I know I am not alone when I say that I adore a lot of old fashioned “things”: smelly old books, thrift shops, music, films, 1950’s style dresses, berry picking, the fox trot and friends who call their children George/Molly/Arthur rather Princess Tiiami Crystal. Ok, ok… there ARE limits to how far I will go with the adoration and when it comes to, you know, sanitation, washing clothes by hand and women not having the vote. I’m not a heathen. In summary, it seems that I …and a lot of you out there are craving a nostalgic, romantic buzz more than ever.
As a product of this unquenchable thirst, I would like to talk about the ever increasing community of Craft and Handmade businesses. My own small business (Vintage Crafts Company) was set up about a year ago. Not all of our products are necessarily cohesive with the Vintage Aesthetic (see Dinosaur Rucksack) the name is a nod to the skills that were predominant in a bygone era eg. Designing your own patterns, embroidery, hand stitching, crochet, up-cycling etc. For certain events we also work alongside consultants for old fashioned sweet making and aromatherapy/herbal products. So …you get it… we celebrate the vintage skills of the past by bringing them into the present.
Like many of us crafty blighters, our skills were passed to us from relatives at an early age; the relative for me was my rather remarkable Grandmother. I spent A LOT of time at my Grandmother’s house from early childhood into maturity and for many years, the skills and ethos behind them lay dormant. She lived in the countryside, grew her own vegetables, tended her own orchard, made pots from local clay, made her own clothes (ours too. Including a ballet costume inspired by Giselle with hand stitched sequins), nutritional and traditionally prepared meals, instilled a love of classical literature and Singin’ In The Rain into her grandchild at the earliest age possible. She had converted her attic into a haberdashery haven/ photography dark room and it was there that I learned how to baste and bind, dart and darn etc. These skills came in VERY handy when making costumes and props for Theater productions, as well as for personal use (i.e. when you realize you’ve forgotten someone’s birthday and can knock them up an adorable, one-off cushion). Phew!
Vintage skills are not the only thing that I want to talk about; the ethos behind them is equally as important. Perhaps it is the sole reason as to why we should keep these expertise alive … you know, besides the palpable logic that the vintage look is “so hot right now.” We as a society tend to over-romanticize the past (and let’s be real, being a mantua-maker in the Victorian era would bring in about 9 shillings a week for 13-14 hour shifts. Nothing romantic about that). Rose tinted glasses aside; the idea of being self-sufficient (if you are a crafter) or purchasing something unique, personalised and handmade as a consumer… is a much more wholesome and rewarding activity than constantly striving to keep up with the weekly/monthly disposable trends that many of us indulged in when we were younger. (At University I would redecorate my room every time my student loan came in… I still loathe myself for buying an IKEA bedroom set and not investing in a particularly beautiful antique, solid wood chest of wardrobe of the Narnia variety).
Unlike Victorian times (I reference this era because, generally, fashions that are cyclical tend to only go back as far as 19th Century for inspiration. i.e. You don’t tend to see the re-emergence of many Tudor garments. See Neck Ruffles) the consumers of handmade goods don’t have to be particularly wealthy in order to have a bespoke item crafted for them. That fact alone makes my heart beat a little faster; not only can I, Kim Cormack, own something that was designed and produced just for me and my hard earned cash, but, as the Creator of Vintage Crafts Co I can make someone feel special (friend, colleague or complete stranger) through something I have made.
What started as a hobby for me is now something that I can take forward as a company. How wonderful is that? Of course, one does have to be careful that the pleasure that this works provides isn’t overshadowed by deadlines for produce; balance and organisation is essential. The rewards of this predominant trend are impressive in all areas, both for the crafter and the customer. Here are just a few:
- An instant sense of achievement. Eg. “This product was in my head an hour/day/week ago…now it is a tangible object. I am awesome.”
- Knowing that your market, although sensitive to some trends, are always loyal. (Nostalgia junkies and those with an eye for high quality, unique products tend not to suddenly turn into consumers who redecorate their bedrooms/change the entire contents of their wardrobe based on this week’s fashions. See above reference to being a student).
- You can make someone else have that handmade, romantic buzz. Whether you embroider their favourite animal on to a product, up cycle their jumper belonging to a loved one into a jumper or make aprons in a re pro version that their Grandma used to wear.
- Being part of a community. See Craft and Handmade
- You can make money.
- You are your own boss.
- I personally think that the link between creativity and emotional/physical well-being is a substantial one. Let those creative juices flow.
- An alternative to the High-street marketplace. I.e. you will never go round to your friend Ellie’s house and realize (horror of horrors) that she has the same home accessories as you.
- You have the opportunity to express yourself through other people’s work. Ok, you could do this with a mass produced T shirt saying “I love Sewing” from a chain retailer but technically you haven’t endorsed that fact. If you support creativity, new businesses, local talents and keeping traditional skills alive… be selective with your riches.
- Value for money
- Being part of a community
So, I think my work here is done. For now. Watch this space for crafting tips, advice, vintage love and articles.
With thanks to Vintage Crafts Co.