Great Britain, Spring is in the Fair...

Hectic week again this week as I combine being out and about with shipping the last few Valentine’s Day orders (last shipping day within the UK is tomorrow – Thursday 10th February).

I love February as the temperatures start to creep upwards a little and as we all start to thaw you can almost see the anticipation of warmer spring months around the corner out in the garden. I also love February for its flurry of trade fairs and the hit of new ideas, inspirations and inventions. This year was no exception. I’ve just returned from another great visit to the buzzing and vibrant Spring Fair at Birmingham's NEC. The need for a new pair of feet as I pounded the citrus coloured carpets of the halls (I couldn't find anyone selling feet, although, quite bizarrely, I did find some ears...) has certainly not decreased this time around. Shame I didn't take my pedometer.

Visiting lots of potential suppliers, I was able to ask lots of questions in order to find the missing jigsaw piece and complete the picture for some of my goodies that I hope to share with you later this year. Spring Fair is also really interesting to see some of the upcoming trends as well as it being THE place to be this week to be making new contacts and meeting old contacts. Quite noticeably observable is the impact of the Royal Wedding in April on goods on a number of stands, which can be seen almost everywhere (from cards to Christmas). There are some 2012 London Olympic Games things creeping in now too. The British bandwagon will certainly be picking up the pace as the months go on (I’ve even got some patriotic handmade by me goodies going online in a few weeks). That's not a bad thing at all in one respect, but it'd be even *greater* to see more British themed items actually made in Great Britain. After a good rummage on some stands, sadly this does not always seem to be the case and certainly with production and labour costs being so much cheaper overseas, particularly in India and the Far East, it seemed that most of the British themed goods that were on display at the Fair this year were made and imported into Britain from these countries.

This leads me onto my own products... I go to great lengths and try, wherever possible to source my raw goods from the UK or through UK based suppliers. I certainly use British paper mills and paper merchants, use British made ink and paint and British made pencils, pens and paintbrushes. Of course all of my work is handmade in England by yours truly. However there are sometimes instances where I cannot use raw products that are made in Britain; examples of these are the crème de la crème in cut crystals - Swarovski from Austria, freshwater pearls from China, the finest pressed Czech glass beads and beautiful ribbons that are very often from India, China and Japan and which sadly are virtually impossible to find from British manufacturers these days. (Many of you won’t have seen this side of my work because it tends to be bespoke and in high demand from my existing customers and as such this artwork is not on the web at the moment.)

Of course, I’m typing this post on a keyboard and computer assembled in China, a printer and toner from the same neck o’ th’ woods and software that is bound to be from anywhere but the UK! Recycled materials are another thing again. Take for example my floppy disk notebooks. It is much more difficult to ascertain a country of origin for the manufacture of old, used floppy disks, but all the ones I have used have been rescued from people in the UK about to send them to landfill; obtaining them can be a job in itself at times! There is only so much you can do, but I’m a firm believer in making the effort and doing what little bit you practicably can.

Sadly, I did not see too many companies dealing in recycled goods at Spring Fair; a few or some with small recycled ranges, but not as many as I’d have liked to have seen given the growth in popularity for recycling and ethical choices in our lives. It seems that the cost of recycling to produce "new" items is still prohibitive which is a great shame. Certainly it is a very labour intensive process, but I think (depending upon the processes used) worth it in the long run and if items that have long been discarded can be made into something useful and loved once more, then I’m all for it.