A few days ago, Mr Namasi and I sent this message to our sons:
Dad and I don’t want you to buy gifts for us, please. It will be our great pleasure to have you home for Christmas and to be able to feed and spoil you for that time time. That will be enough for us. We’re not even buying each other gifts this year, choosing instead to do some nice things together.
They have enough expenses. Now that our sons have left the nest, seeing them is beyond any of the gifts their limited budgets could stretch to. One of our sons became a student this academic year, at the age of 25. The other recently had a car accident in which his little car was totalled. That’s one part of it.
Another part is the stuff. We moved twice in a year. The first time, we shed possessions as part of the normal moving process. Then we promptly became the repository of masses of furniture as first one and then the other son moved in with us temporarily, bringing all their furniture, and then moved out into furnished places, leaving their possessions behind. The second time we moved house, we downsized significantly and shed yet more stuff. We still have more than we have space for, even after a fairly successful yard sale in the summer, and an ongoing relationship with Facebook Marketplace, local ‘for sale’ sites, Freecycle and the like.
We have reached the stage in our lives when it’s hard to choose gifts for us. Particularly if you’re on a tight budget. I mean, I’d love to attend one of Emma Mitchell’s (aka Silver Pebble) workshops, but they come with a price tag beyond the reach of pretty much everyone buying gifts for me. So the fallback tends to be gimmick gifts which raise a laugh when they are opened, and add to the general merriment of the occasion. What’s lovely about these is that they show how well a person knows you. What’s less lovely is that they tend to end up in landfill once you get past the guilt of throwing away something given to you as a gift.
Yet another part is the wrapping. Around this time of year, we begin to see articles about the environmental impact of Christmas wrapping. We are reminded to do the scrunch test, to see whether wrapping paper is recyclable.
But that doesn’t really help with the packaging the gifts come in: the boxes and plastic and tissue paper and and and.
So many aspects of Christmas can be… is unseemly the word I’m looking for? The shops become a deeply stressful place to be. The foods that no-one enjoys are served up because it’s traditional. People spend money they can ill afford on gifts for people they scarcely know. Vast quantities of alcohol are consumed to alleviate the stress of the whole business. Masses of packaging is included in the next few kerbside garbage collections.
And it needn’t be like that. Why not leave out the food no-one likes, and replace it with something you do like? Make it part of your family’s unique Christmas tapestry. Support independent shops or local makers, artisans and crafters when choosing your gifts. Explore alternative ways of wrapping gifts that don’t have a massive environmental impact.
Consider intangible gifts: indoor skydiving, a spa treatment, a tank driving experience, membership of English Heritage/National Trust.
So many posts have been written on this subject, I feel as I would just be reinventing the wheel to go on. So I’ll steer you towards this post which contains several workable suggestions.
This post is my gentle request for a little more respect for lifestyle businesses. Because of the inherent flexibility that goes with such a business, I’ve noticed that people seem to forget that it is still a business: commitments and deadlines must still be met, bills must still be paid, quality standards must still be achieved.
You may be unfamiliar with the term ‘lifestyle business’. Wikipedia defines it as follows:
A business set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of sustaining a particular level of income and no more; or to provide a foundation from which to enjoy a particular lifestyle.
On the other hand, perhaps you are familiar with the term. Perhaps you even have a lifestyle business yourself. In that case, although you probably stand to learn nothing new from this post, I’d love to hear your take on things in the comments.
A lifestyle business tends to be so much an integral part of the… well, lifestyle of the business owner, that it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. It is well suited to crafters, artisans, artists, smallholders and the permaculture community. And, it is as I type these words that I realise how consistent this approach is with everything I stood for in my previous career in the field of Learning and Development ( I was all about the embedded learning/performance support approach).
People with lifestyle businesses will tend to define success somewhat differently from the many publications to be found in the self-help section. I have frequently observed that many of the programmes designed to help people become ‘successful’ seem to equate success with wealth. I guess, if your goal is to amass wealth, and you manage to do that, you have succeeded. But what if your goal is to be happy? Fulfilled? Contented? If you achieve wealth, does it follow that you are successful?
Mr Namasi will attest to the fact that I am not very good at doing nothing. When we’re travelling somewhere, if he’s driving, I’m keeping up to date with my various social media feeds, completing a killer sudoku or three, or even doing some or other handcraft in the passenger seat. The same goes for train journeys. And I am incapable of watching television with idle hands. I can complete a knitting/crochet/beading/cross-stitch project during the course of a couple of movies. Most of the pieces I make in this fashion find their way onto my Facebook page, my Folksy shop, and/or this site. Some people may view these items as the by-product of otherwise dead time. As such, there can be the expectation that they should be dirt cheap.
People who buy handmade items generally respect that the time and effort that go into them must be factored in, and will usually far outweigh the cost of the materials used. But not everyone appreciates this. I once fielded a query from someone who wanted to know how I could justify charging £180 for a custom made hall stand. On another occasion, a potential client wanted me to restore some vintage toolboxes for £10 each. And one lady almost lost her eyebrows in her hairline when she saw the price tag on of one of my handmade lacy shawls (£45 – see picture).
To be honest, if I were even to pay myself minimum wage for the time spent on the pieces I make, my prices would be a lot higher. Many lifestyle businesses are charging far lower prices than they ought to, and still struggling to find buyers. Particularly those who haven’t been featured on TV, and don’t have the sort of reach and clout to be able to price our work realistically.
So, I’d like to make some suggestions about dealing with friends/family members/acquaintances with lifestyle businesses:
Quid pro quo, deals and understandings
People with lifestyle businesses are often in the fortunate position to be able to barter services:
I’ll give you the milk from my goat, if you’ll give me back half the resultant cheese.
I’ll let you display your items in this part of my shop, if you’ll mind the store x hours per week.
If you display some of my promotional material in your B&B, I’ll give you a commission on any resultant sales.
They may or may not put these barters through the ‘books’ – that’s a different conversation. But it’s best to ensure that both parties feel that there is parity between the quid and the quo.
If you are asking for a favour, and don’t plan to pay for it, it’s important to make sure that this is clear up front.
Do consider whether it is appropriate for you to be asking this favour, though. Is the work involved something that your friend normally charges for? If not, go ahead. If so, bear in mind that the time spent working on your favour could have been spent working on a project that generated an income. Be prepared for the possibility that your friend might turn you down. If you have asked for a favour, bear in mind that you might get bumped if a paying project comes in – everyone has bills to pay. If you want to make sure that your project is as much a priority for your friend as it is for you, the bottom line is that you need to make it worth their while. You have to buy their time.
And, no matter how close your friendship is, you’ll need to bear in mind that your friend may have existing commitments, which need to be met. Even if they wanted to drop everything and leap to your aid, it would be unprofessional of them to do so, and could harm their professional reputation. Be a good friend yourself and recognise that.
Chances are your friend is already offering you ‘mates’ rates’ when quoting you for a project. If you value your friend’s work, the best way to demonstrate that is to pay for it without quibbling over the price. If you’re able to get the same work done by someone else for a better rate, you’re naturally entitled to ask them if they’re able to match that rate (you can do this even if the business doesn’t belong to a friend). They might agree. They might not. They might have good reasons for not being able to match the other price.
If someone admires some work done by your friend, by all means, recommend your friend’s services. But don’t, for goodness’ sake, tell them what you paid. Your friend might have offered you mates’ rates, and might not be keen to offer that same price to anyone else.
Bear in mind that lifestyle businesses tend not to adhere to traditional business hours. So don’t expect work done over the weekend (or while watching TV) to be offered at a lower rate.
Share the love
If you’ve bought some gorgeous thing/had some wonderful work done by a friend with a lifestyle business, give them a shoutout: Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth. If you’re mentioning them online, link to their website or Folksy shop (or whatever it is). Keep a business card or two of theirs to hand in case you encounter someone who’s looking for the sort of thing that your friend is able to supply.
Value the gifts
If your lifestyle business owning friend gives you something they have made or done as a gift, bear in mind that they put time and effort into that piece. Whether or not they custom made it for you, they would have been able to charge someone else for it, but chose to give it to you instead. Please don’t look on it as being ‘less than’.
My son moonlights as a massage therapist. He will often give me a massage as a gift for my birthday or Christmas. Because I so seldom treat myself to a massage, and almost always need one, this is the perfect gift for me. I also recognise that he could use that time slot to give a massage to a paying customer. I don’t chat to him on a mother-son level while he is working. Because he is working, and it would be disrespectful to devalue that work by not relaxing properly and responding as I would if I were a paying client.
If you’re ever in any doubt about what would be appropriate, my best advice is: ASK!
I have a theory. It’s just a theory, mind – I’ve not done the actual research, and it’s all still forming in my head, but here it is:
Long ago, everything was handmade. Everything. Clothes, cooking pots, food, carts, tools, lutes and lute strings…. everything. In such a time, a crafter would strive for elusive perfection – seeking to make an item as close to flawless as possible. So a cooking pot would be as close to perfectly round as the artisan could manage, with the metal showing minimal dents and flaws. A shoe would be well-fitted, with stitching as near to uniform neatness as could be achieved by the human hand. Those capable of achieving such near-perfection would often work their mark into the goods they made, so that customers who appreciated quality would see that mark on a much admired piece and seek out the maker, to place an order of their own.
Then came mechanisation. The perfection that machines could achieve became sought after instead. Initially, these machine-made items were comparatively scarce and expensive… and therefore eminently desirable. If you admired someone else’s dinner service, you could (as long as you had the money) get an exact copy of that service yourself. Every plate would be exactly the same size, perfectly round and absolutely flawless. If your suit of clothing was machine sewn, every stitch would be of uniform length. The tension in your machine-knitted hose would be perfect and uniform. Oh, the admiring glances you could garner with your machine tooled whatever-it-was..!
But then machine made became ubiquitous. Clothes, cooking pots, food, cars, tools, guitars and guitar strings. Everything except baskets, apparently:
Nowadays, the only way to be unique, is to have things that have been handmade. And those little imperfections that show that a thing is handmade – the slightest inconsistency of tension in that scarf, the hint of unevenness in the surface of a copper pot, the smallest deviations from uniformity – those have become sought after. They speak of the person who worked on the item. They speak of a connection between the raw materials, the hands of the crafter and the enjoyment of the owner. Machines don’t think of you when they churn out their endless streams of perfection. The crafter invests him/herself into each item. Selects the materials. Takes pleasure in the making. Takes delight in your appreciation. Feels gratitude for your purchase.
We are so busy, so pressed for time. We have also moved a lot of our relationships into virtual spaces. Email, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…. And even those can be somewhat manufactured, as we choose what to reveal and conceal about ourselves in those spaces. That sense of connection to people with skin on is what has become scarce now. That whole warts-and-all thing. And we want that in our possessions as well.
The Scandinavian word ‘hygge’ has been adopted to describe that sense of connection with the real, the pleasantly imperfect. Some definitions:
Though there are many ways to describe hygge, we see it simply as the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Friends. Family. Graciousness. Contentment. Good feelings. A warm glow. ~Skagen
…a concept, originating in Denmark, of creating cosy and convivial atmospheres that promote wellbeing ~Collins English Dictionary
In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life. ~Visit Denmark
My theory is that:
We value that which is hard to come by – the whole scarcity thing in economics centres around this. If perfection is impossible, we want it. If perfection is the norm, we want a kind of imperfection which seems superior to that perfection. There’s also the cost element – machine made items are cheaper (at the moment, anyway), handmade is more expensive, ergo harder to come by, ergo more desirable.
We admire that which is hard to attain. The elite in China used to wear their nails long as a sign that they didn’t need to do any work. Anyone who had to work with their hands was never going to be able to grow their nails like that (and as someone who has never been able to have long, painted nails without artificial assistance, I can attest to this!) Think about standards in women’s beauty. In times/cultures when/where food is scarce, it’s the voluptuous woman who is admired. In times/cultures where food is plentiful and lifestyles sedentary, fat and lazy are easy to ‘achieve’, so our beauty standards range from painfully thin to powerfully athletic.
We want to feel connected – in a world where so much can be achieved remotely, we yearn to connect on a human level, and the slight imperfections in handcrafted goods speak of that humanity
We are becoming more conscious of our impact on the planet, and reusing, repurposing, upcycling and all those good things enable us to tread more gently upon the earth, as it were.
My passion for Driftwood was born when I discovered and fell in love with Cornwall.
Walking along the beautiful beaches provide me with, what I can only describe as ‘Treasure’. The moment that I pick up that piece of wood I know exactly what it’s going to be, the climb back up the cliff with a heavy backpack full of wood is all part of the fun.
Having an outlet for my creations is more of a relief than a job; I have so many ideas constantly filling my head.
I am self taught with only a background in creative den building, Born in East Yorkshire and moving (escaping) to Cornwall in 1994. Yorkshire made me practical and Cornwall give me the freedom to create; the two together make a good combination.
I make a wide range of furniture, lighting and home accessories from Driftwood and other recycled materials.
I’ve been doing this for 22 years (half my life), but I turned it into a business back in 2008. All my driftwood is hand picked in Cornwall and sometimes Devon if I am brave enough to cross the Border :-).
At Vandalised with Love, we love to bring you something different. Creative Acts of Vandalisation, be it from elegant flower hair clips or sophisticated fascinators and crowns, to crazy fun hatinators, accessories and unique and interesting pieces for your home. We can also custom re-design (‘vandalise with love’) your own shoes – you buy the shoes or send us your old, scuffed shoes and send them to us.
Vandalised with Love
Perfect to revamp your old but comfortable shoes and make them match your outfit. Prices start from £35 when you send us your shoes. We will ‘vandalise’ them with love and return free of charge. All of our shoes are handcrafted to order, ensuring each piece is unique.
We also make shoe clips, clutch bags and fascinators to enhance and match your shoes. Take a look through our pages for inspiration and feel free to contact us with any questions.
We cover shoes using the French art known as decoupage. Thin layers of beautiful specialist paper, sealed and varnished with high quality materials; surfaces are therefore not entirely smooth but have a lovely unique finish.
All our treasures are one-offs and ‘vandalised with love’ just for you.
I discovered my passion for making my own vegan soaps after I tried a delightful handmade bar of soap from a Wiccan store in New Orleans, Louisiana.
I am committed to using all natural, high quality ingredients, sourced from around the globe. Charity is also a very important aspect of my business vision: one bar of soap is donated to a local homeless shelter for every 10 bars purchased.
I’m happy to be sharing my passion for soapmaking with you and I hope you love my soaps just as much as I do!
Emma Louise Corry is a textile designer and maker, who lives in Marcham, Oxfordshire, with her husband, daughter, two cats and a hamster. Emma creates beautiful pieces using carefully chosen new and upcycled fabric with attention to detail, colour and design.
Emma remembers the first time she borrowed her mother’s Elna sewing machine, she was about 8 years old. Emma spent a long time teaching herself to thread it and sew with it. Recently Emma bought the same model, as it evokes so many lovely memories. Emma has always been creative – her mother tells stories of handmade paper being made in her blender and printing wrapping paper on the kitchen floor – but Emma’s love of textiles really began when she started her two-year diploma at Worthing College for Art and Design in 1984.
After Emma’s diploma, she completed a three-year degree course in Fashion and Textiles at Leicester Polytechnic, followed by a two-year MA in Woven Textile Design at the Royal College of Art in London. Graduating in 1991 – Emma was only 20 years old! After leaving the RCA, Emma worked as a freelance textile designer for a short period, then for Monsoon, followed by a job designing window displays for a family run business. Emma started her own greetings card company, specialising in handmade cards. Now that has grown into Emma Corry Designs, which Emma runs from her studio at home, whilst also organising ‘Stitch and Sew’ clubs for primary school children and giving textile support to ‘A’ level students.
In what has proved to be a fairly hectic week, here are the makers and crafters I promoted. Almosty all this week’s crafter’s have chosen to keep a low profile, sharing little about themselves online, preferring to let their work to speak for them.
I have been making jewellery for several years gradually learning my trade since 2009.
Max Pring Jewellery
I am primarily self taught and started out making classic designs using beads and string developing my skills through practice and gradually progressed into metalsmithing in the past year.
I usually start with basic metal sheet in either copper or silver and then cut, sand, hammer, drill and polish my work to create unusual designs. I often draw my designs on my i-pad first then sit down with my tools to turn the sketch into a piece of jewellery.
I also love to work with unusual gemstones and try to incorporate my own metal components or wire wire wrapping, these tend to be organic with the design built up around the stones.
Most of my work is one of a kind and rarely repeated. As well as jewellery I also love to paint and create mixed media work and scrapbooks. You can find these in my other Folksy Shop Paper, Chains & Beads.
Here is the summary of the makers and crafters I promoted this week. Several of them have display space in Grace and Favours in Northampton. So you have two ways to support them: visit their online spaces or pop in to the shop.
Remember: when you buy from an independent maker, a real live person does a little happy dance.
Laura and Carly Butter Bee Creative Handmade cards and other small craft items in aid of the refurbishment of the chemotherapy suite at Northampton General Hospital.
Butter Bee Creative
Laura and Carly began raising money for the Chemotherapy Suite after Carly lost her Nan to cancer in August 2014. Andrea was very keen to raise money herself for the new unit and began stitching items when she was in hospital.
Leading on from this, we’d really like to raise as much money as possible for such a great cause.
Deema started collecting petals for confetti in 2016 when she fell in love with the fluttery nature of Cherry Blossom in the Spring! Her business has now grown to include a co-operative of pickers and stylists who help to create vibrant petal mixes, favours, cards, gifts and accessories, all hand-made, seasonal and to order, perfect for any celebration!
Take some of the stress and decision making out of planning a wedding by letting me help with those finishing touches. Together, we can create beautiful memories that will last you a life time! What better way to start your married life together?
Beautifully Bespoke Confetti, gifts, cards and accessories taken care of just for you. Memorable, unique, colourful and fun!
Beautiful hand-crafted decorations and gifts. Any quotes on slate hearts for very reasonable prices gifts and favours. Bespoke orders accepted.
Emma Wootton The Velvet Company A collection of beautiful Room Scents in a simple yet elegant English style.
The Velvet Company
Hand poured, using the finest scents and soya wax at our location in Northamptonshire, England, we offer a indulgent and sophisticated choice of candles and room scents . We pride ourselves in every detail with each candle and room scent, we believe that every product should arrived beautifully wrapped in its own gift box, so treat yourself or someone special to a gorgeous scent which will give your room the most beautiful scent, with the added effect of our crackle wick candles giving the soothingly crackle when lit of a relaxing ambiance of an open fire.
In addition to our our gorgeous candles,we also offer gift boxes for those who are looking for something extra to go with their candle.
Theresa Meen TLC (Theresa’s Lovely Crafts) Mixed media artist. A small selection of my art is based in Grace & Favour shop. Also able to do commissions too.
I used to have a sensible job . . . then a house bunny, oh and two children came along! I needed a job I could do at home. As I had been bending wire, making and selling earrings since I was 18 (oh so many moons ago!) and I adore Jewellery, it seemed a natural progression to further develop my silversmithing skills and start my own jewellery making business. Iddy Biddy Boutique was born!
I like to think my designs are fresh & funky, with an organic yet modern twist! I create jewellery in mostly silver and copper. I like to oxidise the metals, adding spirals and swirls where I get the chance . . . love them! More recently, I am working with gemstones in my designs . . . ooh so many lush ones to choose from!
All of my designs are original. I get my inspiration and ideas from absolutely everywhere! My head is constantly bombarded with ideas for my next creation.
After all these years, my favourite place to be is still in my workshop (kitchen!) with my tools and bunny by my feet! I absolutely love what I do and I think that is evident in every piece I make.
I sell online, at local Craft Fairs around the North Devon area and my work can also be found at the following venues: Willows in Braunton & Barnstaple ID Fashion in The Royal William Yard, Plymouth Traditsia in Totnes Dream Jewellery in Tavistock Market.
My name is Jacky! I am used to be an accountant at the first time, but now I am a shopkeeper on ETSY, JackyStyle is a hand-crafted collection of corset for women.
An accidental opportunity, when I browse on google, pop up a page at this time, this page was introduced some sexy corset and there are many stars wear it, they are looked very sexy, beautiful and confident. I was deeply attracted by them.
So I was keep collecting information about corset, the corset was firmly cemented in dress history as one of the most important garments across the world, constantly evolving with the times whilst retaining its unique premise of shaping the human silhouette. I think the garment will be accepted and loved by women.
Then I plan to start a business on Etsy, I consult with my brother Jianhui, he is a designer and paper pattern maker, And we are sure the style of the CORSET in my shop. Sexy, punk, retro style is my leading direction.
Custom-made clothing may sound like something only possible in the world of celebrities but I will make it happen for you at affordable price. Every item is handmade by me in my little studio! I custom make each item – just for you!
I live in the UK, London.
Etsy has been a great success for my friend, encouraging me to offer my services and items around the world,
I design, produce and make sure items are perfect and strive to please. Your business is my pleasure!
Noelia and Laura, both co-founders of “Los Tesoros de la Ayalga” We share our surname but luckily we also share a project. Someone could say that since we were just little girls we loved to create, imagine and of course break in to various devices just to check “what was inside” and so we did, but what we would really like to transmit with this is that over the years we still enjoy the urge that arises from an idea that becomes into reality.
Even if we cannot satisfy everybody’s taste we want to be true to our own way of seeing things regardless the current trends, but at the same time we would like to offer the possibility to create something unique and special and customize it to your desire, so since we started this adventure in 2010 we have made an effort each day to ensure that everybody that trusts us and buys any of our creations can actually feel that they were made with love and care. With the help of all of you that have supported us and the new ones that become part of this, we can keep working, improving and offering, after all, a piece of our dream.
The owners of this Etsy shop have provided little information about themselves. I don’t even know their names. However, their hats are beautiful, so they rate a share. As I’ve said several times before – I choose people based purely on their work.
You can purchase many different type of HATs here. ROCK IT NOW ~
Kelly, Married, WAHM. 4 Kids; Simon (11-05) and Sierra (01-07) and Alison (06-09) and Alexander (10-10).
I started PETUNIAS after Simon was born but have really been sewing my entire life. I can remember sewing clothes and sleeping bags for all of my Pound Puppy stuffed animals when I was little. AND crafting and the entrepreneurial spirit run through most of my family lines so it was a pretty natural step for me to begin PETUNIAS!
I am totally addicted to all the wonderful fabric out there and really strive to keep my items fresh, fun, and modern for all of my customers. I also have a great love of designing fabric and more which you will see plenty of in my shop. I hope you love PETUNIAS fresh styles and patterns!
Dawn, my mom, helps me out with listing, shipping, packaging and sewing!
FIND me on FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/PETUNIASbyKelly
I make handmade textiles, specialising in patchwork quilts. My quilts come in many colours & sizes so have a look to see if there’s something to fit your needs.
I love patchwork and embroidery, well anything textiles based really. I started so long ago I’m not sure when and how anymore, I did a lot of cross stitch from about 9 maybe 10 (proper designs from magazines so there must have been previous years of sewing my name on binca) and there was an awful attempt at a scarf around the same time.
I have completed my City & Guilds parts 1 & 2 certificates in Creative Embroidery which was the most wonderful course.
All my items are handmade by myself in a smoke free home.
After traveling in some parts of the world, I became fascinated by different culture and the art of colors. One thing I realized was that, colors had no boundaries. There came the name “Tess World Designs”. It has been demonstrated through floral arrangements, room paintings, cars, make ups and most of all through clothing, to name a few. Coming from Africa, vibrant colors are very much appreciated. One of Ghana’s best known product is Kente Cloth, a hand woven cloth most often associated with wealth and cultural sophistication or royalty. We carry the widest variety of the factory version and the woven kente.
After working out of the home for many years, I am delighted to now open my shop and let out my God given creative talent and desire, that had been in me for all this years come to life.
I have been sewing since I was a little girl starting from dolls, my own clothes, other people, my kids and even my husband.
My love for colors, fabrics and sewing has come to life because of you. I could not have done it without your patronage! Thank you!
As an independent crafter, I like to spread the ‘link love’ and share news of others who are in the same boat.
It was my birthday yesterday, and my friends and family took the trouble to give me gifts that supported small business and independent makers. I’d like to share their details with you. Perhaps you’ve already finished your Christmas shopping, but there are still birthdays, weddings, graduations, mother’s/father’s day and so on…
Jacaranda World Wooden Carvings
This beautiful giraffe carving was brought all the way from Cape Town when my son travelled there to attend a recent wedding. It is the work of Dennis Maguma at Jacaranda World Wooden Carvings, and is made from sustainable timber. He has a stall in the Watershed at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town and can be reached at email@example.com.
These pewter buttons came from someone who knows of my weakness for all things steampunk and my love of sewing. They came from Alchemy England. I shall have to think of something fitting to do with them!
Bath time goodies
This selection of handmade bath time goodies comes from FruFru. I’m a shower person 6 days a week. But on a Sunday night, when Mr Namasi is off playing ice hockey, I treat myself to a soak in the tub with my Sudoku. The friend who gave me these took account of my preferred colours and smells and my love of all things lime. As if that wasn’t enough, the card that came with this gift was handmade, and included a watercolour portrait of me by an artist called Samantha Crowe.
While not strictly a birthday gift, this also arrived today, so I’ll include it: a lovely personalised Christmas bauble, hand painted by Henna Exquisite.
The last few months have been hellish for us. I lost my workshop under unpleasant circumstances (as you know), I had a cancer scare, my husband’s company was closed down and he was made redundant. But thoughtful, handpicked gifts like this make a world of difference.
Over the past few years, I have had first hand experience of the online ’emporium’ in the form of both Etsy and Folksy. Drawing traffic to an online stall within these virtual shopping precincts isn’t easy. Etsy does at least have an app, making it easier for potential shoppers to find you and buy from you. Folksy has yet to be persuaded that this is a good idea, in spite of repeated calls for this option from users. But more of these virtual marketplaces another day.
If your items are small, like jewellery or baby clothes, you’re probably okay storing them within your home. If your items are larger, like sculptures or furniture, having a virtual shop front doesn’t solve the physical problem of warehousing. So you are likely to need a physical space to store your products. And if you’re going to pay for that space, it might as well be a space from which you can sell, too.
Emporiums (emporia?) are becoming increasingly commonplace. There are several that I know of within a 10 mile radius of my home, and probably many more that I don’t know of. The way it works is this: someone buys or leases a space – the quirkier, the better. They then rent out areas within that space to individual traders. X amount will get you a display cabinet, Y amount some wall mounted shelving and Z amount will secure you an area of floor and wall space to call your own.
Some of these require stall holders to put in time on the shop floor on a rotational basis. The larger your stall, the more time you’re expected to put in.
Modern point of sale systems allow sales from each individual stall to be tracked. There may or may not be an additional per item commission to be paid.
Of course, it is on the emporium leaseholder’s best interests to keep the stalls as varied and wide ranging as possible. Three makers/sellers of crocheted doilies under one roof is probably not the best way to go. So potential stall holders have to apply for a space. It is seldom ‘first come, first served’. If an applicant offers a product that is different and exciting, it will attract a wider range of customers to the emporium per se, which the leaseholder will take into account.
These spaces are in hot demand, and there are usually several potential takers for any space that comes open. This tips the scales quite heavily in favour of the emporium owner, and allows them to pick and choose from among applicants to ensure that they get a wide range, minimal duplications and a harmonious blend. They may also choose not to stock a certain type of item based on a historical lack of customer interest in that type of product.
The rent paid for these spaces cover the overheads of the space itself and are used for promotion and advertising. It is, of course, also up to each stallholder to do their own advertising. The upside of keeping your pieces at home is that there are no additional overheads. Once you start renting a space to put them in, you need to make sure you’re going to sell enough to earn that money back. You also need to factor in the time you’re going to have to spend minding the store instead of making new products.
Because many of the items I produce are fairly sizable, I have been on the lookout for a physical space in which to store and sell my wares. I have approached a few of these emporiums, but have yet to be successful in securing a space. On one occasion, I was under the impression that we had agreed that I could have a space, only to discover that the emporium owner was under no such impression. On another occasion, the person I spoke to was so rude that I left feeling utterly crestfallen. Mostly, people are very kind and polite, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are more applicants than spaces.
As the upcycling/re-use market grows, there will be more and more people like me, making stuff in their home workshops or studios. And presumably, there will be more and more emporiums being opened up to house them all.
So this is me, giving a shout out for your local emporium, populated by individuals who are making, remaking, upcycling or recycling pieces. They aren’t likely to get rich off it, but their ethos is probably a lot better for the planet and the local economy than the behemoth mass production outlet in the posher premises. Can I challenge you to do more of your shopping there, and less from the mega-chains?