A shop called 'The Craftsmen's Shop' was set up in 1952 in Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall, by David Leach (son of Bernard Leach) in partnership with Robin Nance, a furniture maker. The shop stocked Leach standard ware together with toys, ties, sandals, basketware and giftware. After Bernard Leach's marriage in 1956 to Janet Darnell the partnership ended, and Janet Leach registered the business under her name 1959. In 1964 she opened a further shop, which she called 'New Craftsman', at No. 24 Fore Street. At first it stocked one-off pieces of furniture, Caithness Glass and leather goods, extending its range later to ceramics.
In 1967 Janet Leach went into partnership with a friend, Mary ('Boots') Redgrave, in a company called 'Craft Contracts'. Mary Redgrave (MR), born on 18th March 1923 (maiden name Mary Crinkley), had been disowned by her parents when she got together with an artist, William (Bill) Redgrave, with whom she had two children, Stella, born in 1948, and Nicholas, born in 1949. She married Redgrave, and they moved to Cornwall when he developed tuberculosis, MR having been stationed at Sennen Cove with the WAAF during the Second World War. The family moved to St Ives in 1953, and were deeply involved in the town's artistic community, Bill Redgrave setting up an art school, St Peter's Loft, together with Peter Lanyon. The marriage ended shortly after the family moved to 'Trevaylor', a large house bought by Nancy Wynn-Jones, where MR established a lodging-house for artists. It was when the house was sold in 1966 that Janet Leach offered her a new occupation as part of the 'Craft Contracts' partnership, and MR rented Heather Cottage near Nancledra, where she lived for the rest of her life.
Michael Hunt, a friend of MR, was appointed manager of both shops, and managed 'New Craftsman' during the whole of the 'Craft Contracts' partnership, the remainder of MR's life and during Stella Redgrave's ownership. The shops were open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the summer, to 6 p.m. in the winter. The working day started at 7, collecting stock in MR's mini traveller van from the shops' store at Bowlrock Chapel, Lelant Downs. MR, and sometimes Janet Leach, attended trade fairs, and also bought direct from artists including Hans Coper and Lucie Rie.
The shop at No 30 Fore Street closed in 1975, and its stock was transferred to 'New Craftsman', but the shop was too crowded, and a decision was taken to restrict stock to craft items, pictures and hand-made objects. It now stocks paintings and prints by artists living and working in Cornwall, sculpture, a wide range of studio pottery, and a varied range of contemporary crafts including glass, automata, papier mache, wood, jewellery, ceramic sculptures and metalwork. It was one of the original thirteen shops chosen by the Crafts Council to represent high-quality British workmanship.
Janet Leach died in 1997, and Mary Redgrave continued to run the shop at No 24 until her own death in 2002. Her children inherited it, and Stella Redgrave retired from her career as a social worker in child protection to run the shop, with Nicholas as a sleeping partner. They sold the shop as a business in April 2008 to local entrepreneurs Paul and Ylenia Haase, who continue to run it as a craft shop and gallery, retaining Michael Hunt and Sarah Watson on the staff.