At a moment when it sometimes feels like good news is in short supply we wanted to highlight some of the people we’ve been working with who are finding ways to make a positive impact in the world. So, I thought this was a good opportunity to highlight some of the exciting collaborations we have been working on for Christmas – and a brilliant new way to buy books online while still supporting the museum.
And of course, with our warehouse team safely in place to despatch orders, our online shop is very much still open!
FELT SO GOOD
This is our fifth year collaborating with Felt So Good, who work with skilled craftspeople in Nepal to create our exclusive charming felted Christmas decorations. They began as a small cottage industry and now employ over 250 of their skilled artisans – who are paid a fair wage.
Felting begins with taking raw wool (carded to remove any dirt) and spinning it into long fibres that can then be rolled ready for dyeing. At Felt So Good, the dyeing process uses steam and coloured pigments to create the array of colours needed. Their steam is produced from off-cuts of wood from local carpenters, and ecologically purified water is used throughout. Now that the coloured wool is ready to be felted, it is wetted and moulded into the rough shapes needed before being needle felted[TW1] into decorations. This involves making short stabbing motions into the wool to mould the fibres into the desired shape, and adding finishing touches such as miniature knitted scarves or pint-sized wire bicycles!
Because each of the decorations is crafted by hand, they all have their own personalities and unique faces. This winter we have some new exclusives decorations joining the online shop. One of our favourites is a perfectly felted tech-savvy Rudolf taking a Christmas selfie, complete with a tiny felted Rudolf on the phone screen! Then there’s our handsome city fox, who’s all wrapped up for a winter day out on a bike. We also have returning favourites, like our evergreen festive wreath, complete with berries and a squirrel perched among the holly. Perfect for bringing out year after year to spread some Christmas cheer!
FAIR TO TRADE
Brand new this year, we’ve also worked with Fair to Trade who create beautiful papier mâché decorations. As their name suggests they are a Fair trade organisation who ensure that the artisans in Kashmir who handmake their decorations are paid fair wages, provided with clean and safe working environments and given skills and training for the future.
Papier mâché has a long tradition in Kashmir, dating back to the 15th century when the craft was introduced from Persia. The finest examples, like this beautiful paper mâché box from the V&A’s collection, given to the Queen Victoria in 1852, were made from built up layers of moistened paper which were then moulded, smoothed and painted. Fair To Trade uses this same technique, taking recycled newspaper and office paper, to transform would-be waste into their beautiful baubles. They are then painted by hand to intricately build each layer finishing with fold leaf and lacquer to make a truly unique gift.
V&A BOOKSHOP ON BOOKSHOP.ORG
We know many of you are missing browsing our bookshop, so we’re excited to announce a new way to buy books online while still supporting the V&A. We’ve been working with bookshop.org to offer an alternative way to browse our bookshop online while many of you are unable to visit. By purchasing through the V&A Bookshop on bookshop.org you can browse our curated list of titles or search for your next read, safe in the knowledge that 30% of your purchase will come directly back to us. And of course, we donate those profits right back to the V&A to help support our learning projects, research and collections for the future.
Bookshop.org began in the US to help independent bookshops help their readers shop online stay up to date with their favourite reads. We know that lockdown saw an uptake in reading as people found more time to pick up a new release, tackle their to-be-read pile or share their favourite books with friends and family. Books can offer us escape, comfort and knowledge in these uncertain and fast-changing times. And bookshop.org hope to make this process easier while ensuring that independent bookshops and publishers get a fair share of the profits.
As our resident book buyer I’ve been busy curating lists of the perfect Christmas gifts for book lover in your life, whether they are a dedicated follower of fashion, a keen crafter or just in need of inspiration for how to jazz up their veg box! And for the little ones, one of our favourite authors and illustrators, Helen Hancock, has recommended an incredible list of picture books sure to delight and inspire in equal measure!
You can browse our full selection