It’s now been three years since I traded at my last Christmas market, running my independent business DaisychainBaby. In 2015, I wrapped up for good after 7 amazing years. Being a small business owner is so tough but incredibly admirable and worthwhile. All this time later, I love supporting independents and you can find the best of them at the Urban Makers East pop-up in Hackney.
They recently held their Christmas social and invited me to visit. What better way to spend a couple of hours in the evening, drinking MEAD (!) and chatting to designer makers. I’m so in awe of independent businesses because I know just how hard it is. Yet that unstinting enthusiasm and passion always comes across and it’s so much more enjoyable to buy from someone who has a story to tell and has put so much heart into their creations.
Tucked away under the arches near Cambridge Heath station, the Urban Makers East pop-up can be found at FountLondon, described as an oasis for creators and makers, parents and families. It’s easy to feel a world away from London life in such a little spot but you could definitely do all your Christmas shopping in one place, look no further.
Established in 2015, Urban Makers East is coordinated by Julia and Ilka, both designer makers themselves. Seeing a gap in their local vibrant community of Bow, they set about bringing together an eclectic mix of high quality talent and the platform has grown from there. I’ve experienced some amazingly run markets and pop-ups but also some terrible ones. It’s easy to see from the traders here how happy they are and there’s such a fun vibe.
One of the business owners I chatted to is Comet, who runs Glow And See. A keen cyclist but not feeling inspired by cycling apparel to be seen in the dark, she created a range of light reflective knitwear for those of us who want to carry on with cycling, sport and general getting about in the dark but still look stylish. As she describes it: ‘In the day, camouflaged as bold knitwear, and at night, coming to life, glowing in the dark, revolutionising dawn to dusk, smart activewear as you know it.’
She demonstrated the reflective element by taking a photo with her flash and immediately the hats and scarves lit up but ordinarily look just like something you’d love to wear. And that’s not all: ‘Each time you wear an item from our range, your choice to be part of GLOW enables you to stand with those who are vulnerable, as you stand out at night. Each of our pieces are individually hand made by disadvantaged women, providing them an opportunity to gain work skills, a supplementary income and be part of a greater community. We empower our makers, paying them a fair wage, utilising their established skill set and enabling them to believe and realise their value. We are making a difference, one woman at a time, join us.’ This is why I LOVE independent businesses!
I also had the loveliest chat with Amy who owns Olive Jennings Furniture (named after her grandmother, isn’t that the cutest?) A fellow south-east Londoner, she specialises in designing and hand making furniture and homeware from a studio in the bottom of her garden. I came away with one of her gorgeous little concrete pots which I’ll either use for a succulent or candle…and of course it has a copper bottom. Hearing Amy talk reminded me of just how much you can achieve if you genuinely believe in what you do. So much of it is about passion and hardwork.
If you’d like to visit Urban Makers East, you can find them at the following locations and dates, with a different mix of traders:
Do consider shopping independent this Christmas if you can, I guarantee the gifts will be made with a lot more love than the high street!