Bristol is a city of many faces and a particularly alluring one is its creativity. At this time of year, the visibility of its creative community rises up through the many markets, fairs and pop-up shops that spring up across the city.
With a backdrop of climate emergency and the urgent need for people to change their living and shopping habits, by considering the origin of purchases made and by supporting micro-businesses, such changes offer an opportunity towards thoughtful, conscious gift buying.
Choosing to shop local from small independent makers and businesses helps to lessen the environmental impact involved in making and distribution, as well as nurturing the local economy by keeping money circulating in the region. As the festive season ramps up, there are hundreds of designer-makers across the city creating individual, handmade gifts, providing plenty of opportunities to find something special that can be loved for a lifetime (and more).
Designer-makers taking part in Made in Bristol Gift Fair Weekenders at Colston Hall were asked how they have reduced their environmental impact this year. Their replies demonstrate thoughtful change in how they operate their businesses. From phasing out plastic packaging, recycling their materials, to reusing or passing on waste and offcut materials and more, there has been consideration and action by all involved. We are often told that small acts build up to create significant change, and this is evident and growing amongst the region’s makers.
Community- as well as environmental- consciousness is the foundation stone for many small businesses. For example, Ilo (meaning ‘joy’ in Finnish) support workers’ wellbeing by using only fairly traded, certified organic cotton for their gender-neutral clothes that adapt and grow with the babies and toddlers who wear them.
The quality material means items can be passed on to another child and another, before eventually being recycled. Likewise, Forest & Fawn are also advocates of slow fashion. Their jewellery is made from sterling recycled eco silver and eco gold, and their stones and diamonds are responsibly sourced. It is contemporary jewellery made to be worn for longer than one lifetime.
Choosing natural materials offers an environmental choice as well as an aesthetic one. Brüün Design offer a range of elegant, Scandi-inspired home and kitchen accessories and only choose wood from well-managed British and European forests. In doing so they reduce their carbon footprint while ensuring that local woodlands are valued and maintained.
Some businesses bloom from unexpected places. Kay Morgan began her jewellery business in response to all the off-cuts she was accumulating from the leather bags and purses she makes. All her jewellery is now made from reclaimed leather from factory surplus or offcuts. Any waste she creates is given to other local makers to make use of in their practices.
The rise of zero-waste shops in the city demonstrates the shift in approach of how people are choosing to live. Stocked in several zero-waste shops, Wild Grove make natural soaps with fantastic scents without the use of harmful chemicals. A less visible but significant choice in how they lessen their environmental impact, is that Wild Grove have chosen to no longer travel more than 15miles from their workshop in Stokes Croft to take part in markets, choosing instead to focus on their locale.
Saving the world through joy is something that ecologists such as Timothy Morton have long expounded, and a much larger topic than will fit here. Suffice to say, joy is a recurring theme and an intentional way being for many makers in Bristol, each striving to make a difference in their sphere of influence.
Encouraging appreciation within our daily lives, in order to live stronger and kinder, illustrator Hannah Broadway promotes courage, self-care and body positivity through her mini-mantra cards and prints that celebrate ‘the little things in life’. Likewise, Hanne Rysgaard’s intention with her signature colourful porcelain milk jugs and mugs is to spread joy through handmade ceramics that such moments in their daily use.
Taking time to acknowledge these pockets of gratitude and appreciation offer an opportunity to balance ourselves in order to be able to continue to spread joy through positive action. Like ripples on a pond…
If we intend to lessen our environmental impact, then small acts add up in how we live and make, and so who we support when we do make a purchase can make a world of difference.
Jodie Marks is part of the Made in Bristol team.
The makers mentioned above will be appearing at all three Made in Bristol Gift Fair Weekenders at Colston Hall on November 23, 24 & 30 November and December 1, 7 & 8. Find out more at www.madinbristolgiftfair.co.uk