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It is with much sadness, but a huge thank you for all her work, that we bid farewell to our outgoing Chair Sarah Thane. Here is an article written by SCS member Clare Gaylard about Sarah's time at the helm. 
 
The outgoing Chair of the Suffolk Craft Society, Sarah Thane CBE, took office at a challenging time for this thriving and respected Society of artists and craftspeople in Suffolk. The rent and rates for Gallery 2 in Ipswich had risen so much that it was no longer viable, and this longstanding and respected organisation faced an uncertain financial future in its current form. Eight years later, and it turns out that was just one of the huge challenges the Society would face during Sarah's tenure. Extensive preparations were almost complete for the fiftieth anniversary of the Society when Covid and the lockdowns struck. To compound this, the long-term venue for the Society's summer exhibition, the Peter Pears Gallery in Aldeburgh changed hands in 2021 leaving us without a venue for our flagship Summer Exhibition. Yet despite all these and other challenges, Sarah leaves the Society in great shape, with 90 members, a rising membership, new and exciting venues hosting regular exhibitions, its finances in excellent shape, an active committee and a strong media and online presence. 
 
It was Founder-Chair John Jacob who introduced Sarah to the SCS as a likely customer when they were professionally involved with Suffolk Group Radio in the 1980s. But it was Alison Dane who years later approached her friend Sarah, to consider chairing the SCS, realising she had a rare combination of artistic flair, experience running and fronting large public bodies, and a love of Suffolk. Sarah grew up in an artistic and art-appreciating family. A complex, repousse metal plate with a graceful floral motif that her mother made, is on display in Sarah's home and demonstrates a high level of design awareness and craftsmanship. Sarah works complex tapestries, enjoying their meditative and progressional quality; she paints with watercolours and is a keen photographer with a strong sense of composition and mastery of the camera. Her home is filled with art and crafts in all media (many items from SCS Makers) and attests to her appreciation and eye for quality. Sarah’s background in broadcasting and radio and television regulation culminated in a position on the senior board of Ofcom, Chair of Royal TV Society and consultant to the BBC and the National Lottery Commission. This led to her being awarded the CBE, given to her personally by the Queen, having been supported by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell MP. Sarah has also served as a Magistrate for fifteen years in Suffolk. 
 
Sarah's first visits to Suffolk from London predate it's major highways,and took in SCS summer exhibitions at Aldeburgh and the world-class Aldeburgh music concerts at Snape Maltings. Having grown up among the orderly country gardens of the areas around Birmingham, she came to appreciate the rambling Suffolk countryside and the subtle and distinctive beauty of our coast and estuaries, in and out of season. She has lived in Suffolk now for many years, and her home and garden are testament to a great project of adaptation and conservation undertaken by Sarah and her husband. 
 
On taking over the Chair, ably and strongly supported by many including past Vice Chair Sally Freer, Sarah concentrated on the need to consolidate SCS finances. She oversaw the end of our tenure at Gallery 2 (managed by Sarah Young with volunteers from makers and The Friends who were and are a lynchpin in the Society) and sought to move the group forward to new venues and structures, while elevating the profile of crafts. Without a permanent base, Sarah invested in promoting the Society across various media, developing publicity with the inspired and generous support of Jane Lindill of Suffolk Magazine and Andrew Clarke of EADT. 
 
When lockdown struck, Sarah led the committee in the shift to online meetings and conducted online AGMs for the whole membership. During Covid what should have been a Summer Exhibition was commuted into a successful series of pop-up exhibitions to support our Makers. During this time, the website had a complete overhaul and an SCS Online Shop was created. A Hardship Fund was established for our Makers, who were adversely impacted by the loss of events and exhibitions. Sarah oversaw a subscription holiday and recently the Committee initiated a lower commission for exhibitions and continuing lower subscription rates. 
 
An education program of workshop visits took place with Framlingham College in 2021, and the Society held highly successful, first-time exhibitions at The Longshed in Woodbridge and The Guildhall in Bury St Edmunds - remarkable and very different venues for us, each apt in its own way. The Guildhall places SCS in central Suffolk, in a beautifully conserved historic building dating from the 12th Century. The Longshed is a spacious, modern workshop and gallery on the River Deben near the coast, created to house the building of a replica Sutton Hoo burial ship. The SCS will return to both these venues in 2022. 
 
Sarah's time as Chair has required a hands-on attitude as well as business experience. She says she 'has always believed in being on the shop floor', and has consequently stewarded at exhibitions, assisted on many of the heavy-lifting and deeply unglamorous 'Lorry Days' for our Summer Exhibitions, and turned up with her car filled with essential supplies for our Private Views. This personal involvement has given her considerable pleasure as well as an insight into all the activities of the Society. It has also meant a huge investment of her time and energy for others. 
 
As artists and makers, we have to work hard to balance our planning, administration and creative time. Sarah will continue to support SCS from the sidelines as she calls her time at the helm: ‘A pleasure and a privilege’, but now she has plans to honour her creative side. Next up for her - attending West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. 
 
Clare Gaylard 
 
Pictured below is Sarah with some of the works from society members that she has collected over the years. 
 
Sarah with a weaving by the late Doreen Sanderson
Works owned by Sarah from John Chipperfield and Jon Warnes
Sarah holding a plate by Dennis Hales, with furniture by Niall Craig and a plaque by former member Karen Risby in the background
Tagged as: Chair, Sarah Thane
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