We decided to try these lovely throws in the shop last week and promptly sold out as soon as we had put them on sale! I think customers really liked the choice of vibrant colours in the Diamond throws or more neutral tones in the Natural throws. Either way, we've just had more stock of both, and in an increased range of colours.
The Diamond throws are slightly larger at 180cm x 130cm, while the Natural throws measure 150cm x 125cm. They are all made in India and imported to the UK by a BAFTS approved fair trade supplier. We hope they become a regular feature in the shop, and if they're popular we might try more soft furnishings such as bedspreads and pillows to complement the throws and rugs we already stock - let us know what you think!
Of all of the new products we discovered on our trip to Mexico in January 2017, probably the range that stands out the most is our "Fantastic Beasts" - surreal ceramic figures made in a style known as "barro betus." They weren't easy to find, but we were glad we made the effort.
We only had two days in Tonala, a suburb of Guadalajara famous for arts and crafts, so we had to move quickly to work out whether anything was going to be right for us. Most of the shops were selling much larger pieces - chairs and tables, floor to ceiling sculptures and the like - and while these were incredible they were not practical for us to bring back in our cases!
On our second afternoon however, we found some amazing animal pieces tucked away at the back of a furniture shop. Crazy colours, psychedelic designs, surreal combinations of animals - right up our street! The pieces were signed "Ortega," and the helpful shopkeeper explained as she was wrapping our items that the figures were known as "barro betus." A quick Google search revealed that we were in fact only a hop and skip away from the village where the Ortega family had their workshop - and a quick taxi ride saw us standing outside the door!
We were welcomed by Eleuterio Ortega, fourth generation of craftspeople who create the incredible designs. The courtyard workshop was home to further members of the family, along with a good number of wandering cats and chickens. We saw pieces at all stages of the design process, some newly sculpted, others being fired in the open kiln, while the finished shapes were hand painted as part of the final stages. A true family business and a truly amazing sight to see.
As the pieces are ceramic we were limited to what we could bring back - we chose some amazing whistles, frighteningly beastly masks, and some other cool designs which we have online now. We hope to be able to continue our relationship with the Ortega family for many years to come - for now, we are proud to be what we think is the only outlet in the UK for their fantastic beasts!
We hope you all had a peaceful, relaxing Christmas! We enjoyed having some down time and focussing on the important things in life. Now that we're back in the shop, our minds turn to the seemingly inevitable prospect of "the sales." But if we're focussed on fair trade, how can we offer sale reductions? Wouldn't that mean that the producers were losing out?
The simple answer is no - we always ensure that our producers are paid fairly. For most of the suppliers we work with, we will pay for the goods at the point of order - so the artisans have the cash before they even send us the products. So why on earth would we offer discounts on lines we've already paid for?! There are three good reasons...
Firstly, we want to encourage people into the shop and to visit our website at what would otherwise be a very quiet time of year. By offering sales discounts we can tempt people to shop with us who might not normally visit us - thereby hopefully gaining us repeat customers during the year. Secondly, we want to free up as much cash as we can at a quiet time of year to allow us to invest in new stock. This means we can keep the shop looking fresh and support a diverse range of different projects. And lastly, there's a simple issue of space - if we want to be able to showcase some of the amazing things we hope to bring back from Mexico, we need to have the shelf space to do it.
So when you see us offering sales or discounts you can be clear in the knowledge that we are never squeezing our suppliers on price - so you can grab a bargain with a clear conscience!
It's a funny week. the week before Christmas, especially somewhere like Hay on Wye. If we were in a big city we'd be gritting our teeth for a huge Christmas Eve Saturday, but given how busy we've been over the past fortnight my instinct is that most shoppers are ahead of the game this year. We'll see! In any event, there is a lot to do, and it's a good time to look forward to what this Christmas season has taught us.
We seem to be increasing the market for our delicious Zotter chocolate exponentially - we ordered more than ever this year, and yet we're still close to selling out! We'll have more fantastic flavours in for Easter.
It's also become clear that t-shirts are not just for "t-shirt weather." They make great gifts all year round, and our new range from Glower have proved incredibly popular. Look out for more styles from them next year, along with an attempt at some designs of our own!
Finally - I know we're in the town of books and everything, but book sales this year have been phenomenal. Several customers have commented that they like the fact that our book range reflects the rest of the shop - ethically minded, outward looking towards the rest of the world, and thoughtfully conscious. We'll do our best to expand the range in 2017.
Before we get into that we're looking forward to our trip to Mexico - more of which next week! We're planning to keep our Instagram feed updated while we're out there, so stay tuned for that.
It only remains for me to wish you a very Happy Christmas from all of us at Eighteen Rabbit - thank you for your interest and taking the time to read our blogs week in week out. We hope that we can continue to keep you entertained in the year ahead!
Mid-December is an interesting time of year in the shop. I'd say it divides roughly into a 45:45:10 split. The first group are the well-prepared ones, who have been craftily tucking away potential presents all year long, and now need just a few finishing touches to allow their perfect plans to fall into place. The second group are in full-on buying mode - they have lists, they have scribbled notes on their hands, they have lots of bags and their credit cards have a faint red glow around the chip. They'll get there, as long as they focus.
Then there are the ten percenters. They amble in, cool as cucumbers, scouting out the shop with hands tucked into pockets. They smile and nod, and explain they're "just having a look" waiting for "inspiration" to strike. Off they go again, narry a carrier bag in sight, still as far from buying their first present as they were on the August bank holiday. You have to admire them. Will they make it? Who knows. But last-minute shoppers of Britain - we salute you!
Whichever group you fall into, there are some things you can't change. As Christmas Eve is a Saturday you could potentially post something first class on Friday 23rd and still have it arrive in time - though we're suggesting Wednesday 21st as a good cut off. So you have just under a week to order any of our fancy fair trade treats before the big day. We never try to give anyone the hard sell, but here are three clever ideas if you're stuck for inspiration...
Recycled tyre wallets from Cambodia. Fair warning - we will sell out of these. Very popular, particularly as gifts for tricky-to-buy for men.
Star earrings. Back in stock after a short absence, these beautiful earrings are handmade from brass in Tamil Nadu. A perfect festive look!
Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane. The follow up to the hugely succesful "Old Ways" is a great gift for outdoorsy folk - and a lovely present from the "Town of Books."
In our last blog before Christmas we'll look forward to 2017 - until then, don't let the shopping madness sweep you away - let's do whatever we do with a spirit of peace, love and compassion.