It’s the thought that counts. How often do we hear that phrase in relation to gift giving, often as some kind of lame excuse for a disappointing offering. It’s not necessarily the thought itself that counts but rather how much thought or effort is put into a gift. If nothing else, gifts should be incredibly thoughtful. Make presents touchingly personal as well and you are sure to delight. Think of something crafted by hand, something personalised, something unique.
Bespoke Gifts – that Personal Touch
There are so many talented, creative people across the country making small, independent businesses work for them – and in turn delivering special products for us. What follows is our hand-picked selection of artists, creators and craftspeople we love and hope you will come to adore as they solve your gifting conundrums.
Darkly Desirable Designs by Jillian Riley
Take a walk on the dark side this Christmas with stunning art and pottery from Jillian Riley. Her beautifully clever work is gloriously Gothic, perfectly enchanting and to be altogether coveted. We met Jillian at the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in 2017, displaying her bottles and trinkets in one of the marquees devoted to home interiors. We were won over by her passion for her creations and her undoubted artistry. Her website is jillianriley.co.uk.
Jillian says: “Drawing inspiration from my love of nature, an interest in mythology and a passion for things that are a little on the dark side, I have created a collection of bottles with a twist. I take old poison, scientific and apothecary bottles, make moulds and slip cast them in parian or porcelain clay. They may be decorated with oxides and waxes and my own pen and ink illustrations of bugs, poisonous plants and other delights and curiosities…including the odd dodo! Using reclaimed woods I hand turn stoppers to support individually sculpted porcelain birds and creatures. Each piece is unique.”
Pawtraits by Sue
For the animal lovers in your life this Christmas, consider a framed bespoke pencil portrait of their favourite pet. Prices at Pawtraits by Sue are remarkably reasonable. The pictures are a joy – and now available in colour.
Sue Newton is the talented artist in the northwest of England and says on her website: “All portraits are framed and mounted and are a lasting tribute to your furry friends…All you have to do is send me (via e-mail or your mobile phone) a couple of good quality, clear, close up photographs of your pet. If it’s a surprise gift, then a spot of sneaky snapping with your mobile phone when you get the chance should do the trick, or even snaffle a few from your friends’ facebook accounts!” You can see some of the cats and dogs already captured by Sue in the sections entitled “Meet the Moggies” and “Meet the Doggies” and there’s also a Pet of the Month segment. Check out pawtraitsbysue.com.
Madame Craig’s Felted Wool Creatures
We discovered the delightful needle felted work of Madame Craig in Edinburgh on etsy.com. She creates suitably festive characters, like Father Christmas, but also has an enchanting choice of woodland characters and endearing animals. We recommend the gifts and applaud the creativity. Visit: etsy.com/shop/madamecraig to view the charming selection.
Madame Craig introduces her site thus: “If you are looking for an enchanted piece for your nature table or the perfect gift then a needle felted, Waldorf inspired wool sculpture would be a fine choice. If you like my creations but cannot find exactly what you’re looking for and would like a custom made piece please get in touch with your ideas. If you would like to order please get in touch, if I have the item you would like already made I will ship within two days, otherwise orders will take around a week to prepare.”
Monogrammed gifts never looked so good. Check the company’s products out online at initiallylondon.com. You can use its design tool to create bespoke and personal monograms on an array of products. Choose from a wide range of font style and thread colours. As the IL website reads: “Turn classic accessories into perfect gifts.”
Hannah Berridge’s personalised hand-painted ceramics come direct from her studio in Suffolk and she says they reflect the beautiful countryside and the seaside towns that surround her. Hannah has an adorable collection of Christmas decorations and carries through those festive designs on to her other products, like mugs, cake plates and milk jugs. Our favourite tree ornament is the delightful robin which, like all of Hannah’s decorations, can be personalised with a name and date. But Hannah’s collection isn’t just for Christmas as you will discover when you view the winning selection at hannahberridge.com.
The Alphabet Gift Shop
The Alphabet Gift Shop is a marvellous place for personalised gifts for all ages. You can find products on notonthehighstreet.com or visit the shops in Mickleover, a village in the heart of Derbyshire, or the market town of Burton-on-Trent. Owner Sue Dorling’s passion for textiles radiates through the exclusive Alphabet Gift Shop collection. The range includes cushions, bags, aprons and blankets, all designed by Sue and her team. Personalisation is available on many other items too. Embroidery, print, engraving and applique of choice can be added to frames, clocks, jewellery and more.
Cloud Tree Gifts
Karen at Cloud Tree Gifts in Chelmsford, Essex makes “little toys that can be carried around and loved by kids”. See delightful elephants, bunnies, mice and sheep among the clever creations at Cloudtreecrafts.etsy.com or follow the company on Instagram.