I was driving back from work yesterday down Great Western Road in Glasgow’s bustling – and traditionally independent-focused – West End. Depressingly, I noted yet another mini supermarket (Tesco Express) being prepared for opening, a block down from a Co-op and directly across from a Sainsbury’s local.
Oh, the reasons for my bitterness. Of course an element of personal experience is there from when we had our shop but the reality of the matter is that these shops are killing off artisan businesses wherever they land both by taking their business and by pushing up the cost of renting premises. The appeal of everything in one place is a strong one, I know I for one don’t have a day each week to wander down the high street popping in to six different shops. But – as a result of our changing shopping habits, our high streets are becoming identical. I know I can walk into an average UK town and find either a Tesco, Asda or Sainsburys. There’ll be McDonalds, Starbucks, Costa – all nearby. The idea of known brands being “quality” pervades, and little independents paying significantly more in overheads and raw materials struggle on, hoping that by continuing to do what they do they’ll change hearts and minds.
Anyway, with this frustration rumbling on for me and Christmas rapidly approaching my sister and I wandered along to the Glasgow Country Living Fair last weekend excited to be surrounded with independent businesses and handmade loveliness all in one place.
Except – it wasn’t quite like that. Big booths taken up by retailers selling imported tat at a high markup whilst the independents and their tiny yet hugely expensive stalls were squeezed in around. How can an artisan compete? How can someone handmaking their gorgeous wares sell their item at a reflective price when two booths along, mass-produced goods are a fraction of the price? It was quite infuriating for me, more so as on top of the exhibitors being charged a high price for their stalls visitors were also being charged a high price for entry. Also though, it made me sad that Country Living were happy to facilitate such an expensive exercise for these independents.
Anyway. I took some photographs of stalls I loved. Please do pop over and check them out.
1. Mansefield Studios – ceramics by Tom Butcher
I’ve been a fan of Tom Butchers functional stoneware for quite some time and indeed, have my heart set on the gorgeous square mugs that Tom says are “…largely inspired by books from my childhood, books that got brought out again when our own kids came along – Quentin Blake and the Mr Men series in particular.” Check them out!
2. Do You Punctuate.
This was the first time I’d come across Bec and her stunning, hilarious (and occasionally naughty!) letterpress printed goods. This was the first stall I stopped at to explore, and I’m glad I did! I’ve got her shop bookmarked for future use – have a look and see for yourself.
My favourite DYP card:
3. Kat Goldin designs
I’ve read Kat’s blog and followed her on twitter for years now, so it was lovely to finally meet her in person. On top of running this supercute stall, Kat was also teaching people how to crochet. Sadly, Steph and I were heading to work and couldn’t stay for Kat’s workshop but I hear it was amazing fun! On top of being a best-selling author, Kat sells crochet & knitting kits in her shop. Go! Look!
4. Jaggedy Thistle
Jaggedy Thistle is a Mum-and-daughter operated business with a difference. Daughter Poppy is just 8 years old! When we passed Jaggedy Thistle the eyecatching, bright and cheerful stall immediately caught our eye. They sell some gorgeous handpainted birch decorations, and also some supercute DIY kits. I’ll be picking up a few of these for my four, something to keep them busy on Boxing Day. Have a wee look yourself and see what you think.
5. The Caurnie Soaperie
Caurnie Soapery is the oldest and the last working soaperie operating the cold process method in the world, and they’re based just outside Glasgow. Their stall was so rustic and eyecatching, Steph and I went for a good sniff and bought some of their nettle soap for Steph’s son who has terrible eczema. Gorgeous!
6. Flossy Teacake
I have to admit to confusion as I have read Flossie Teacakes for many a year, and this is not the same person as Flossy Teacake. Phew!
Flossy Teacake sells gorgeous mixed-media ceramic and fabric creations. The stall was beautifully eyecatching, but by the time we got here we had to run to work so we didn’t explore it. Wish I had! The Flossy Teacake website is uniquely lovely – definitely have a wee looksee.
7. Circle Ceramics
I actually own a gorgeous Circle Ceramics original – surprise, surprise it’s an Owl & The Pussycat! Ceramist Sandra is based in Edinburgh at the Coburg House Art Studios and her work is just beautiful. If you’re in or near Edinburgh this weekend (7-8th December) they have an open studio shopping event, so do pop in and buy some beautiful original art & craftworks.
If you have recommendations for handmade gifts, or if you are yourself a maker – please do leave a link in the comments