Craftsman is opening his studio doors to tourism

Woodcraftsman, Paul Williams from Neatishead

Woodcraftsman, Paul Williams from Neatishead - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

A Broads wood craftsman is opening his studio door to visitors this summer - as part of his vision to make arts and crafts a key part of the tourism mix.

Holidaymakers dropping in to Paul Williams' workshop in Water Lane, Neatishead, near Wroxham, will be able to see him making everything from pens and paperweights to bowls and chopping boards.

While the former boatbuilder has been successful in establishing an international reputation - his chopping boards are found in the kitchens of top London restaurants and a batch will shortly be on the way to the shop at the Cresta Run in St Moritz - he hopes his new venture will boost the economy closer to home.

He has joined forces with a dozen other local artists and craftsmen to promote the Two Rivers Trail - visit - around the Rivers Bure and Ant.

The participants, ranging from painters to silversmiths, all opened their doors during the recent Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios event and the aim is to give the public increasing access over time.

Mr Williams, 47, a district councillor who is actively involved in north Norfolk tourism, said: 'People should ring and check that a business is open before dropping by. Mine will be open more than most over the summer.'

He said arts and crafts were an important part of the tourism economy and needed to be better promoted.

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'It is a vast part of what Norfolk is about. Visitors want to see stuff being made and take it home with them,' he said.

Mr Williams, who had to quit boatbuilding after suffering an injury sailing, enjoyed a major breakthrough three years ago when his firm, Woods World Wide by Williams, was chosen to make pens for a prestigious campaign to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz Club and 125 years of Mercedes-Benz.

His chopping boards are currently his biggest seller, supplying, among others, Gordon Ramsay's new Battersea restaurant, but he is seeing the market picking up again for polished wooden bowls.

He said he had weathered the economic downturn by maintaining his quality and pricing rather than going downmarket like some other crafts people.

'For a long time people have been wanting to buy things that were practical and useable; the upsurge in interest in wooden bowls shows that an appetite for luxury goods is returning,' he said.

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