can watch the entire goldsmithing process in the workshop including diamond-setting, design and casting. Exquisite jewellery is made in house from start to finish. Bespoke jewellery to suit your budget can also be created in the Keswick workshop using traditional skills alongside the latest technology to craft something unique for you.

If you’re feeling inspired to produce your own piece of art, learn a new craft or brush up on an old skill Quirky Workshops offers a wide range of courses covering art, craft and heritage skills. Courses take place all year round in blacksmithing, stone and wood carving, whittling in wood, engraving, sculpture to name but a few of what is on offer. Quirky Workshops is located in the village of Greystoke, only a short drive from Keswick

If you’re visiting the area between 13 September and 10 November The Rheged Centre Penrith is hosting an exhibition - The Westmorland Landscape Prize. The exhibition aims to document, celebrate and interrogate our relationship with the landscape. Following a national open call, which led to the submission of over 1,000 artworks, 71 artists have been selected to exhibit at the gallery. The exhibition includes artists from across the UK working in painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture as well as artists working in video and installation. 

We hope that through this blog we have inspired you to visit our local shops and to see for yourself the work of our talented artists and craftspeople.

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