So this week’s news hasn’t been great eh? We are all facing a month-long lockdown which feels so much worse than back in the spring because the days are dark and cold and miserable, and joy feels very much out of reach right now. I could easily write 5000 words on why this situation is so terrible, how this world feels full of selfish, ignorant people, from the government who have made mistake after mistake, their callousness, corruption and lies driving so many badly engineered decisions, to the general public, many of whom seem to be unable to grasp that their own actions have a huge impact on the wider community, and the very real prospect of unemployment, hunger, homelessness, mental illness, physical illness, violence and abuse that so many people and families face as a culmination of these actions. Working in the NHS, seeing people who are so poorly with all manner of illnesses, unable to access much needed care, too anxious to attend A&E or see their GP, venting to me about their own health or their awful situations caused by lockdown, unable to visit relatives in hospital, unable to attend funerals of those close to them, I have spent more time than I care to recollect crying and listening and empathising with people whose lived experiences are so much worse than I could ever imagine, and feeling simultaneously grateful and guilty for my unscathed life.
But I’m not going to use this post to discuss any of that.
While joy and excitement do feel as distant as the warmth and blue skies of the spring, Christmas is approaching. It will likely be a very different Christmas than the one many of us are used to, but it could be a chance to focus small, on really enjoying time with each other, rather than tearing around trying to fit in visits to far-flung family and friends, and rather than ordering endless parcels from Amazon and buying up the entire booze and chocolate aisles from the local supermarket, focus on supporting small independent businesses who have struggled throughout this whole year. I have seen a few posts across social media from friends and businesses asking for indie business recommendations, and thought I would compile my own little list here of independents I have bought from. I’m pretty sure my mum is the only person to actually read this blog these days, but in case any of your friends are asking, mum, here’s a little list of companies I can recommend for Christmas gifts (many local to Staffordshire as an added bonus).
Yellowstone Art Boutique is an absolute haven of gift ideas. Hannah who owns the shop is an artist herself, and has worked hard over the last decade to curate a beautiful collection of art and design-led gifts. Yellowstone has everything from cards to candles, prints to pottery, and loads of other trinkets and treasures. I’m fairly certain you won’t fail to find a gift or two here.
Sticking with the art theme, Ian at Print Garage creates beautiful collages and screenprints. His designs are colourful and eye catching and never fail to make me smile when they pop up on my social media feed. Read about his work and influences here.
The Print Garage workshop is based at Unit Twelve, an art gallery and workshop in Stafford, which Ian co-directs alongside Jennifer Collier, and which showcases many emerging and established artists and makers. Jennifer herself creates beautiful paper sculptures which can be viewed and bought here.
If you’re after something a little more representative of the Potteries heritage (eh mum?) Scruffy Little Herbert does some fantastic Stoke-themed gifts, including t-shirts and baby-grows, jewellery, and of course, ceramics. All of which are very affordable as well as being very beautiful and hand-crafted.
Bahari Blossom creates handmade, vegan soaps, bath melts and bath bombs, which are always brilliant stocking-fillers, and make good Christmas gifts for teachers or little extras for loved ones. Sandhya, the talented maker, is also a genuinely lovely person and I can’t recommend her shop highly enough.
For magical fairies, sprites and little forest folk, all needle felted, knitted and hand made by the very beautiful Ellie, go to Weesmallfolk where you will get lost in the foresty magic of her creations. She is a mum of three, and makes these adorable little dolls around her busy family life, so her shop isn’t always fully stocked. When it is, you have to be super quick off the mark because these magical creations fly out – well, just look at them, of course they do!
Anyone who lives in or around Manchester will know all about this eclectic little homeware and gift shop, but mum, I’m pretty sure you’ve not been here, so I have to mention Oklahoma. Oh my goodness, this place! I have spent many hours wandering and cooing over all of the things. And during lockdown mark one, they created surprise boxes full of things you’d find in the store for those missing their lovely goodies while the shop was closed. They now have several themes of these little boxes, along with a massive array of homewares, clothing, jewellery, books, and stationery. They are also The Best place to shop for Christmas decorations, just go and look.
I can’t make a list of indie businesses without mentioning Birdies and Bearcubs. There isn’t a member of this household, nor my sister’s household, who doesn’t own at least one item of clothing from this fab little shop, and honestly there shouldn’t be a member of any household who doesn’t own one of their t-shirts or sweatshirts. Just check out their Christmas collection!
If anyone other my mum is actually reading this and has an independent business they would like to share, please add a link in the comments. Let’s shop small as much as possible this year, support local businesses, and support one another. Times are tough, but a dose of empathy and a listening ear go a long way to making someone feel heard, seen, and like they matter.