Review: Dunkleys Craft Show

Last updated 12:00 17/06/2013
Dunkleys Great NZ Craft Show, Eileen Austin

SO CRAFTY: Eileen Austin sells her wares at her stall at the Dunkleys Great NZ Craft Show on in New Plymouth.

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The Dunkleys Great New Zealand Craft Show seems to be a bit of an institution here in New Zealand, getting to many towns at least once a year, with the usual twice yearly visits at the main centres.

I have been to it four times in the last 12 years, but I came back from the latest show in New Plymouth underwhelmed.

We've always paid for the show which is in itself a difference from other craft markets, and Dunkleys is, when all is said and done, another craft market. 

The admission for adults this time was steep - $9 for adults, with only a $1 discount for students and senior citizens. This is a lot of money to pay for a forum where you are expected to go in and purchase stuff. 

However, in the past, Dunkleys has always had that "Aha!" factor for me - several exhibitors have had something new and different.

But not this time. There was a lot of doubling up of the stalls. 

I can get T-shirts anywhere, and you can only buy so much fudge, scented soap, stamp pads, handmade blouses, scarves and jewellery. 

The woodwork and leather stalls had the same old mirrors, chopping boards, belts and (expensive) handbags. The stock was more limited than on previous visits, and there wasn't much that I couldn't find for sale at any larger town craft market.

The other thing is that there is a difference between a "show" and a market. At a show one would expect a certain amount of extra entertainment value, watching people actually working on their chosen craft and being able to marvel at how they make it look so easy. 

The Village Blacksmith was a highlight, and it was nice to see someone actually practising their craft, instead of just selling things. And I know knitting is a craft, as is patchworking, but in NZ it is not exactly a dying art, so I please excuse me if I don't get all excited about it.

Maybe I have been spoilt by markets in Nelson, Auckland and Brisbane, but I miss the weaving of cloth and flax, the spinning of the wool that is to be knitted, the jewellery making in front of your eyes, and the leather goods man who makes things to order while you wait.

The first time I went to Dunkleys in New Plymouth 12 years ago the TSB stadium was packed with new and interesting crafts which I still remember. 

There were bronze earrings with many Maori themes, particularly those symbols which are not so well known. I think the man who makes cool things out of copper was there for the first time, and his stall was interesting and innovative. This time his stall was not very full, and everything had a tired look about it. I looked for the amazingly painted teapots, and the beautiful woven Maori kite, but none were to be found.

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For a $9 "show", I expect something a bit new, fun and entertaining. Come on Dunkleys, I know you can do better.

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