There’s been a craft fair inhabiting the gardens of St John’s Church on the west end of Princes Street for the last month. And finally, yesterday, the very last day of the craft fair, with just a couple of hours before they packed it all away, I made it along. And it was brilliant! Colourful bunting hung from posts and trees, stalls filled the arches under Lothian Road, and rows and rows of marquees filled the cobbled paths. There was a lovely buzz to the fair – stallholders were friendly and relaxed, chatting with each other, customers, potential customers, me… I saw so many soft handmade scarves and unusual decorations and upcycled jewellery made of typewriter keys or old pennies or safety pins. There were many many moments when I had to be strict with myself and walk away from something I desperately wanted, but didn’t necessarily need.
But if you live in Edinburgh and didn’t make it along, never fear! Because my two top finds of the craft fair both happen to be based in Edinburgh anyway.
Phoenix Copper Art: handmade books
Superhero and comic book covers caught my eye while wandering the stalls of the craft fair but once I started browsing these handmade notebooks I soon fell for a map-covered book showing Edinburgh and the Port of Leith. These books are bound by hand with big bold stitching along the spine, in such a way that once the papers of the notepad are used up it’s possible to refill with standard A5 paper or hand-made punched papers of your own desire. Creator and stall holder Will Phoenix happily showed me how to refill your own book and his enthusiasm when speaking about his work was contagious. This book, it seems, was made from an old Bartholomew map from the 50s, which is in remarkable condition considering its age. Other books on the stall featured designs embossed in copper, recycled second hand books and comic book strips. He also makes a pretty funky looking Tardis notebook.
Information included inside the books tells that Will is a book-lover and only upcycles books beyond repair, in order to “breathe new life into old books”.
I don’t need a new notebook so although I really appreciated the artistry behind this, I knew I shouldn’t buy it. Remember that bit above about walking away from things I wanted but didn’t need? Yeah.
The problem was, I couldn’t put the notebook back. I have a total lack of willpower when it comes to books. Especially beautiful, unique, geographically relevant, reusable books. And so I am now the proud owner of an A5 Edinburgh map hand-bound notebook.
Miss Ballantyne: organic skincare
Karen Ballantyne produces a range of organic skincare products which smell fantastic without using any artificial ingredients. Judging by one day of use they can also make your skin feel super soft. I stood nearby her stand looking interested and was quickly drawn in to sample various different creams and moisturisers. Karen suggested that for my normal skin the vanilla scented blue cream would be ideal – I’m a big vanilla fan, and the label suggested it was a good solution for tired or dehydrated skin, which sounds perfect for Weekday Debbie!
Instead of a simple business card or flyer, Karen provided her contact details inside this gorgeous hand crafted envelope – it’s actually a large gift tag with details printed and stuck inside, folded over and tied up with string, and each one was adorned with a different stamp. I love this kind of detail and it couldn’t be more different from the experience of shopping on the high street. Each crafter I spoke to yesterday was so passionate and enthusiastic about their particular product – Karen had started this business on a trial six month basis, and just never stopped, because not only had there been demand for her products, but she loved what she was doing. Speaking to these people made me want to buy independent and local more often – not just to support small and innovative businesses, but because the experience you get as a consumer is that much better.