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Craft NI – Contemporary Craft Sector Research Study 2016 – Final Report

In 2016, Craft NI commissioned a research study of the craft sector in Northern Ireland, in order to develop a full and comprehensive picture of the sector. The objective was to provide Craft NI with data on the composition and needs of the sector, in order to help them to continue to support and develop makers.

Following the review of previous surveys and reports to establish baselines and facilitate benchmarking, a focus group was held with Craft NI which included identified influencers in the sector to review and approve a questionnaire. Type AB developed, tested and distributed this questionnaire as an online survey to capture comprehensive data on the creative sector in Northern Ireland.

Results of the survey have been analysed and key findings are detailed below.

Key findings

Profile of craft businesses

  • A higher percentage of makers are located in rural settings.
  • There is a great disparity of responses and/or makers across council areas.
  • The majority of makers are sole traders.
  • The majority of makers produce their crafts at home.
  • The majority of makers have been in business for less than five years.
  • 94% of makers have no employees.
  • The estimated total number of makers in Northern Ireland is 7001.


Profile of makers

  • The highest percentage of makers are craft careerists.
  • The primary discipline of makers is ceramics at 23.8%. This is in line with the UK but has reduced since 2012.
  • The age profile of makers in Northern Ireland is getting younger.
  • Females make up 70% of the craft sector.
  • 94% of the sector in Northern Ireland indicate their ethnicity as white.


Sales and turnover

  • The highest volume of activity and turnover is generated by commissions.
  • The volume of activity and turnover is generated through third party online sales.
  • The main export markets are Republic of Ireland and GB.
  • The lead activity for generating other-craft related income is workshops and master classes.
  • The primary digital platform used for sales and marketing is Facebook.
  • The annual total income for the sector is £14,560,000.
  • This equates to an annual turnover of £20,800 per maker.


Business development and growth

  • The highest grouping of makers define their business as surviving and covering overheads.
  • 24% of businesses are start ups and are dominated by craft careerists which is in line with the UK.
  • The main growth priority for respondents in the next three years is sales followed by digital sales and digital marketing.


Craft NI support and services

  • The service used by the highest volume of makers was events including August Craft Month. The next most used was the online directory.
  • The service least used overall was the craft resource and exhibition space.
  • The service least respondents were aware of was funding advice.
  • Satisfaction among service users was largely positive.
  • Additional support was requested most in sales and marketing.



A number of recommendations have been made in the full report, which incorporate findings from the survey, their relevance and potential impact to the sector.

Recommendations should be incorporated into future plans of the organisation which is currently designing the 2017 – 2020 strategy. An action plan will then be developed to clearly identify actions and targets to deliver on the recommendations and the full three year plan.

Download the comprehensive report HERE.

Image: Work by Catherine Keenan.



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