The perfect Christmas gift? A knitted 'Marmite jar' in your stocking...
PUBLISHED: 18:45 21 November 2018
Gifts can arrive in a too-large cardboard box from a warehouse far, far away or with a flourish from a local artisan. We unwrap a selection box of delights
For Buzz Mitchell, the North Sea is surely a BFF – a best friend forever. “When not in my studio I spend a lot of time walking favourite stretches of our beautiful Suffolk coast, beach-combing and drawing the windswept coastal plants,” says the former graphic designer and art director.
“I create simple sustainable jewellery from sea glass, stones and fragments of ceramic and shell that I find at low tide along the shoreline.
“I never polish my finds; they are entirely crafted by waves over the decades. I combine them with sterling silver or gold, and natural cords with adjustable lengths. Snip the price off my tiny handmade label and you’re left with the name of the beach where the piece was found.”
Buzz also says: “I love the hidden history – and like to think I’m recycling the lost city of Dunwich, the old pier at Southwold, or just giving new life to a discarded bottle.
“I also take commissions using customers’ own beach-finds, as these make lovely personal gifts.”
Her jewellery (and graphite drawings) can be bought from Darsham Nurseries, CraftCo in Southwold, Matt Space in Framlingham, or via www.buzzmitchell.bigcartel.com
Like many makers, Buzz offers gift vouchers, too.
“When it comes to my own Christmas shopping, these days I’m so busy with events and commissions that I tend to leave it to the last minute. But I often swap with other makers whose work I like – it saves money and is a lovely way to promote each other’s work.”
While Buzz has the sea, mosaic-maker Joy Holden is inspired by the land where Norfolk and Suffolk meet. “Walking in the countryside, I enjoy the profusion of shapes and colours which aggregate into beautiful, complex patterns.”
Her finished designs are backed with glass-fibre-reinforced concrete, which makes a mosaic suitable for indoors or outdoors.
And her own shopping? “I, personally, purchase Christmas presents when I find them through the year and then panic over the ones I haven’t got or, indeed, the ones I can’t find.”
Nicola Gibson defies labelling. Knitted wire magpies and bees… embroidered and hand-stitched food “packaging” for Heinz beans, Jacob’s crackers, Colman’s Mustard and more. If you’re after something unusual…
“I work in a range of different mediums and the thing that defines my work is that it is constantly evolving, so not something which is easy to define at all!” confirms the Norwich-based creative, who also runs workshops.
“The kind of comment I often get is ‘Ooo, what have you made this time?’ because the way I respond to influences is ever-changing, although I tend to refer to historical references and the natural world.
“New work over the past few months has been about incorporating the living world into my design, with price tags ranging from £10-£60. Also, illuminated work from £85-£185.
“Commissions take from two to six weeks in general, unless it is an especially large or ambitious task!”
And the key question: “Like a lot of people, my Christmas shopping is based on the times when I’m most likely to have money in my account! I start to worry about it from about the beginning of October but I will buy things throughout the year if I see them.
“I like it if most of it is done by mid December but, realistically, I will always run the late-order-gauntlet and hope the perfect last-minute gift turns up before the big day!”
An “experience” always makes a great gift.
On the Norfolk-Suffolk border we find The Saori Shed weaving studio run by Kim Morgan. We can book sessions and go where our imaginations take us.
“It is freestyle hand-weaving without rules and restrictions,” says The Saori Shed. “It is open to everyone, regardless of age, gender, physical ability or intellectual aptitude. Be bold and adventurous!
“In a saori studio the looms are set up with warp threads so you can come in, sit down and weave. It is the freedom to create: to paint with yarn and fibres to express our minds freely without regulations.”
Arabella Marshall runs kiln-formed glass courses in her studio near Woodbridge. They’re open to folk with any level of experience (from none upwards).
Her own work includes doors, screens and sculptures. Smaller items range from plates to jewellery. Arabella says she doesn’t have many new pieces available just now, but “I do have a lovely selection of last year’s iridescent glass bowls for sale, and if anyone feels inspired to treat themselves to a beautiful fused-glass window for the new year then they should by all means get in touch!”
Who hasn’t fancied a go at throwing a pot? Pat Southwood offers “taster” sessions at her workshop next to Salhouse Broad, north-east of Norwich.
“People can buy a gift card for a two-hour throwing session on the potter’s wheel or a whole-day experience for two people.” And, of course, she makes and sells her own wood-fired ceramics.
Christmas – well-planned or desperate panic?
“Well, I have literally just got back from a study tour of Japan in preparation for a major exhibition in 2020, so quite a few presents this year came from small independent shops in Kyoto. Hand-sewn vintage kimonos, nice brushes, handmade paper – that sort of thing.”
It all began in Tuscany for Clair Rice. Happily for us, she came back to Norfolk after finishing her apprenticeship in traditional leaded windows and fused glass.
Today, her creations at Hunnybunny Glass range from the aforementioned windows to hangings in the shape of Christmas trees and angels. Clair also runs workshops in the copper foil method.
Wildlife comes under the spotlight almost literally in the creations of fine artists Annette Rolston and Mike Fenton. They use the traditional skills of hand-carving print blocks and print, through a traditional press, onto fabrics.
They make cushions, lampshades, lights and more. Animals feature greatly: from owls and deer to butterflies and frogs.
Kate Heath is a goldsmith and silversmith, making individually-designed pieces under the name of L’hermitage Jewellery – inspired by her love of mixing traditional silversmithing with a modern edge.
All her gold and silver jewellery is hallmarked at the London Assay Office.
David makes dragons – and lots of quirky things besides, such as a metal fish-and-bicycle-wheel weather vane.
David Whatley is interested in the properties of materials and process, and he’s drawn to aged and weathered surface and structure – developing craft items in wood and ceramics.
* Joy Holden, Kate Heath, David Whatley, The Saori Shed, Clair Rice, and Annette Rolston and Mike Fenton can all be found at the craft centre designermakers21 in St Nicholas Street, Diss. It’s open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10am to 5pm.