Independent crafters return for another Christmas celebration
Bristol designer Rachel Goodchild created her very first selling event in her north Bristol house way back in 2001. Four designers (Rachel included) exhibited and sold their works across a November weekend, and crowds trooped in to buy unique, beautiful items at "direct from designer" prices.
The event was such a success that it became an annual fixture – held at Rachel's home until 2008 when, to accommodate its the ever-growing crowds, it relocated to the beautiful Orangery within the gardens of Clifton's Goldney House, changing its name to the evocative Christmas at the Orangery in the process.
Last year, the burgeoning event moved to the Clifton Club: this year, it's being staged at Henleaze's Bradbury Hall and will welcome more than 30 artists and designers, as well as an on-site café.
That's serious progress, Rachel...?
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"Back in 2001, I simply wanted to create an annual event where designer/makers could exhibit their work for one day only, giving Bristol customers a unique Christmas shopping opportunity," explains Rachel, herself an experienced designer who has collaborated on projects with Paul Smith, chocolatiers Charbonnel et Walker and the national art fundraising charity The Art Fund, to name just a few. Designers now flock to Rachel's event from (relatively) far and wide.
"The ethos of the event is not necessarily about local companies – it is more about independent companies," Rachel explains. "Our exhibitors come from Bristol, Bath, the Cotswolds and beyond."
This year's event will welcome a clutch of new exhibitors including Pretty Nostalgic, a new, bi-monthly vintage lifestyle magazine; Tovicorrie, creators of beautiful leather iPhone and iPad cases; Bath-based children's book publishers Rosie Flo; and Bristol's Eggnogg, who produce a range of fun gifts, cards and stocking fillers.
And, to keep punters refuelled, Clifton Village's delectable Lahloo Pantry will run an all-day café, serving a scrumptious and festive range of lunches, cakes and more.
Returning exhibitors, meanwhile, include Ella Doran, an established London homeware designer who was part of that very first event back in 2001, and has gone on to design for John Lewis, Kew Gardens and Tate Modern, among others.
Also making a return visit are Belle and Boo, creators of children's books, clothing, accessories and more, and based in Montpelier, east Bristol.
Elsewhere, you'll find beautiful, intricate drawings of cityscapes by Bristol artist Adrian Sykes – a recent finalist in BBC2's art-buying series Show Me The Monet – plus eye-catching gems, trinkets and tiny treasures from Elsie Belle, a jewellery outfit based in Stokes Croft, whose celebrity fans include Mary Portas, Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton.
There's even a raffle, hosted by Bristol's Penny Brohn Cancer Care, who offer a holistic approach to cancer sufferers. Your £1 ticket could win you a share of the £300 of designer goods donated by designers and local companies.
So, how does Rachel go about selecting her range of skilled creative each year?
"Exhibitors apply by sending in images of their products," she explains.
"They are chosen by product, design and price, all bearing in mind this is an event purely for the Christmas market. I make sure that each year's event offers a good mix of styles and mediums – as well as a blend of established and a few emerging companies."
In the 11 years since Rachel created her event, the market for work by independent designers and crafters has boomed – aided by high-profile champions like Kirstie Allsopp, as well as flourishing online craft marketplaces like folksy.com and notonthehighstreet.com.
So, Rachel: is it a different world out there now for independent designers?
"Our events have always been popular, but I have definitely noticed an increase in independent designers and, in particular, crafters over the past decade. I used to find it hard to hunt out good exhibitors: now, they come to me, and I always have far more applicants than I can possibly accommodate. The number and, importantly, the quality of independent designers and makers is growing all the time."
Christmas at the Orangery Saturday, December 15, Bradbury Hall, Henleaze, Bristol. See listings for details.