Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gifts from Scotland?

Just after Christmas, a friend from England told me how she had been given a beautifully packaged set of soap, body lotion etc purporting to be 'naturally Scottish.' It was only when she examined the bottles more closely that she saw the 'Made in China' label. A quick scan of the company's website revealed that although they have premises in Scotland which work on synthesising and creating these 'naturally Scottish' scents, the products are made elsewhere.
This is relevent to The Scottish Home for several reasons. One is that we are exploring the possibility of including some Scottish made gift items with the lovely old Scottish and Irish textiles we already sell. To that end, we visited a Scottish Gift and Food Fair in Glasgow, last sunday. It was a huge show and we tramped doggedly around, trying to be inspired. But the truth was that so much of it wasn't Scottish, in fact wasn't even English, but consisted of stalls full of imported 'stuff' - the kind of things that my dear late mother used to call 'toecovers' - those utterly useless articles that people bring back from holiday. These are known as 'wee minds' in Scotland, as in 'Och it's just a wee mind.' Which is nice, but it would be nicer still if the wee mind hadn't come half way round the world to the gift shop in Inveraray, Braemar, Pitlochry or wherever else you might chance to visit, only to return half way round in the other direction, in the baggage of some unsuspecting visitor.
Don't get me wrong. There were many stalls with beautifully (and genuinely) Scottish made pottery, knitwear, and jewellery. Actually, there was lots of jewellery - it is a rather oversubscribed area. But we know from past experience as crafters (my husband is still working as a woodcarver) that this is a very expensive show. Not only does it cost a good deal for a stall, but for a small crafter there is the added burden of losing several days' work, as well as the cost of transport, and possibly accommodation.
I'm not talking about the one off artwork, high value end of the craft spectrum here. Such makers are never going to benefit from what is essentially a trade show. And in fact the Scottish Arts Council caters for them reasonably well since they are viewed as part of the arts establishment. But still, there must be many small indigenous businesses - soap and candlemakers, textile artists, cheese makers, honey producers, to name but a few, who couldn't possibly afford to attend. A quick trawl of the internet proves this to be the case. People are out there, making genuinely Scottish, genuinely desirable items. But I wonder how many busy buyers from the various gift shops are prepared to go online, in an effort to support their home industries, when they can buy so many cheap imports in spuriously Scottish packaging.
It would be nice to see the Scottish Executive putting a little money into a smaller scale 'real Scottish Gift Show' for a change. If we don't value our home grown product, who else will?

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