An Independent Christmas..... Kinda!

So this year I made a decision to try and get as many Christmas presents from independent shops as I possibly could. The main reason behind this is the fact that not only are the independent shop's struggling but even the once strong high street is struggling, especially with Aberdonians flocking to the new shopping mecca of Union Square when once they would have walked Union Street, Belmont Street and even the 3 other shopping centers who must all be feeling the strain of the new super center. 

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not against the big shops, I understand that if stores like HMV were to shut then the knock on effect is a lot of people looking for new jobs and the Amazon effect continues. But if these mega companies are struggling then what about the small guys, the One Up's, the Junction Arts, The Artists Pads? Shop's which have been servicing consumers and creative communities for years but have been dropped like a deadweight for the sake of saving a few pounds on Amazon and they deliver to your front door! But your losing out on the chance to discover something new that you haven't been looking for, that tune you've never heard before, that artists who's work you meant to check out but forgot about or the simple experience of speaking to another person while you make a purchase!

These are a few reasons why I chose to shop the way I did and the chance to talk to people was a real pleasure and extended beyond the people in the shops but also contacting artist's directly like Laura Gee, cutting out any middle men. So here's a breakdown of how my Christmas shopping panned out, which shop's I visited and the people that I spoke too!  

So my shopping really started at the Tea Cosy Craft Fair. Tea Cosy is the perfect opportunity to not only pick up original and hand made gifts but also a chance to meet the people behind them. I was looking forward to seeing Kirsty aka A Wooden Tree whose Stag Heads and jumper mountains give me eye boners every year! I actually bought another jumper mountain for myself but balanced that by getting some of her tea towels as gifts for others. Having a mini mountain range on my mantle piece is pretty cool though!

Next I paid a visit to Conan's stand where I picked up a set of his amazing Lochnagar coasters. I'd seen these online already and knew my dad would probably quite like them as he used to be a mountain climber and keen hill walker. Finely crafted, inlaid with brass and pretty unique, he loved them. And for the price I doubt I'd have been able for find something as nice and unique on the high street.

Junction Arts had a stall set up and I purchased a selection of cards for friends and family. Each card had a unique design which I thought would go down well with mum & dad and my good friend Verona. And they did! But due to the slightly overwhelming amount of stall's at Tea Cosy I decided it best to pop into Junction Arts proper to see the full range. I had my eye on a Small Stories tea towel monster they have sewn up but he wasn't for sale, I did manage to get one of the tea towels though, maybe Verona will cut him out and sew him up for herself, I hope she does! And while browsing I spotted the rather beautiful hand crafted Christmas decorations also made by Small Stories, perfect for my mum's Christmas tree! The Snail and Fox cushions were pretty tempting as well but just out of my Christmas budget, I must remember to find out who they were made by next time I'm in!

The Art School's pop up shop Offset57 also provided another avenue for picking up some local made good's including a storm cloud lightning bolt necklace for a friend and a WLD WLVS t shirt for my brother. I also picked up a set of Siobhan Ogg's Christmas cards, I never seem to get enough cards for people and still missed out a few close friends this year, ill make a list and do my maths properly for next year! Offset was good as it brought together a good mixture of designer's and makers, some of whom are just starting out and others who are a bit more established and they hosted some cool events like Fred Deakin's guest talk.

I often like to pop into Retrospect to see Jim and to peruse his fine selection of vintage threads. But I always forget that he stocks a nice selection of vintage tea sets. And girls like tea sets! So that's another unique gift in the bag and I had a nice catch up with Jim too. I often think Retrospect is a little forgotten treasure being tucked away behind John Lewis but should be a regular destination for all!

My adventure took me up to Rosemount to see Amy at Cloudy Blue, a cool boutique shop based in Rosemount. Every time I pop in I find a load of cool things I want to buy and it only took me 30 seconds to find these beautiful Rob Ryan mugs, perfect for my recently engaged friends! Cloudy Blue is also perfect if your shopping for younger people as they stock a selection of retro packaged children's toys and gift set's. They also keep an impressive card selection so must remember next time I need a birthday card for someone!

I'd seen Laura Gee's work on a few design blogs and her Bearded Malcolm cushion stuck in my head.Her illustration style stood out from all the slightly twee work I've seen lately and I knew I wanted to get something from her and as I wasn't going to be spending Christmas with my girlfriend I figured giving her a bearded Malcolm to open would be a fitting substitute. And he was, he even got a place at the dinner table! Her prints are also worth checking out, I especially like the Polar Bears one. Laura was really nice when I emailed her about beardy and we had a nice chat about her work, one to keep an eye on I think!

Another artist I wanted to support was Jon Burgerman. Although he's well established Jon is still an independent artist and has worked pretty hard to get to the position he is in. Also when I met him in the summer he was incredibly nice and was kind enough to do me a small doodle. Also knowing my friends and their love of cats, it was quite easy to find an amazing print that was also really affordable. I was tempted by the mug and teapot set as well but that would have been another gift for me! Anyway my friends really like it and promised if they start a family it will be taking pride of place in the little one's room, how cool is that!

So that's the break down of the shops and artists I bought from but of course I didn't manage to buy entirely from independent shops. But I never expected to get everything from local or independent shops, sometimes you need to check out HMV for that box set your after or Debenhams for a nice perfume set but I think its about getting that balance between the two. I managed to get 10 wonderful and original gifts for friends and family which made up 67% of my Christmas spend compared with the 7 high street gifts which were more expensive and made up the remaining 33%.

Also I didn't even manage to make it round all the shops I wanted too, Peltoniemi Concept Store missed out as did local skate shops Boarderline and Granite Reef and One Up Records who I normaly buy gift vouchers from also missed out. But, I will be popping into Peltoniemi to pick up some new Penguin English Library classics to add to my collection, ill be getting some new t shirts and jumpers from Boarderline and Granite and my first stop come pay day is usually One Up to pick out some new vinyl selections so although I didn't support them over Christmas doesn't mean I can't support them after Christmas. And it means buying gift's for myself, which is never a chore!

So all in all, when every one was stressing out about getting gifts and how busy the shops were I actually managed to have fun. I really enjoyed visiting the shops and chatting with the owners and the artists whom I bought from. And its proved to me that you can support local shops & big chains and give people gifts that they will remember for a life time! And to be fair, the best gift's I recieved this year were almost all hand made, watch this space for "Come Dine with Jonty", coming to a channel near you!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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