The day after Christmas Day in the UK is known as Boxing Day. Why is it called Boxing Day? Well, the clue is in the name! However, it’s nothing to do with the sport of boxing, but everything to do with boxes.
And, no, that’s not packing boxes or even either associations with the ‘box’ room. (That’s the tiny, upstairs room often found in a traditional Victorian terraced house).
But, as with quite a few Christmas traditions in the UK, boxes for Boxing Day is a Victorian invention. During the reign of Queen Victoria household servants were given a day’s holiday on the day after Christmas and as well as receiving a boxed gift from their employers often went back home to their families bearing gifts in a box. And what might have been in such a box . . .
Well, it might have been tinned food. These old tins for Oxo and corned beef are on display at Ipswich Museum. Tinned products along with tinned fruit had become familiar food staples during the course of the nineteenth century. Such preserved food could well have been part of a such a Christmas box. How times have changed, a gift of food these days is more likely to be a very non-essential product such as luxury chocolates.
As we face the harsh truths of global warming I wonder how many of the other festive traditions – Christmas trees, Christmas cards, Christmas crackers, puddings, pies, fowls, etc, beloved of the comfortably off Victorian, will no longer be considered sustainable.
Anyway, finishing on a positive note, one type of Victoriana which has thankfully mostly melted away into history is this form of the sentimentalisation of childhood, and, along with it this type of kitsch.
It is August and thoughts naturally turn to . . . Christmas . . . !
Sorry, but I am afraid it’s not just the big brands that are preparing for Christmas in August, but we folk selling handmade items are also busy working towards the ‘gift’ season.
This week there has been excellent early morning sunshine and the river has been like a misted mirror reflecting gorgeous, natural light. In other words it has been ideal for a photoshoot.
And, having ten scarves ready for photographing, including a couple of ‘Christmassy’ ones, it was off to the banks of the River Orwell.
It is approximately a 300 metre walk down hill through deciduous woodland from the car park to the banks of the river. Then a short walk along the shore for a set up just downriver from the Orwell Bridge.
It is a popular place for dog walkers and people wishing to picnic at the water’s edge or even swim in the river. It is also an interesting place for photographing my work as the light is similar to that reflecting off the sea, but the area is more sheltered than the coast with less wind to blow the scarves about.
We had a couple of hours taking pictures before the sunlight became too bright and also, at this time of year, too hot.
By the time we had finished I had taken over 500 shots of varying quality. The sun was high in the sky, the mist had burnt off and it was time to pack up. Fortunately, the traipse back up the hill was not as arduous in the heat as it might have been, but was surprisingly pleasant thanks to the cool, airy shade of the woodland.
Even though some of the High Street shops and supermarkets have had a sprinkling of their Christmas stock on the shelves for a wee while it’s not feeling wintry quite yet. And, as I put back the hour on our clocks this coming weekend for the end of British Summertime, I will remark as usual that it is only a couple of months to Christmas.
The thought always comes as a surprise to me. All of a sudden it’s family arrangements, stir-up Sunday and last posting dates.
I am not sure why I am surprised as Christmas does come round ever year on the 25th December! And, as soon as Halloween is behind us it is the main event on the calendar. This year I will be at Blackthorpe Barn again just outside Bury St Edmund’s, Suffolk, for their British Crafts 2018 weekends.
I shall be there Week Three, the 24th and 25th November. Here is the full List of makers who will be attending and selling their work in the handsome sixteenth-century barn during the course of the six weekends.
Most of the scarves I sell are bought as gifts. And, whether my customer is buying from me in real life, or online, I carefully fold each scarf within acid free tissue paper and place it in a box. Now there is more to boxes than just simply being a cardboard container.
Originally I chose a pale blue and black box design with a blue and black image on the lid. It was okay, but I always felt the boxes were too deep for a silk scarf.
Last year I changed my supplier and now have plain matt black boxes the appropriate depth.
Initially, I added my pink and black colourful logo to the lid. However, I didn’t think it really worked, so . . .
. . . for my recent outing selling my work at ‘British Crafts at Blackthorpe Barn’ I decided to change the design for the lid to give a more muted appearance.
Mind you, the rest of my display was so full of colour, pattern and ornate props, I doubt anybody noticed the appearance of the boxes!
“Who buys craft in times of austerity?” The answer, according to the UK Craft Council, who produced a report in 2010 just two years after the global financial crash, is older, educated women. Below is an extract from their report giving more details about the types of people who buy craft.
You may have noticed I sneakily switched from ‘handmade’ to ‘craft’ in my opening questions, which then begs the question “What is the difference between craft and handmade?” Now this report is essentially concerned with what people consider as ‘craft’ as opposed to simply handmade. Obviously, you can have handmade pastries, but I think most people frequently do consider handmade and craft to be interchangeable. However, if you dig a little deeper ‘craft’ appears to suggest a range of connected perceptions. This intriguing radar (spider) chart below shows how different words are more or less associated with craft particularly with relation to art and design.
And in the chart we see that the term ‘handmade’ features strongly as does ‘workmanship’ which is hardly surprising, but also ‘rural’, which, in the 21st century struck me as rather odd. Handmade ceramics, handblown glass and handwoven textiles are all very popular these days and don’t necessarily call to mind a rural aesthetic. For me, it transpires that my painted silk, though handmade, is often not considered craft. Also from my own experience it is not ‘older, educated women’ who are my customers in these times of austerity. Interestingly, it appears to be their husbands, sons and daughters who are buying my work as special presents. It’s heartwarming to know that even during these challenging times mums are still regarded as exceptional and merit a quality, genuine, handmade gift.
Last weekend I noticed in the supermarket a whole aisle of red and pink stuff. As Halloween is a black and orange affair and Christmas is white, red and green and Easter has been yellow for decades, it is now usual to colour-code Valentine’s Day. That’s red and pink. With a couple of weeks to Valentine’s Day there’s going to be plenty of red and pink in the shops.
Not wanting to buck the trend or frighten the horses I’m posting photos of some pink and pinkish scarves. Pink for your Valentine is, apparently, the order of the day. I do have some red scarves too, but pink, especially pale pink, is often more flattering particularly when worn near the face.
Earlier this week I had a pleasant surprise to find that one of my scarves (Portia apple) had been selected and featured in an Etsy festive ‘Editors’ Picks’. Apparently, there are over 30 million items listed on Etsy so I’m genuinely surprised and very grateful to have something selected for the ‘Under £100’ gifts category.
I must be a bit thick as I only found out my work had been featured when I kept seeing referrals for this scarf on my stats page coming from ‘Editors’ Picks’. Well, anyway, thank you to the Editors!
And, also thanks to the folks at Make It British who also included one of my scarves (Hilda ruby) in their Christmas newsletter.
Oh yes, and whilst I’m spreading the love, today (3 Dec 2015) sees the arrival in UK bookshops of ‘I Belong to No One’ written by fellow blogger Gwen Wilson. Congratulations to Gwen and hopefully lots of sales!
My daughter’s birthday is in November and I’ve often thought how close it is to Christmas giving rise to the possibility of giving her one, extra large, special present to cover both occasions. In truth that’s never happened and like most families, especially those with birthdays on the 25th December, we’ve always kept birthday and Christmas separate.
Of course today it’s Thanksgiving in the United States and rather belatedly it has occurred to me that here we have another special celebration day only a month before Christmas.
It’s all a bit like London buses, you wait for hours then they all come at once!