your alternative christmas Gift Guide 

by Sarah Hellen

I recently went to a talk with Ben Fogle where he was talking about marmite (amongst other things, mostly landrovers and exploring). Ben neither loves nor hates marmite. this is totally unrelated, but that's how I feel about Christmas shopping. I dislike Christmas shopping when it seems pressured and you feel the need to buy somebody something that is probably pointless and really is just for the sake of giving. I'd rather say, 'you know what, I can't think of anything you need  or would  find useful, so take this I.O.U and I will buy you a pint, or take you for dinner, or spend time with you' (unless you hate the thought of this and then socks will do) I love Christmas shopping when you see something and you go YES, that is so 'insert name'. I'm a practical person, so I like useful gifts, it's ok if it seems boring, boring but useful is best! Socks for example, are great - preferably a good quality grey or navy cable, not too adventurous, a comedic festive pair will never go amiss, however 2 x pairs of grey over 1 x Christmas Pud/Santa on a skateboard - every time. I'd actually really love a hanging clothes pulley maid (yes, I'm 26) just throwing that in there hoping that some of my family are reading this.

My perfect gift would be something that could combine all of these elements together; let's spend time together, let's get making, or here is something somebody has spent real time, effort and expertise making. So, I've put together a list of some friends of Jwrnal who I believe have created amazing, thoughtful and one of a kind products and experiences that you and your friends and family will enjoy, and appreciate this Christmas.




Nestled away in Drefach Felindre, West Wales, Nia Denman makes Leather goods and runs a number of courses making Sandals (find dates on her website) Just in time for Christmas, Nia has created this Belt Making Kit which is the perfect present for that hands-on friend or family member.


"The belt making kit comes with all the tools and materials you need to make a high quality belt that will last.

A perfect evening project with just enough work to be satisfying but not a chore. Finish the edges with the burnishing tool and edge finisher, fit your heavy duty cast brass buckle and then follow the stitching instructions to complete your belt. The saddle stitch and strong waxed thread are incredibly strong and hold even if a stitch comes undone."

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Maggie Cross

Also tucked away in Drefach Felindre, Maggie Cross makes minimal yet fun jewellery, each of her pieces handmade, original and designed to last a lifetime. I have one of Maggie's smiley necklaces and I love it. Maggie runs regular silver ring making classes with Make it in Wales. Private ring making parties can be arranged and custom orders are very welcome - although get in quick as Maggie closes for Christmas orders on December 8th. You can also purchase gift cards for courses and jewellery if you can't decide!

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Make it in Wales

Make it in Wales host a fantastic schedule of workshops across the country with some of the most talented makers based in Wales. From weaving, to pottery, felt making, pattern cutting and willow basket weaving, a course or gift card makes an ideal gift for someone who is on the look out to learn new, or develop existing skills in making. With each course being situated in beautiful venues across the country it's a great excuse to travel, meet likeminded individuals and learn from professionals in an open and relaxed environment. Head over to their website to find out more.


the Welsh Girl Hay


(If you love Welsh Blankets as much as I do, you willl love this)

Julie, aka the Welsh Girl, has extended her opening hours over Christmas for everyone passing through Hay-on-Wye looking for something traditional with a twist. Working closely with one of the few remaining Welsh Woollen Mills, Julie reinvigorates traditional Welsh Blanket designs into multi-use ponchos, scarves and limited edition bags and cushions. If you're passing through, it's definitely worth a trip up the wonky steps to Julie's shop and studio, but if not, you can also shop the collection online.


skratch ceramics


Kate Russell has been busy sgraffito-ing away in time for two special December shop updates before Christmas. Now, be quick as Kate's pieces are known to fly off the shelves. From Wall plaques, pinch pots, vases to keyrings, each piece is handmade and unique with Kate's signature drawing style; a perfect, personal gift (with some seasonal additions too)

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Art at the hall

Brigid and Beth have been busy curating their third show at temperance Hall in Llangathen, near Llandeilo hosting a plethora of local artisans work, from ceramics, prints, sculpture, stained glass and interiors. It's definitely worth a visit, not only to check out the wealth of talent in the local area but also a perfect opportunity to do some of that Christmas shopping in one swoop. Follow the girls' show and exhibition over on instagram here;

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