As a Milton Keynes resident I feel ashamed to say this is the first year I’ve discovered Milton Keynes Handmade and Vintage Fair. Launched by Jacqui Lewis, the fair has been running since 2010. Only a year after its successful launch, due to its huge popularity, the event moved to Middleton Hall in The Centre: MK (Milton Keynes Shopping Centre) where it runs four times a year.
The second edition of 2017 was held last weekend over two days (10-11 June). Guided by the same ethos of its early days in Stony Stratford, the fair hosted genuine independent hand-crafters and vintage/retro collectors only. Over two days 128 stalls welcomed guests offering a treasure trove of handcrafted and vintage finds.
As for an ardent fan of anything retro, vintage or quirky, I felt like Alice in wonderland looking through an eclectic mix of one-off finds from all across the region and further afield such as Dorset. While there were so many amazing stalls offering so many beautiful pieces from unique retro items to handcrafted home furnishings, there were some stalls that truly stood out.
Global Love created by Laula
The Global Love spoke to the nomad in me with travel inspired home furnishings, hand-painted ceramic mugs that entice you to ‘explore’ and ‘travel’ and handmade soap made with the Jurassic Coast salt and roses from founder Laura Delage-Pandeli’s garden in Dorset. Laura by far had one of my favourite brands at the fair and we couldn’t help but bond over our not so secret mug collection habit. She enabled my habit further with the beautiful ‘Love. Laugh. Live.’ mug, her second ever hand-painted mug which I couldn’t help but re-home.
As a fan of china and glass, I was drawn to the Tumbleworn stall like a moth to a flame. What caught my eye were the delightful wind chimes. What makes the brand unique is their tagline ‘There’s a story behind everything we make’ and the fact that everything we make starts life as a piece of something damaged, broken or just generally considered only fit to be thrown away. Each piece, whether a piece of chipped china or broken glass, is cut, shaped by hand, put into a tumbler and churned in sand and pebbles for about a week until they are smooth and frost – a bit like the beautiful sea glass and pottery you sometimes find washed onto the shore. It is then ready to start its new life as a piece of home ornament or jewellery.
Nelly and J
The husband and wife team Nelly and J offer beautiful personalised gifts as well as home and nursery accessories, and their stall was a delightful vision of colour and texture. My personal favourites? The colourful letters and star ornament with the lyrics to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. Let’s also not forget the beautiful wooden picture frames and candlesticks.
Marianne Laker Designs
What drew me to this Hertfordshire artisan‘s stall was the cute elephants in a range of bright patterned fabric, which reminded of those I had seen in a women’s workshop in Kigali. Laker also has on offer womenswear, occasion dresses and children’s clothes.
One of my favourite stores had to be Celinas Chairs with the bright and beautiful upholstery. As well as offering tender loving upholstery for your old chairs in need of a facelift, the St Albans based artist also produces bespoke padded fabric notice boards, cushions and lampshades.
Step into the olde worlde stall that is Sapwell Interiors and you’re guaranteed to find unique treasures – for one man’s trash often ends up another’s most treasured item of interior decor. Husband and wife team Phil and Michelle Sapwell offer a plethora of upcycled retro goods for the old at heart. Don’t you just love this baby pink rotary phone?
If, like me, you’re a fan of prints or greeting cards with cheeky messages or uplifting slogans, look no further than Popsicle Papercuts. Great products and great folk who made themselves scarce so we could get great pictures of a seemingly unmanned store. Good vibes only – indeed!
One of the most pleasantly decorated stalls with tasteful interior items was Aylesbury based artist Claire Hodgson’s Shabbytastic Upcycling – then again, as a fan of all things blue and turquoise, I may be a tad biased. Hodgson’s upcycling is so amazing that it looks as if she has waved her magic paintbrush to transform old, unloved furniture into unique items of joy.
The Velvet Co.
If you think MK Vintage and Handmade Fair is all about retro finds and upcycled furniture, think again. The Velvet Co. was just one of the exhibitors with a niche product: handmade scented candles and home scents. The Northampton based brand make beautiful scented candles that crackle when lit, giving the ambiance of an open fire and room scents sure to make your house smell its absolute best.
Another exhibitor which indulged the olfactory senses was Natural Pampering with a range of home-made and natural soaps, bathing and skincare products. With a passion for natural health and years spent searching, experimenting and using natural skincare products, founder Samantha makes all her products using my honey, beeswax & homegrown herbs, inspired by the glorious British Countryside.
Jackie Vine Glass
Calling all the crazy cat people was the Jackie Vine Glass goodies especially the cat coasters handmade by the Olney based artist. Inspired by folk art and the surrounding beautiful countryside, she set up her studio in 2005 and has since been creating unique pieces made by sandwiching copper sheet and wire between two pieces of glass, then fusing it in a kiln. The result? Adorable glass ornaments for crazy cat people and other folk.
What’s the New City’s most famous landmark? The concrete cows of course, but Sharoncow Art has something way more artful if you are after some bovine art. The artists aims to bring back colour to our homes, childhood memories to our adult lives, and fun into art with her fun, quirky acrylics. She has also recently began dabbling in mosaics, her first piece a mosaic frog table available ‘to a good home’.
Claire Seely Glass Design
Another artist who breaths life into glass is Claire Seely with her bespoke leaded glass items ranging from small, simple light catching hangings to large bespoke panels for you to fit into doors or window. As the crazy cat person that I am, I particularly liked the cat ornaments, while guardian angels came a close second.
Rock of the Raven
Specialising in one-off bespoke distressed furniture and ornamental pieces, Rock of the Raven will please anyone with a sense of fun with their storytelling chairs and Harry Potter themes desks and suitcases. Their shop, The Parlour, which has just opened in Winslow should be worth a visit.
Little Bear and Friends
I am partial to a good wooden ornament, especially wooden keepsake boxes so Little Bear and Friends was one of the stalls that truly took my fancy with their trinket boxes, hanging signs, photo frames, door hangers and of course keepsake boxes. They also make the perfect gifts for new parents with the name and birthday of their baby hand-painted on the bespoke boxes.
Pottery by Andrew Macdermott
If, like Andrew Macdermott, you are captivated by tactile clay, you will be drawn to his pottery inspired by landscapes and the environment around us, in particular the country of Iceland. With a background in Community Development work, Macdermott combines his passion for people connecting people with a desire to use pottery workshops as a tool of engagement, offering pottery workshops across Milton Keynes.
Of course I cannot be expected to visit a handmade fair and not scout beautiful handcrafted handbags. Working out of a studio in Hertfordshire, Gizzi Leather hand-make bags and satchels to customers specifications from high quality vegetable tanned leather. The result? Delectable arm candy proudly made in England.
On a bad day, you’re guaranteed to find a vintage clothing item or knick-knack at the Willen Hospice shops. I have to date scored a ’50s typewriter, Sophia Webster look-alike heels, and barely worn clothes in prime condition. So imagine what you can get your hands on when they bring only the best of the best to the MK Handmade and Vintage Fair, from retro clothing and accessories to unique vintage finds.
Magnificent Makes UK
Looking for the perfect gift for the comic books nerd in your life? Northampton based Magnificent Makes UK is sure to sort you out. From picture frames to personalised 3D letters in any character, from bespoke furniture to other superhero themed items, you’re spoilt for choice. My favourite item had to be the socks which were the end product of a collaboration between Magnificent Makes UK and Handmade Vintage UK.