Interview with sand, ice, pumpkin sculptors and large scale artists Sand in your Eye

I’m busily supporting Enjoy Redcar & Cleveland // Redcar & Cleveland Council’s Christmas events programme – this is the second year in a row, I’ve supported this festival programme! Really loving working with them and most importantly, they are investing money into culture, which I LOVE.

The next headline event is this Saturday (11th December) in Redcar town centre – Redcar Ice trail; a winter walkabout wonderland a day of frosty fun, festive pop-up performances await, amazing ice sculptures by Sand In Your Eye along Redcar High Street and Esplanade and live ice carving.

I absolutely adore Sand In Your Eye – I first became aware of them when I worked on Pages of the Sea in 2018 and they created large scale sand illustrations of North East World War One veterans on Roker Beach and Redcar Beach. Pages of the Sea was a unique event to mark 100 years since Armistice and the end of the first world war. Across the UK and Ireland communities gathered on 32 beaches to say a collective thank you and goodbye to the millions who left their shores, many never to return. I was in awe at their creations and then went on to discover they created large scale land art, sand sculptures, ice sculptures and many things in between.

Credit: Sand in your Eye & Pages by the Sea – Photographer: Kevin Scott

Reconnecting on this Redcar Christmas event, I thought I’d take the opportunity to get to know Sand In Your Eye better and do a little Culture Vulture interview…..and I have MANY questions, like how does someone become a ice sculptor!?

So let’s go and do it…..

Hi there Sand In Your Eye….can you introduce yourself?

We are an arts company based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. We make ice sculptures, but we also make sand sculptures, land art, sand drawings and in October you can find us carving pumpkins.

Credit: Sand in your Eye

Tell my fellow Culture Vultures about Sand in Your Eye – what is it and how did it start?

Sand In Your Eye started nearly 20 years ago, when our Director and lead artist Jamie Wardley was on holiday in Norway; he met a sand sculptor and was asked if he wanted to have a go! The answer was yes, and this began a career as a freelance sculptor working with sand and ice. Eventually Jamie started his own company and developed more ways of making art with lots of artists joining Sand In Your Eye, including Jamie’s wife Claire. We now work across the UK on events throughout the year. 

Credit: Sand in your Eye

What are you bringing to Redcar on 11th December? What can families expect to see by dropping in 10am-6pm on the day?

We are bringing a Christmas themed ice trail; people can explore Redcar town centre to look for them along Redcar High Street and Esplanade. Families can also write a letter to Santa and post it in our ice post box, watch live ice carving of Santa’s sleigh being made on Redcar High Street and also lots of walk about theatre and pop-up performance.

Credit: Sand in your Eye

Tell us about your ice sculptures and sculpting ice?

Depending on how big the sculptures are, they can take between a day to nearly a week to make and we make them in a freezer in our studio. The big sculptures can last for a few days, but the smaller ones usually melt after a day. Ice is really fun to work with, but you have to use very sharp tools including chain saws so you have to be extremely careful!

Credit: Sand in your Eye

How does someone become an ice sculptor? What tends to be the career path?

There are lots of different ways of getting into ice sculpting; the Sand In Your Eye team include people who started off as artists, woodworkers, gardeners, designers and all sorts. The thing that unites them all is that when they were asked if they wanted to have a go – they said yes.

Credit: Sand in your Eye

Your sand sculptures and sand drawings are amazing – can you tell me about a recent favourite?

We do a lot of work that is to do with the environment. In the last couple of years, we have made a sand drawing portrait of a girl from Ethiopia for WaterAid, a land art portrait of the activist Greta Thunberg, a climate emergency themed pumpkin trail, a sand sculpture of a turtle, and a personal project appealing to world leaders ahead of the COP26 climate conference to halt climate change which saw children and families helping to make a giant sand drawing and ice sculptures of children on a beach.

Credit: Sand in your Eye

Can you tell me about your Pages of the Sea involvement and project?

We were contacted by 14-18NOW, the Imperial War Museum and the director Danny Boyle to coordinate and design Pages of the Sea, which commemorated the centenary of the end of the First World War and saw over 30 faces of servicemen and women who did not return to our shores appear on beaches around the UK (including one on the beach at Redcar) on the 11th of November 2018. It was a very moving, exciting and an important project to be a part of. We were thrilled that it won several awards, including the Sky Arts South Bank Visual Award.

Credit: Sand in your Eye & Pages of the Sea – Photographer – Mark Richards

Thoroughly deserved! Your pumpkin carvings are amazing – how long do they take to do?

Pumpkin carving can take anything from a few hours to a couple of days to make; we do a wide range of styles including 3D spooky and silly faces and more complex pumpkin etching. We do them for pumpkin festivals and trails as well as for companies for their Halloween social media. They can last for up to five days after they are carved.

Credit: Sand in your Eye

They are very Instagrammable….as is all your work! Your work and installations bring people together in public spaces, folx and families who may not engage with art in galleries– how does that feel? Is that an important element of Sand In Your Eye?

Yes, very much so. We love doing our workshops and showing people of all ages how to sand sculpt or carve pumpkins but our largescale artworks such as sand drawings and land art can also engage with communities and bring people together.

Credit: Sand in your Eye

Do you have artists/sculptors that specialise with specific materials? Or do members of your teamwork with all of them?

Everybody has a go at making all the art – it’s a real team effort.

Tell us about the workshops you offer – they look really fun and such a unique offer?

We do workshops in most of our art forms; sand sculpture, pumpkin carving, ice sculpture and sand drawing. Most often children and families take part, but our workshops can be for all ages. We started off doing sand sculpture workshops on the beach, but we now have sand tables – this means we can bring the beach with us, wherever we go, and people can learn how to sand sculpt wherever we go. We’ve done sand sculpture workshops in towns and cities, shopping centres and even inside castles.

Credit: Sand in your Eye

What’s been your Sand In Your Eye 2021 highlight so far?

The COP26 sand drawing and ice sculpture project was a very personal one for us and it was great to involve so many children and families.

Credit: Sand in your Eye

What’s in store for 2022 – anything you can tell us about? 

It’s all top secret so far but there will be lots more sand art, land art, sculptures and pumpkins. People can follow us on social media to find out what we get up to. We are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. (All handles are @sandinyoureye).

Credit: Sand in your Eye

Well thank you Sand In Your Eye……..the images in the blog post kind of speak for themselves really – their work is just show stoppingly amazing! You can check out Sand In Your Eye – Ice Sculpture Trail this coming Saturday in Redcar Town Centre; perfect for families in Tees Valley! For full event Redcar Ice Trail listing visit HERE

Mulled wine, mistletoe and memory-making – speaking of memory making, there is a lot to look forward to across the towns of Redcar and Cleveland this year! For the full calendar of events visit HERE

Credit: Sand in your Eye

Enchanted Parks 2018 the Artist edition…..celebrating outdoor art and hidden stories with Helen Yates!

We’ve been blessed across the North this year for outdoor festive events – you could literally attend something lush and magical every day and night. When you’re attending you might forget that these events are only possible thanks to a mega team of creatives; a project team and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears that make such events happen. Since I’ve started working on outdoor events as The Culture Vulture, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for these people and all the artists/creatives involved.

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The Finders Keepers at Enchanted Parks, Theatre Space NE (Photo: Rich Kenworthy)

I recently attended this year’s Enchanted Parks at Saltwell Park; Enchanted Parks is an outdoor after dark arts adventure around the park with light installations, sound, performance – all based around a theme. This year the theme was The House of Lost and Found – the story of a mysterious travelling circus that collects lost things and reunites them with their owners. You can get a sense of this year via this year’s professional photos from local (and bliddy amazing) photographer Rich Kenworthy.

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Enchanted Parks 2018 Photo: Rich Kenworthy

In my opinion, it was a great year and I loved all of the installations – quite different than previous and pushing the boundaries! A firm favourite of mine was an installation called ‘Precious and Found’ by Helen Yates – Burning Light Arts. Helen’s installation consisted of hanging in the branches of the Cherry Tree Walk in Saltwell Park, a series of birdcages hosting a fascinating array of curiosities, each with a story to tell.

I became really curious about what it’s like to be behind the scenes, working on this type of event and the artist experience! How scary mary, but also lush to have your artwork out there for all to see – night after night! So I decided to reach out to Helen Yates for the artist perspective – to find out more about her piece, how she came to be a part of this year’s Enchanted Parks and of course, her Enchanted Parks experience as an artist!

So step forward Helen Yates, one of this year’s Enchanted Parks’ artists!

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

Hi Helen, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you – so let’s start at the beginning for my Culture Vultures; tell me about you? Who are you?

Who am I? Strangely enough I made a piece a number of years ago with that very title, a textured, wax wall piece that incorporated the phrase in as many languages as I could track down. Some languages don’t even have the words to be able to ask the question!

Me? Well…… I have had a number of labels over the years: artist, lead artist, educator, lecturer, project manager, workshop leader, schools’ artist….I reckon my most enduring labels have been mother and artist.

Can you describe your arts practice?

I am one of those people that loves to gather new skills, materials and processes; so my work varies. I feel I have succeeded whatever the piece is, if I can create a response, a need to touch or discover more. Site specific installation tends to be my preferred way of working at the moment. I want to make work that fits the people and place that it is intended for and introduce some elements of hidden stories and thoughts for people to question. Temporary installations are great because people and places change, so I like that the work doesn’t feel static.

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The Lost and Found Tree, Dave Young at Enchanted Parks 2018. Photo: Rich Kenworthy

I ask every artist I interview this question….what was your journey into the arts?

From a very young age, I loved to read and draw. My mum would order me outside to ‘get some fresh air’ when she thought I had stayed in my room to long…. I would take my books and pencils outside and sit until I went numb with cold.

Throughout my life I have drawn, made and created things. My journey wasn’t as typical as most but I was always determined to go to college and university to ‘prove I was a creative’, so just after my son was born I did. I gained my degree and 2 daughters along the way! From there I hounded my local arts officers and officially became an artist. Three children and tight finances led to diversifying into college teaching and from there into arts development whilst still working as an artist.

What inspires your practice?

There are probably three things that have been extremely influential in shaping what I do. The first was at Uni; I obsessively drew and painted large scale nude figures in empty spaces – I wanted to portray being ‘human’. Secondly, when asked why I never incorporated objects or clothes, my response was that these things labelled people, put them in categories, people made assumptions. The more I thought about it, it led me to thinking about the power of objects and how we respond to them. I have always loved history, so archaeology and how objects are used to build pictures of long gone people become the overriding theme in my work…. Objects ruled! The third event was my visit to the Tate modern some years ago and seeing Cornelia Parkers Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View – she exploded a shed and its collection of objects into thousands of pieces and then reconstructed them in mid-air, creating a still, quiet and beautiful moment in time from a noisy, destructive moment in time. I saw how installations transformed and created their own spaces and this idea has stayed firmly in my mind.

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Cornelia Parkers Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View

Can’t believe I’d forgotten about Cornelia’s piece – went to see it at the Tate and WOW! But back to you….You had an installation at this year’s Enchanted Parks – how did that come about?

I came across the opportunity and loved the theme…. The idea of storytelling and lost objects immediately caught my attention. I have collaborated with storytellers on previous projects; I feel it’s a wonderful way of creating a new link between the work and audience. It invites people into thinking about an objects past, its meaning and the people that owned it. I want my work to engage children as well as adults so this commission had the possibility to do all of that. So I applied and I am extremely glad to say I was asked to create my proposal for the Cherry Tree walk at Saltwell Park.

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

What was the inspiration behind the piece?

The overriding theme of the commissions for Enchanted Parks 2018 was put forward within the brief and some images were sent within this to visualise these ideas. Within this was an image of a contortionist who had squeezed into a birdcage, it was a very striking image, if a little sinister! From here I wondered where Peter Chavalier (travelling circus leader) might store all his found objects on his travels and birdcages seemed very portable and just the kind of thing he might use to keep the found objects safe. They also seemed an excellent way of lighting and displaying the Precious and Found objects.

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Helen during the rigging process for Enchanted Parks 2018

How did you chose what items went inside the cages? Loved the Octopus and it was a firm favourite for visitors!

Thank you! The items were inspired by my research into what items have ended up in lost property offices around the world and it seems some very unusual items have been found, including an octopus on the London underground – probably not as big as the one in Precious and Found… but you never know! Can you begin to imagine though how anyone can lose a bag of skulls, a prosthetic leg or a missile guidance system? Of course others are more usual, the teddy bear and the puffer fish (well maybe not!!).

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

What does it feel like having families and culture vultures seeing your work every night and engaging so positively with it?

It makes me smile, even when I saw a toddler vigorously tugging at the octopuses leg one half of me was worrying that the leg would stay on, the other was chuckling and loving the intense concern that the child had, wanting to free a foam and latex, pink octopus..… I love the interaction…. It’s why I do it.

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

What did you think of this year’s Enchanted Parks theme?

Excellent! It has given rise to a lot of varied and excellent work. I feel the way the theme has been created is extremely creative in itself …. Well done Enchanted Parks!

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The Little Legionnaires of Lost and Found Studio McGuire at Enchanted Parks 2018 – Photo: Rich Kenworthy

I recently found a story about a day in the life of a chicken written by a 6 year old me – it’s so lush and pure; I don’t remember being obsessed with chickens but apparently I was a big chicken fan as a mini….have you ever found something that you thought you’d lost forever?

That’s a lovely story….chickens make excellent children’s characters! Unfortunately my response is not so lovely. After a brain injury some years ago, I lost the ability to walk, communicate and draw even a simple circle! Over the following years I found all these things again.  Words can’t explain my relief at knowing they were not lost forever.

The Little Legionnaires of Lost and Found Studio McGuire at Enchanted Parks 2018 – Photo: Rich Kenworthy

They say that the brain never really forgets – it’s just the path to remembering which is damaged. Whilst all the pieces are fantastic this year – do you have one that stands out and you’d say is one of your faves?

Can I cheat and chose two? I love And Now’s piece with its carousels and fire garden and the lost and found labels hung by the visitors are a treat to read. Whilst that piece is beautiful low tech, I also love The Mcguires’ Studio pieces, The Little Legionnaires, I love the mix of tech wizardry and the beautifully constructed 3D elements that make up their enchanting illusions.

Merry Glow Round, And Now at Enchanted Parks 2018. Photo: Rich Kenworthy

Now EP is done and dusted – do you have a bit of down time? Christmas plans?

Not yet, I have workshops in schools immediately after the de installation, after that hopefully a mince-pie and brandy or two might be in order!

Looking back across the year, tell me about a highlight for you/your practice in 2018?

2018 has been a good year for work – I have been kept busy and produced work that I have enjoyed creating so I can’t ask for more. Of course Enchanted Parks has been my highlight, great people, great place, met lots of interesting artists from around the country, excellent food (think I’ve put on half a stone!) all in all a very lovely and interesting opportunity.

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Nova by Studio Vertigo at Enchanted Parks 2018. Photo: Rich Kenworthy

What is on the horizon for you 2019?

I enjoy collaborating with other artists, especially when they bring very different skills to the mix, so I have a couple of ideas in the pipeline…..watch this space!

Well thank you Helen! Such an interesting insight into being a part of Enchanted Parks and it’s been lush to hear about the artist experience. Really looking forward to seeing how Helen’s 2019 unfolds….

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

Promise not to leave it soon long Culture Vultures!

Thoughtful Night Market Winter 18

There is still something for me about a Saturday night….I struggle to stay in (not a Saturday night TV fan) and yet, the call of Saturday nightclubs are long gone! But I still crave to get out and about on a Saturday night! I love going to different things on a Saturday night that still have an evening vibe and a bit different. This Saturday night I’m hitting up Thought Foundation in Birtley Gateshead for The Thoughtful Night Market Winter 18 edition!

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If you’ve been along before – you’ll know how magical and lush this event is (this one’s even bigger and better!) – but if you haven’t, then it’s a must for this Saturday evening! Go along, go as a troop and I’ll be lurking there.

I thought I’d take some time out from what has been an insane week of Culture Vulture work so far to catch up with my faves The Crafthood who present this event with Thought Foundation!

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Well hello lovelies…right so tell my fellow Culture Vultures who you are and what you do?

We are The Crafthood; a North East based modern craft company. We are a female duo; Kay & Sharon and we deliver contemporary craft workshops and events as well as designing and producing a range of products.

(Visit their website to see all their lushness in all it’s glory and their Instagram game is pretty good too! http://www.thecrafthood.co.uk)

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Now onto what we are here to hear about….tell everyone about the Thoughtful Night Market!

The Thoughtful Night Market is a collaborative project with the wonderful Thought Foundation. First held in November 2017, we set out to create a ‘market’ that was experiential and engaging with a focus on the provenance, ethics and ethos of the businesses that were selling.

We wanted attendees to come along and have a great night out… for it to be a pleasure away from the hustle of the high street with a great atmosphere; music, great food and a programme of workshops on offer. We also wanted to support and showcase amazing local small creative businesses – at an event they enjoy and are also happy to be part of. We really wanted to champion the #shopindie movement and encourage guests to see the lovely range of unique goodies and talent that is out there. This is the third event and each time round we learn and build something new into it.

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Crafthood Baubles

So tomorrow evening; what can people expect when they visit the Thoughtful Night Market?

There are 2 goody bag drops – for the first 25 through the door at both 5pm or 7:30pm so if you are lucky you may receive one of these bags of treasure made up of a selection of goodies from our stall holders.

Once through the door they can beat the winter chill with some amazing food and drink from the super tasty brain food kitchen at Thought Foundation. There are a selection of creative workshops going on through the night from festive watercolour to chunky knitting to terrarium baubles (more on that later).  There will be live music throughout the evening from a singer that Leanne (Thought Foundation) found, the artist was busking on Northumberland Street at the time!

However, the main feature is of course, the beautiful stalls made up of 25 of the regions’ finest makers and creators alongside the Thought Foundation Shop, which is in constant residence. This is a chance to chat with and meet the makers and find out the story behind the items you choose. If you are a selfie fan then make sure you find the balloon backdrop from our event stylist Imaginarium Balloons – it’s the stuff of Instagram dreams. We hope you feel it is cosy and thoughtfully put together. Entry into the Thoughtful Night Market is £3.50 which includes a donation to our chosen charity Help Refugees – a double whammy of the feel-good factor.

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Crafthood product

You’ve mentioned workshops….what is available to take part in across the evening?

We have three workshops running across the night. Firstly, Festive Watercolour Gift tags with Katie Burns from Katie Burns Design House.  Katie will guide you through some simple contemporary watercolour mark making to create some unique festive gift tags.

Next up, we have Woolly Nana leading a chunky knit hand-woven scarf workshop.  In this workshop you will be provided with everything you need to start your very own chunky hand-woven scarf so no need for needles at all – revelation! Expert tuition will be provided by Woolly Nana and you will leave with your own cosy winter scarf and the skills to make more.

Finally, we have a workshop that is now sold out – Terrarium Bauble making – a little birdie tells us that this proved so popular Hoe’s & Ditches are running another at Thought Foundation on December 2nd.

All of these workshops are available to book onto in advance via Event Brite (all include cost of entry into the event).

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I’m passionate about purchasing all my Christmas gifts from independents this year…. So tell me more about the traders?

We have over 25 very varied traders with us on the night and have recently written a blog which details them all (along with a few of our other favourite North East indies) and have really tried to cover all bases so you’ll get something for everyone.

(Culture Vultures you can read the blog post here! )

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What about the live music? Can’t have a Saturday night without some music….

Along with the chance to participate in a creative workshop, we have live music from Megan Davidson. You can check her out before the event on spotify – we cannot wait to hear her on the night and Megan may even provide a little entertainment outside to people waiting to get in! It’s the third market of its kind and have found that people come along and help contribute to the atmosphere and banter so whether you come with friends, partners or family; it’s a great chance to get Christmas ready in a chilled out way.

How did this collaboration with Thought Foundation come about?

We connected with Thought Foundation as soon as we heard about them. They appealed to us so much because of the ethos behind their brand; Thoughtfulness, Kindness and Creativity – so much positivity!! In the very first meeting we had with Leanne (Thought Foundation co-founder) we discussed having a market in their space and around six months later the first Thoughtful Night Market was actually happening!  We were so worried that nobody would turn up but had almost 300 people through the door and a queue to get in!!

Thought Foundation are a dream team to work with and having similar values means that the event has a strong identity that we are continuing to build. We love working with them! They are so pro-active and have so many ideas, that they are both a joy and inspiration to be around.

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Leanne and Gareth – Team Thought Foundation!

This is a silly question – because Thought Foundation is just a lush unique space – but I’m going to ask it anyway! Why did you pick Thought Foundation as a venue?

For anyone who hasn’t been to Thought Foundation then we always urge people to check it out. It is in Birtley, Gateshead and we LOVE the fact that a creative arts space and is thriving in this area.  The space is an ideal market venue as all traders are in the same area allowing for a unique atmosphere.  Thought Foundation already has a beautiful and eclectic shop (which is like having another beautiful stall in the place).  It is easy to get to being on a major bus route from both Durham and Newcastle and there is parking around the venue.  Thought Foundation epitomises everything the market stands for and is a unique blend of creativity, energy, warmth and thoughtfulness so it’s how could we not?!

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Thought Foundation

You’ve piqued my interest when you mention goody bags…. Tell us more!

The goody bags are EPIC. We ask every trader to provide a small number of items that are then distributed across the bags.  Traders are unbelievably generous and so the goody bags are not just full of flyers/business cards but host a range of beautiful bespoke goodies.  We have already made up the goody bags this year and yet again have been blown away by what we have been able to put in them! Think gin, jewellery, greetings cards, baubles – we are not surprised that people queue round the block to get their hands on them.  Each bag is hand lettered by us too.

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You had me a gin….Now this is a good question and something we all collectively champion….Why is it important to buy from independents at Christmas/In general?

Shopping from local independents feels good; not only will the individual maker be truly grateful that you have chosen them (and do a happy dance with each sale!!), you are also supporting the local economy and creative sector. When you buy independent, like at the Thoughtful Night Market, you will get the unique opportunity of being able to chat to the maker and ask questions that they can easily and happily answer.  They will often go the extra mile; for example by offering a beautifully packaged purchased or arranging to make something to your requirements. In buying independent, you are investing in the maker and contributing to developing a local talent helping to secure vibrant and diverse gift options. You are also securing a unique item that cannot be purchased widely on the high street – perfect for anyone wanting the wow factor.

We are passionate supporters of the movement towards ‘consciously consuming’ – shopping thoughtfully, investing in great quality items that are well crafted using quality resources by makers who know their supply chain. We have consistently found that small creative businesses often have ethical making and creating at their core.

Shopping indie is just all round more colourful and joyful than the alternative! Please do support what independents you can even if it is #just a card.

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Couldn’t agree with you more ladies! Right….Culture Vultures The Thoughtful Nightmare is just a lush and different way to spend a Saturday night. I’m itching to see what’s on offer and will be doing some live social media during the event as The Culture Vulture. I will share my haul of goodies purchased from all the lush stall holders too…..

And of course – look up The Crafthood for all their lush work! http://www.thecrafthood.co.uk