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Artwork by Patrick DolanMore Information

A crafting call to action

Previous Sellers at Curiosity Haus Contemporary Craft and Design Fair: Stitches and Stars, Lucie Pockets, Owl Loves Panda, Penelope Ruth, Jessica Hayes Gill, Ruth Singer, Lesley Nason

Previous Sellers at Curiosity Haus Contemporary Craft and Design Fair: Stitches and Stars, Lucie Pockets, Owl Loves Panda, Penelope Ruth, Jessica Hayes Gill, Ruth Singer, Lesley Nason

The combination of having a baby to entertain and the onset of Christmas craft fairs (I refuse to use the spelling ‘fayre’. Just so’s you know) means that I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in Nottinghamshire’s tourist destinations of late. Parks, abbeys, art galleries and so on. This has meant that I’ve also spent my fair share of time in their gift shops.

Now I love a good gift shop, me. I also love a bad gift shop, though for different reasons. My ultimate gift shop? Why anything in The Vatican obviously. Nothing can compete with their range of plastic rosaries, priest of the month calendars and pictures of Jesus with flashing halos. But I’ve wandered off the point. Which is to wonder why so many of our gift shops stock such an odd choice of gifts.

This weekend, for example, I was at a local tourist attraction (I’ll be discreet and not mention the name). Its gift shop featured, alongside a wide range of jam, a Christmas bauble in shades of blue and green featuring the attraction (for £7.99), wooden carved bananas and a range of ceramic plug in air fresheners painted with small animals. I apologise if you own any of these things and think they’re lovely but I don’t think I was alone in wondering what exactly the shop stockists were thinking.

Now the easy answer to this is to think “Ah, they’re trying to appeal to older people,” and leave it at that.

Hang on, though, there are two problems with that. The first is that, looking around the attraction itself, I can see a lot of people of all ages, and I’m sure many of them would like to buy some small memento of their day out. The second is that there’s really no reason why older people would want these things any more than anyone else. (The wooden bananas were quite lifelike but what would you do with them? Answers to us on Twitter please – we’ll RT the best. Keep it clean!)

What I find remarkable is that so many of our local attractions currently host Christmas fairs which feature a wide range of talented local crafters and designer makers. So it’s not like there’s a shortage of suppliers out there that the stockists are unaware of. If you’re a Notts designer maker who can shed light on why you aren’t being stocked in many of the local gift shops please do let me know as I’m genuinely perplexed.

In a couple of weeks’ time I’ll be digging my Christmas baubles out of the cupboard under the stairs and hanging them on my tree. Many of them are mementoes from holidays I’ve been on (pretentious? perhaps. But what do you do with your holiday souvenirs?) so my tree features hand painted eggs with snow topped onion domed church scenes from St Petersburg, Paua shell trinkets from New Zealand, Murano and Mdina glass angels, wooden Italian puppets from Rome and Belgian lace baubles. (Sadly the Vatican didn’t do Christmas trinkets when I visited in summertime.) And this leads me to wonder what visitors to Nottinghamshire could hang on their tree if they visit us. If they’re lucky to arrive during a Christmas craft market then they’ll have a great time picking out the best of what we have to offer. But if they miss out on the markets, I’m pretty sure they won’t be packing a ceramic plug in air freshener into their suitcase.

We need to showcase our talent widely and in as many places as possible. Tourist gift shops! This includes you.