Against the winter landscapes, raw coastlines and shifting light of the Isle of Wight, resides
an enviable community of artisans and contemporary makers.
From bold ceramics and bespoke furniture, to delicate jewellery made from sea glass and silver, this is the perfect place to pick up imaginative handmade gifts that come from the heart and tell a tale.
Food and drink …
Take a dash of creativity, a twist of historic magic and a good squeeze of handmade eatables and you’ll find yourself in the delicious Rectory Mansion, Brading. Here you can immerse your senses in an onsite chocolate factory and pick up some of the best handmade consumables that the Isle of Wight has to offer. Winter warming gifts include Tipsy Wight vodka (is it the bottles that are wonky – or you?), Wild Island oils and Isle of Wight Mermaids Gin, flavoured from Island grown hops and hand-picked rock samphire, sourced on the local chalk cliffs of Ventnor Bay.
Furnace and fire …
If you’re transfixed when watching craftspeople and value the story behind your purchases, a visit to Arreton Barns is a must. Tucked in the heart of the Arreton Valley, this industrial nest of working studios is home to a diverse range of craftsmen and women who are more than happy to chat while they work. This is a great place to buy bespoke ceramic house signs, handmade lamps, rice jewellery and delicate treasures created by skilled glassblowers, Timothy Harris of Isle of Wight Studio Glass and Paul Critchley of Sculptglass. Should you find that glassblowing furnaces fire you up, both sides of the Island are sure to delight … see stunning pieces inspired by local landscapes which are hand blown by the Evans family at Glory Art Glass in Sandown or watch artisans at work over at the The Needles’ Alum Bay Glass shop.
Earth and clay …
Nestled within the historic Quay Arts Centre, in what was once a bonded warehouse, you’ll find an elegant boutique that showcases locally made jewellery, ceramics and children’s crafts. An array of greetings cards featuring local artists’ work, felted textiles and delightful ‘grown-up dolls’ share shelf space with ceramics produced at the nearby Jubilee Stores. Creative workshops in pottery, lino pressing, book making and more are held at the Quay Arts Centre, providing an unusual gift idea for crafty people … and the café is good too.
Light and glaze …
Bowled over by earthenware and clay? Slip down to Tregear Pottery in Niton, where you will find a beautiful
range of hand-thrown stone pottery inspired by silver and grey Isle of Wight landscapes. Here, you’ll be entering the realm of Turner Prize-winning artist, David Firmstone, who was so enchanted by the “constantly shifting light” of the Island, he set up his home and studio here. You can witness these same shifting lights as you travel west, along the Military Road to Isle of Wight Pearl. Positioned between countryside and rugged coast, this elegant boutique offers a treasure trove of pearl-inspired jewellery and a gorgeous café to sit and gaze out at the dramatic winter skies.
Ink and thread …
Drawn in by inks and illustration? Spend a few hours in the ancient harbour towns of Bembridge, Cowes or Yarmouth, where the yacht masts and pretty buildings are almost artwork themselves. Meander down narrow lanes and cobbled streets, where a feast of galleries exhibit handmade and hand-printed scarves, knitted wire sculptures and pieces from quirky artists. Alternatively, head inland and visit Tapnell Farm. What was once the Island’s largest dairy farm has diversified into a cool new restaurant, family park and wonderful gift shop selling textiles, prints, paintings and illustrations from the finest makers. Please note that the life-size hand-painted cows in the garden however, are not for sale!
5 reasons to buy handmade this season:
Handmade is the ultimate buy for savvy shoppers who want to avoid mass-produced products and with so many extra benefits thrown in, it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Here’s why:
1. You support local artisans, and therefore their local economy and community.
2. You acquire high-quality items that are built to last. Many manufactured items have a shelf life, but artisans want their products to have longevity.
3. Handmade gifts, fashion items and home accessories are generally cool, trendy, unique, and will have friends and family asking: “Where can I get one?”.
4. Handmade helps the environment. A world away from waste-producing factories and never shipped from distant countries using fuel and energy; buying handmade reduces your carbon footprint.
5. What is nicer than to buy a product you love – and get to know the person who made it? Instead of battling the crowds in packed high street stores, buy handmade items at local craft fairs and boutiques and build new friendships as you shop.
Thanks for reading! I hope this article has inspired you give a unique handmade gift this Christmas, and at the same time supporting a talented local artist.
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