MAXINE GORDON visits the York gift shop that believes in keeping it local
CHRISTMAS is a home-made affair for Anna Sutton and her business partner Jemma Rigby. The women run Look What Mum’s Made, in Gillygate, York, which is packed with beautiful home-wares and present ideas lovingly created by local crafts folk.
“About 95 per cent of our stock is made in York or Yorkshire,” says Anna, who is rather handy herself, making cushions, designing Christmas decorations (“reindeers are especially popular this year” she says) and hand-painting furniture.
Some 140 different people make goods for the shop, which has been in its present site for two and a half years, but began life eight years ago above Blossom & Walker on Lord Mayor’s Walk.
Initially it was set up as a co-operative, giving “mums at the school gate” an outlet for their creative talents, explains Anna.
Despite the name, it is not only mums who make goods for the shop. Men are just as handy, says Anna, and there seems to be a lot of police officers who are secret crafters.
“I think they are just looking for something really different to do in their spare time,” says Anna.
Among the crafts on display at the shop are decoupage, leaded glass making, pottery, felting, rag-doll and knitted-toy making as well as woodwork.
It’s a bit of a Santa’s Grotto at the moment, with plenty of gift ideas for Christmas.
One of the most popular ranges is a selection of decoupage items by Galina Titova, from Moscow but now settled in York. Galina painstakingly covers everything from plant pots and notebooks to spectacle cases and hairbrushes with tiny pieces of decorative paper which she then varnishes so they seamlessly meld into the object.
There are some seasonal ceramics too, plates and jugs decorated in holly, by Pat Kay, who is a Minster guide when she’s not at the potter’s wheel.
For something completely different, there are ‘trees’ made out of driftwood sticks, perfect for hanging some of the handmade decorations designed by Anna.
Look out too for colourful leaded glass pieces in the shapes of angels, bells and baubles.
There are gifts for kids as well; intricately made rag dolls the size of a small child as well as cute knitted bunnies and ‘Masterpiece boards’, as seen on Dragon’s Den, perfect for mounting children’s artwork.
Anna worked with her father, John, on the reindeer collection, large wooden animals hand-painted and looking for a new home in time for Christmas (“there are some larger ones this year; one customer wanted us to make big ones for her mantelpiece”, she says.) And Anna was only too happy to oblige. In fact, a bespoke service is one of the selling points of the business. Want something made in a particular shape or colour? Fancy a piece of furniture painted in a different shade? Easy-peasy – if Anna or Jemma can’t do it themselves, they can ask one of their artisans to help out.
“We can make blackboards in any shape,” says Anna. “We’ve done speech bubbles, hearts and even a whale. If someone said, ‘Can I have it in the shape of Superman’ we can cut it out!”
Anna says she and Jemma were somehow destined to run such a business.
“Both our mums were sewers and both our dads were DIYers; so we had no choice. I was making my own clothes from the age of nine. Jemma would say the same; she’d go out and buy some fabric to make an outfit to go out in.”
Anna says we are witnessing resurgence in people doing crafts. It’s great for the shop, she adds, and means there are plenty of talented people out there providing stock.
The business operates on a “sale or return” policy, which allows makers to test the market with their goods.
Anna says: “They can start with half a dozen and see whether it is going to be a worthwhile venture.”
Look What Mum’s Made, 70 Gillygate, York. Open Monday to Saturday and also on Sundays from 11am-4pm in the run up to Christmas.