I came upon my old grammar school tie the other day. After the initial surprise at my discovery I turned it over and a wave of nostalgia and not a little sadness swept over me. There written on the label were the words ‘Made in England’.
What ever happened to ‘Made in England’?
I read an article, and I confess with some dismay, of a group of young Chinese tourists who were visiting London recently and were keen to buy some British fashions and accessories to take home. While in our most prestigious shops and department stores they discovered every article they picked up came with the ubiquitous ‘Made in China’ label stitched within it. They were understandably bewildered.
What ever happened to Made in Britain?
I look around my home and I can see the trail of my travels over the last 30-odd years. Rugs and carvings from South Africa, ceramics from Italy, throws from the Philippines, lamps from Morrocco, paintings from Australia, hand embroideries from China (they do not carry the Made in China label just the artist’s signature) and as I type I am wearing the most gorgeous -any Australian readers of a sensitive disposition please look away at this point - possum and mohair scarf from New Zealand. These works of art still make me very, very happy – not only do they remind me of the fabulous places I have visited but also the arts and crafts galleries I have spent delightful hours visiting and, when lucky, talking to the makers themselves.
Stop, stop, you ladies who shop in boutiques and department shops do not despair you are just looking in the wrong places! There are plenty of wonderful, fabulous items to buy that are made here – you just have to know where to find them…….
So, back to the question of Made in England, and also Made in Britain, but of course not forgetting Made in the UK and a nod to Made in Scotland…. I’m getting into a pickle now…. there are still manufacturers of fashion items to be found here. My favourite bags are two sachels I bought in the Tate Britain by Ally Capellino. These do not have place of origin stitched in them but I know that her leather bags are ‘Made in Hackney’ (area of London) so I presume these will be the same.
And then there is John Smedley, family business founded in 1784 whose knitwear I buy on visits to their mill in Matlock, Derbyshire – they have factory sales there a couple of times a year and the mill is surrounded by most beautiful countryside so it is worth the journey for that alone.
But even closer to home there are all the wonderful craft shows that come to Farnham and travel around the country. This year’s Art in Clay on the 17th and 18th of this month at the Maltings was again – in my very humble opinion – outstanding for the standard of craftsmanship shown there.
Amongst many exhibiting, Sean Gordon was there (I bought the above piece last year) having travelled across from South Wales and also Guy Routledge (see the little sculpture below) who came down from Nottingham.
Now to return to those Chinese shoppers I spoke of earlier. I would really like every hotel and guesthouse in the UK to supply tourist information covering details of where travellers can buy home produced plus hand made items. These details would be handed out along with the usual information regarding popular shopping areas such as Oxford Street, Princes Street or Queen Street.
So to conclude perhaps there are two different but important labels that I look for when I am handing over my money – Made in the UK (an umbrella term covering Britain, England, London etc) and Made by Hand (does it matter where it is made?)
So ends the last November bloglet.