10 hidden treasures of Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre

We share some of our favourite hidden treasures of Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough. Have you ever turned the key to open our storytelling tree? Or followed the carved peacock feathers to see where they lead? Did you know there's a place where you can stand to create the perfect echo? Read on to discover these hidden gems and more!

For 21 years the Arts & Crafts Centre has attracted tourists, engaged community groups, and created a vibrant space in the heart of Knaresborough. From opening our doors to just 50 people in 1998 we now work with over 180 Art Makers each week, promoting life and social skills and supporting them to be more independent in their everyday lives. We welcome thousands of visitors each year to explore our gardens, visit our cafe or to join the fun at one of our family friendly events.

As we celebrate our 21st birthday this year we want to explore some of the unique hidden treasures at Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre which you might not know about.

1. Sit in our storytelling tree

If you wander into the courtyard you will find two huge tree carvings, made by sculptor Colin Wilborn from donated trees. One of these trees is a story chair with hinged doors on the trunk. Turn the big metal key to open them and reveal a magnificently carved throne where you can sit for a while and imagine. Or tell your own story inspired by the painted images in and around the trees.

2. Tune into your senses

At the entrance to the Arts & Crafts Centre you will find a sculpture designed by Amanda Wray which focuses on all of the senses. Search for the hand reading Braille, spot the giant eye or notice the curved ears sticking out from the wall in this resin-moulded sculpture. It symbolises the importance of all the senses and the work we do here.

3. Explore carved handrails inspired by nature

Head towards the cafe area from the main entrance and find the handrails on the walls. Each corner has a different design to discover. Run your fingers across carved peacock feathers, knotted leaves dotted with ladybirds, an ear of corn surrounded by field insects and waves of water swirling around embossed fish designs. This intricate, creative and accessible feature enables Art Makers with visual impairments to orientate themselves around the centre. The hand rails themselves were carved from lime wood and designed by Nicola Henshaw, who learned of her distant relation to Thomas Henshaw, founder of Henshaws, whilst she was working on the project!

4. Spot the rainbows

We love rainbows and our Art Makers do too! A wander around our workshop windows is a chance to spot colourful designs handmade in materials from clay to wood. See how many rainbows you can count – extra points if you can find our giant mosaic rainbow with a sunburst mirror beneath it!

5. Visit our Open Studios

Did you know that the doors to our workshops are open from 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday? We would love you to come in and discover what we’re making. Our Art Makers create beautiful pieces including ceramics, beaded jewellery, paper mache sculptures, mosaic mirrors and colourful wooden furniture. Many of the items are for sale in our shop and all profits go straight back into supporting the centre. We also have an online gift shop run by our Art Makers.

6. Taste Henshaws Br:ale; root and fruit beer

As part of our birthday celebrations we were lucky enough to have a blonde ale brewed exclusively for us by 4 of Harrogate and Knaresborough’s finest independent breweries. Daleside, Roosters, Harrogate Brewing Co. and Cold Bath Brewing Co. created the ginger and rhubarb ale using local ingredients and it was available during our Beer Festival event this May. This year’s supply of Henshaws Br:ale has all gone but please look out for its return at future events. Every pint you buy will help us to continue changing the lives of disabled people in the community.

7. Dip your toes in the sand

This one might not be quite so secret but in case you didn’t know, every August our courtyard area is transformed into a beach with 60 tonnes of sand, deckchairs, buckets and spades! The urban beach is running from Sunday 4th – Sunday 25th August 2019 and we have a host of family-friendly activities including singing, crafting, dancing and fancy dress. Find our full timetable on our beach events page

8. Find the perfect echo

If you stand in the entrance to the Arts & Crafts Centre, in the middle of the rotunda with the gates behind you, you can find the perfect echo. The building has been designed so that sounds bounce off the walls and back to you – give it a try next time you visit!

9. Explore our plant centre and sculptures

Head to the right of the woodwork room and you will come to a lesser visited part of the centre. Our gardens are full of flowers at this time of year and our horticulture group are busy growing fresh fruit and vegetables. We have two polytunnels and we even grow plants to sell so you can pick up something to take home to your garden. Or just enjoy a relaxing walk around the colourful setting including our giant mosaic chair, softpot garden and wooden toadstools.

10. Discover Henshaws art in the community

We are very lucky to be working with some wonderful local businesses to display artwork that our Art Makers have created. If you pop into Marigolds cafe or Six Poor Folk you can see some of the latest artwork being exhibited. And we are really excited to share with you that this Summer we are working with Knaresborough Castle on a pop up zoo exhibition – bringing our artwork to unexpected places. Lots more details coming soon.

Do you have any of your own favourite places to add? Have we missed a piece of artwork or area of the centre which is special to you? We’d love to hear them so please let us know in the comments.

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Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.

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