7 unique Christmas gifts from Suffolk
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
There’s always a certain pressure when it comes to finding the right Christmas present for your loved ones, especially so close to the big day.
But if you’re looking for something a bit more standout, why not pay one of these Suffolk-based businesses or charities a visit for something truly unique and unforgettable?
Stained glass art from The Stained Glass Studio
Just a stone’s throw away from Ipswich’s iconic waterfront, The Stained Glass Studio specialises in traditional and contemporary glass commissions, restorations, sculptures, and fused glass.
Established in 1993 by Danielle Hopkinson and her husband Ian Davies shortly after the two moved to Suffolk, the pair pride themselves on making everything in-house – including architectural stained glass, glass sculptures, fused glass flowers, hanging pieces, Christmas decorations, and jewellery.
Explaining how she creates her fused glass sculptures, Danielle says: “Inspiration is drawn from local surroundings and nature mixed with a bit of storytelling, and sculptures can also be commissioned. They’re all set into wooden bases, and most are layered to create a sense of depth and composition.”
Everything is hand decorated with kiln-fired paints, enamels, and frits.
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Alternatively, if you fancy going that one step further and giving someone the gift of craftsmanship, the studio also offers a series of beginner and follow-on stained glass courses in conjunction with its sister company, Stoke Bridge Workshops.
Explaining the importance of shopping locally this festive season, Danielle adds: “Our small independent shops and businesses are the life blood of the town. The money we all spend locally this Christmas stays local and not into the hands of huge faceless corporates who give nothing back. The customer service is also far superior, with lots of independent shops offering home delivery.”
To find out more visit thestainedglassstudio.net
Lifelike chocolates from The Edible Museum
Searching far and wide for the perfect gift for that chocoholic in your life? Well sink your teeth into The Edible Museum.
It was founded in 2016 by food artist Sarah Hardy, who decided to take her skills and passion for art, nature and all things sweet, and combine them to create a collection of handmade confectionary with a scholastic twist.
And her treats truly need to be seen to be believed. Think incredibly accurate and detailed edible replicas of fossils, animals, human organs, and objects of curiosity.
“The chocolates are so realistic, they’re often bought by specialists in the palaeontology, anatomy, or zoology worlds. Highly niche, great quality and such a talking point - you can even prank people with them,” explains Sarah.
“Customers describe them as jaw-droppingly gorgeous and often refuse to eat them, instead putting them on display. They’re all so real you could slip them into a museum and no one would know!”
Sarah, who grew up in her mother’s antiques business near Framlingham, trained as a sculptor at Norwich School of Art, and is currently based at her workshop in north Essex.
She has since gone on to create edible pieces for big brands like Fanta, Universal Studios, Hello Kitty, and celebrities such as Mick Jagger. Her chocolate art is also stocked in Fortnum & Mason.
But while she’s worked with some big names, it’s always the orders that come in locally that really resonate with her.
“Small businesses are the life and soul of our shopping experiences - we add spice and flavour to the world around us,” she says.
“In my case, the business was a creative response to a lack of employment opportunities available and I am proud to say that now I am even employing others locally. You make that possible by buying from a local business rather than a big retail chain.”
To find out more, visit ediblemuseum.com
Teddy bears and animal plushies from Bacton Bears
Few gifts in life are cuter or evoke more nostalgia than a cuddly teddy bear – but did you know one of the country’s best-stocked retailers of collectable bears is based right here in Suffolk?
The Bacton Bears store is located near Stowmarket - and this Steiff Club store is home to an impressive and extensive collection of replicas, limited editions, and animals in mohair, alpaca and plush.
“We have around 1,000 teddies and other animals in stock at any time. We’ve been selling them for around 27 years, and some of the brands we stock include Steiff, Merrythought, Teddy Hermann, Deans, Shoebutton, Warmies, Rainbow Designs, and Jellycat, alongside puppets from The Puppet Company,” explains owner Rosemary.
Steiff bears have been adored by collectors and children alike for well over a century now, and today produce a vast range of bears and animals in mohair and alpaca. Steiff also produces a baby-safe range which are suitable from birth and machine washable, so they really are perfect for all-ages.
In addition, Bactons also stocks warmies - microwaveable cuddly toys which can be reheated and provide hours of soothing comfort and warmth. Gently scented with lavender, these are an ideal present for any age.
There really is something for everyone – whether you’re an adult who’s a serious collector, or looking to put a smile on a young child’s face this Christmas.
To find out more, visit bactonbears.co.uk
Handmade teapots from Carters of Suffolk
If quirky is what you’re after, then look no further than Carters of Suffolk.
This Stonham Aspal-based pottery is known the world over for its novel and creatively-designed teapots, and has been at the top of its game for over 40 years.
Established in 1978 by Tony and Anita Carter, current joint owner Mark Gillam took over in February last year. “Novelty teapots are a niche market within the UK and around the world, but we sell our teapots everywhere – and our biggest exporter is Disneyworld in Florida,” he explains.
Just some of the eye-catching designs currently available include teapots in the shape of dogs, cats, books, art easels, typewriters, beach huts, caravans, and even breakfast tables. Whoever you’re buying for this season, you’re bound to find a teapot that perfectly encapsulates their personality.
Carters’ skilled makers handcraft and hand paint every piece, and work closely with a team of designers who regularly develop an array of new teapot ideas. From start to finish, each teapot can take anywhere between seven and 10 days to complete – and unlike porcelain and bone china, Carters’ ceramics are vegan-friendly.
To find out more, visit cartersofsuffolk.com
Fingerprint jewellery from Sparkle & Co
A piece of jewellery is one of the most personal presents you can gift someone – and one Suffolk creator can help you go that one step further. Meet Megan Birnie, founder of Sparkle & Co. Working from her shop in Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds, she set up her business three years ago while on maternity leave with her son, and specialises in creating unique pieces of cremation ash and fingerprint jewellery.
“I started making fingerprint jewellery, followed by the casting and cremation ash jewellery a few years later,” she explains. “I make everything to order, and each item is unique and made on the premises. My work captures your most precious memories and is the most treasured gift you can give.”
Her pieces range from rings, earrings, and cufflinks, to pendants, charm beads and necklaces – and she even makes pawprint jewellery. But how does she do it? Megan takes impressions which can either be done in the studio via an appointment, or at home with one of her home print kits which can be sent out in the post. She then creates the jewellery – and can add initials, birthstones and other charms if you wish.
“We make each individual piece to each customer's needs making every piece truly unique,” she adds.
To find out more, visit sparkleandco.co.uk
An acre of rainforest from the World Land Trust
When shopping for that eco-warrior in your life, it can sometimes be hard to find something sustainable, truly ethical, and local. But luckily, the World Land Trust is based right here in Suffolk, and has a range of guilt-free gifts that can help you save the planet.
The Halesworth-based charity protects the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats, acre by acre. Since its foundation, donations to the organisation has directly funded the saving of 2,409,420 acres (a tract of threatened habitats nearly the size of Belize).
To help make a difference this festive season, why not gift someone a piece of forest? As part of the ‘Buy an acre’ programme, simply donate £25 (for a quarter of an acre) or £100 (for one acre) in someone’s name, and in return they will receive a donation certificate and project brief, helping to protect one of four habitats - either Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, Argentina’s Chaco Taguá, Patagonia’s Somuncurá, or Belize’s Maya Forest.
Alternatively, the charity’s ‘Plant a Tree’ programme will allow a gift recipient to nurture, plant and maintain five native trees for £25 in either Borneo’s orangutan rainforests, India’s elephant corridors, Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, or Africa’s iconic Mount Kenya.
If you’re looking for something a bit more physical, the World Land Trust also has a selection of gifts that help in the fight for conservation – including a 2022 calendar of threatened species, festive cards, clothing and accessories, wildlife photography books, posters, and more.
“No one can predict whether the many promises and pledges coming out of COP26 – such as the plan to end deforestation by 2030, and the deal on emission reductions that was signed when the summit closed – will be kept or not. But individuals who want to do something about the climate crisis and mass extinctions don’t have to wait to see whether world leaders make good on their COP26 commitments or not. They can act, this very minute, and save the habitats the world needs by gifting donations to conservation charities like World Land Trust,” explains communications manager José Rojo Martin.
“Acre by acre, tree by tree, ranger by ranger, our supporters have been showing the power of collective action since were founded. Over the past 30 years, their donations have funded the saving of acres and planting of trees in their millions. No one is too small to make an impact when we come together.”
To find out more, visit worldlandtrust.org
An animal experience at Jimmy’s Farm
This year, Ipswich’s Jimmy’s Farm is offering a range of gifts that are ideal for that animal lover in your life. The popular working farm and attraction has a number of memorable experiences that allow you or your giftee to get up close and personal to some of its fluffy and four-legged residents.
You can take one of the farm’s four-legged donkeys for a walk around the park, or why not meet Suffolk’s first baby tapir and give him a tickle? Other critters you can get acquainted with include reptiles, camels, raccoons, coatis, anteaters, a variety of farmyard animals such as pygmy goats and rare breed piglets, and small furry animals like rabbits, ferrets and guinea pigs.
Each experience is unique, and your dedicated ranger will talk to you to learn how they can tailor the experience to make your loved one's dreams come true.
To find out more, visit jimmysfarm.com