A Taste of Pexmas

Pexmas is only 2 weeks away and we’re very excited. But then, we’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the fantastic stall holders who’ll be joining us over the course of the weekend, some just for either Saturday or Sunday, others for both days – and we’ve had the chance to sample their wares, coo over their treasures and marvel at their cleverness. And we feel a bit bad about that. Because, you know, what about you? So, just to show how much we care, here’s a heads up on some of the marvellousness you can expect to find when you head Dye House way on that second weekend in December.

Askey Print

Cloth kit dolls are a genius present for young girls since they tick boxes of creativity and play, but one of the things that makes Askey Print dolls so special is that each of the 6 available is culturally different: choose from ”Sew & Tell” dolls with a Japanese influence, or Indian, Moroccan, African, South American and Anglo Saxon, all representative of London’s incredible mix of  cultures. These dolls are the creation of sisters Ellen and Eve, who donate 10% of their profits to The Girl Effect, a charity devoted to empowering young girls in developing countries – and we actually don’t think we can put it any better than Eve does on her blog when she says

“Our idea is to own and share a doll that creates a memory, a space to make something beautiful together.  Not a hit and run gift, but a stay and do gift.  If you love to make, and you love to give, give them the gift of creation.  The gift of appreciation…..” 

Ellen works at an historical screenprinters by day and her incredible skill and experience shows in the design of these beautiful dolls, using a 4 colour layer to make up an intricate 9-colour spectrum across the 6 dolls. No mean feat – yet despite the intense work she’s put into the project, she insists that she wants nothing more for Christmas than a stack of cosy new socks (her old ones have all worn out) and, oh go on then, a 25m screen print table to call her own. And if anyone fancies granting a Pexmas wish, then she’d love to travel back in time to “pull a cracker with my Nan James & Aunt Rose and then amble up to the pub my parents owned in Borough High Street (The Blue Eyed Maid) and have a good old fashioned knees up!”

Shop Eastern Bloc

Jasia Warren is the stylish brains behind Shop Eastern Bloc. Inspired by her Polish roots, she makes epic journeys to her mother’s homeland, scouring markets, workshops and remote villages to source trinkets and bric and brac to bring to the UK. Most of her items find an unassuming, ubiquitous place in homes in Eastern Bloc countries, but here have the allure of the unusual, kookily brilliant and downright gorgeous. Sparkly washing up scourers? Handcrafted, mouth blown glass gherkins and hams with which to adorn your Christmas tree? Vintage wooden dolls? Yes PLEASE!!

Naturally enough, Jasia has a store of good anecdotes to share from her travels, which gives each of her wares extra meaning and relevance. Take the cards that bear the vivid paper cut art – or Wycinanki, as it’s called in Polish. “My aunt found one of the last remaining practitioners of this art; she was located in the middle of the country and we drove out to meet with her – a woman in her 70s, surrounded by examples of her work that she’d spread out on every available surface in her sitting room.”

Often whole villages are dedicated to the making of a particular type of craft, explains Jasia, but at other times, a craft type that’s previously been reasonably easy to source suddenly disappears – and it will turn out that the one person who was making the object in question has died, leaving no one carrying on his or her work. Recently though, there seems to have been some recognition of this by the younger generations, who are reviving the traditional arts, although perhaps in a more modern context – Wycinanki designs on household objects like cushions, for example, rather than actual paper cuts.

Jasia’s Christmases are steeped in the traditions of Poland. Though raised in the UK, her family would have their traditional festive meal on Christmas Eve after the first star has appeared and comprised a feast of at least 13 dishes featuring carp, mushrooms, suaerkraut, gherkins, poppy seed cake and barszcz (beetroot soup). Jasia still lays the table with a white cloth over a bed of hay, to represent the manger in which Jesus was born and after the meal, everyone pulls out a strand of hay; the person with the longest one will have good luck in the coming year. And there are presents, too, of course – the tree has been decorated by the children earlier in the day and Father Christmas leaves a sack of goodies at the back door once the meal is over. And to drink? “Shots of vodka, small and frequent.” Now that’s our kind of Christmas…

So are you feeling Pexmassy?! Well, that was just for starters. Very soon we’ll be introducing you to The Cut Out Girls and Modern Folk Collective. And in the build up to the big weekend, tweet us @pexmas and @thedyehouse and tell us: what Pexmas treats would you like to find in your stocking this festive season?

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