3 Suffolk Etsy creators you should check out this Christmas

Local crafters explain why supporting independent businesses is more important than ever right now - and why something handmade right here in Suffolk is just that extra bit special.

Heather Williams, who crafts silver jewellery from her workshop in Woodbridge Picture: Suffolk Silve

Heather Williams, who crafts silver jewellery from her workshop in Woodbridge Picture: Suffolk Silver Shop - Credit: Archant

With Christmas just around the corner, people are already wondering what they should buy for their loved ones.

But instead of purchasing from one of the many chain corporations that dominate, why not get your gifts from a local crafter?

From handprinted cushions to handmade silver jewellery and stoneware ceramics – here’s a handful of some of Suffolk’s best creatives, who ensure all of their products are made with extra care, love and attention.

Suffolk Silver Shop, Woodbridge

Capturing nature’s beauty through the medium of silver is Heather Williams, owner of Suffolk Silver Shop. Suffolk born and raised, this silversmith moved back to the county seven years ago after living in various places around the world – and hasn’t looked back since.

“The pull of the Suffolk coast was always strong, and I couldn’t be happier here. Inspiration for my jewellery is very literally taken from our countryside. Using shells from our beaches, to acorns from our woods - each piece has a real connection to a place and celebrates our beautiful landscapes.”

Crafting all of her pieces from scratch in her Woodbridge workshop, Heather ensures her materials are sustainably sourced – something you’ll struggle to find when you buy from fast fashion brands.

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“As a business that celebrates nature, I exclusively use recycled fine and sterling silver. Often referred to as ‘eco-silver’, it’s made using scrap silver from the medical, electronics and jewellery industry. There’s no loss of quality and it’s a wonderful way of reusing silver that would otherwise have gone to landfill.”

With lockdown forcing Heather’s stockists to close their doors ahead of Christmas, she wants to remind people just how much time and effort goes into something that’s been handmade.

“This year has been tough for everyone, and independent retailers are certainly no exception to that - Christmas is already proving more of a challenge. I understand the temptation to snap up gifts on Amazon, but when you buy from an independent, your money really does have the power to make a difference. It sounds cliched, but when you buy from a small business, you’re choosing to support a family and a dream.

“Throughout the pandemic there’s been a real feeling of local people pulling together to support small businesses, which means the world. So I’m optimistic that people will still choose to shop independent, whether on their local high street or through Etsy.

Lovely Lydia, Orford

Specialising in printed designs, Lydia Finney of Lovely Lydia has been based in Suffolk since 2013 – and constantly finds herself inspired by her surroundings when crafting her handmade makes. “Orford is such a stunning place to live, and most of my designs are inspired by the coast and countryside - think lobsters, crabs, wildflower meadows, corn fields, hares, bees and foxes.”

When Lydia comes up with a design, she will woodblock print, linocut or handprint it on to natural cotton and linen fabric before turning it into a zipper bag, cushion, tea towel or lampshade. “I sew everything by hand in my workshop at the end of my garden – and every motif is printed by hand, so no two will ever be identical.”

Lydia not only creates right here in Suffolk, but she also sources most of her materials locally if she can – right down to the tags. “My swing tags are handprinted by a talented Orford printer, Aspen Press, and of course they say ‘Handmade in Suffolk’ on them.”

Prior to lockdown, Lydia would regularly sell her wares at markets, alongside running her own linoprinting courses – both of which have since been made impossible due to the current lockdown restrictions.

But fortunately, she has seen an increase in online sales – and is thankful for all of the newfound support she has been receiving.

“Even when workshops may have been possible, the desire for people to come out just wasn’t there – that’s why it’s more important than ever to support independent retailers. When we spend money with small retailers, more of that money as a percentage, goes straight into the local economy. We are so lucky to have so many talented makers and creatives here in Suffolk - there really is a wealth of choice out there that’s worth supporting.”

Floreat Pottery, Stowmarket

Just outside of Stowmarket in the village of Finningham is Clare Negus, a local ceramicist who creates beautifully handmade pieces of stoneware.

Originally from Yorkshire, she’s been a resident of Suffolk for just shy of seven years now, and after converting her outside workshop into a studio over a year ago, she’s been busy throwing herself into pottery making – resulting in some stunning creations.

“My pieces include decanter sets, sharing platters, jugs, mugs, bird feeders, bowls and spoon rests. Beautiful yet functional, all of my ceramics are made by hand and perfect for the home and garden.”

With a background in luxury product creation and marketing, Clare knows the importance of finishing touches, and often collects grasses and foliage on her field walks to imprint into her clay designs - making each piece truly unique and individual.

Like many other small retailers up and down the country, Clare has had a number of markets and events cancelled due to the lockdown - but she remains hopeful that people will continue turn to smaller businesses and help support local crafters this Christmas.

“Besides one makers’ market at the beginning of the year, all have been cancelled and it is unknown when they will resume, even next year. I think it is therefore important to support these independent makers and retailers - not only to keep them afloat, but to ensure people will still have the opportunity to purchase truly unique handmade gifts from smaller businesses that have stepped up in this time of need.”

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