Christmas Artist and Designer Gift List

It is all about handmade gifts on the blog this month, and yes, making them yourself is a great thing to do (keep an eye out for some ideas and tutorials in the next week). But if you haven’t got the time to make your own then choosing gifts from local artists and designers is also a great option. Not only will you have a wonderful, and often unique, gift for your loved one, but you also have the added kudos of supporting local, independent business. It’s a win/win, really.

Artisan Sunday

Yesterday was ‘Small Business Saturday’, a campaign that encourages people to support their local independent retailers in the run up to Christmas amidst the widespread frenzied discounts and commercialism of the festive period. For artists, craftspeople, and designers, trying to find a voice in the holiday season can be especially laborious as they often do not have a fixed retail space in which to sell their work.

Fortunately there are some wonderful spaces and events run in many locations that give these artisans a platform to engage with new customers and get a wider audience for their work. Today I took advantage a Staffordshire town that embraces some of the most creative people in our county by visiting the Contemporary Artist and Designer Fair, at the Foxlowe Arts Centre in Leek.

There was an abundance of fabulous work on display, and I’ve listed some of my favourites here:

Sarah Taylor Design

Simplicity of colour and line are usually big draws for me in any artistic regard, so the elegant black/white or blue/white designs of Sarah sarah-taylor-ceramicsTaylor’s ceramic designs immediately caught my attention.

As soon as I noticed some of the simple line drawings were of beetles, I was hooked (I probably would’ve been an entomologist had my life taken another path). These beautiful insect designs were drawn from the collections at the Manchester Museum.

Anyone who knows their ceramic’s history will be aware of the close connection that Staffordshire, particularly Stoke-on-Trent, has with pottery, so it is always great to meet an artist who is keeping this tradition going. Taylor works in from her studio in Stoke-on-Trent and uses locally sourced bone china for her designs.

For more of her work check out her website, here.

Roger Waterhouse

Across the oroger waterhouse wooden bowltherside of the room there was a stand that had vessels which had echoes of the ceramic history of the area, yet were made from a different material.

Roger Waterhouse’s woodturned bowls and other items had a beautiful quality. I was not previously familiar with the technique of woodturning, but it is a craft that when executed in this way is a perfect conduit for the material, showing of the exquisite imperfections of the grain within the wood.

Find out more about Waterhouse’s technique and approach at his website, and also take in some more images of his work.

Sharp Lettering

The great thing about going to a contemporary craft fair is not knowing what type of work you will encounter. The illustration and apparel at the Sharp Lettering stand, by Matthew T. Sharp was a refreshing alternative to the more familiar style of wares on display.

sharp-robin     sharp-squirrel

Initially drawn in by these illustration prints, I was fascinated to learn that Sharp creates these images with a toothbrush – proof that you do not need expensive tools to create accomplished artwork.

In addition to these prints, there was also a choice of apparel on offer featuring his illustration work. See his Instagram and Facebook pages for more details.

Penny Stamp Artist

Looking for the perfect gift for the philatelist in your life? Then check out these vibrant pieces from Penny Stamp Artist.


Her playful designs use topical stamps to create different images. I could immediately envision who I could gift the different pieces to, such as the images penny-stamp-artist-tardisof the Camper Van, the Tardis (made with limited edition Dr Who Stamps), and the WWII aeroplane.

In addition there were many other smaller pieces, and you can find a selection of these on Penny’s website along with the bigger images she had on display.

If you are looking for something a bit more personal, or have something specific in mind, then she also takes commissions. Penny has a great sense of humour about her work that shone through in my short meeting with her and I am sure that she would be great to work with on a commissioned piece.

Sunday Supplement

Outside the Foxlowe, there is also much more local art and produce to enjoy. The Artist and Designer Fair coincided with Leek’s monthly local artisan market, Sunday Supplement. Featuring even more fabulous craft pieces and freshly baked goods, it was well worth braving the bitter winds of the Staffordshire Moorlands.

denise-o-skull-plateThere are just as many wonderful artists out on the market today too. It was great to catch Denise O’Sullivan on her stall (look out for an interview coming up with her later this week!). I have a number of her skull design pieces, and have my eye on the matching plant pots in the same range.


I’d urge you to go and check out these fabulous artists, as well as seeking out others. What better way to support local businesses than to give them some love at Christmas and get some fab, unique, and unexpected gifts for everyone in the family.


  1. Joanne

    December 9, 2016 at 10:13 am

    I know the Foxlowe well and it is a fabulous place! What a lovely blog about one of my favourite creative hubs.

    1. voodoodollgirl

      December 9, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Thank you, Joanne! I must admit it was my first visit to the Foxlowe, but it will not be the last – will definitely be keeping an eye on other upcoming events.

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