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In putting together the range for the first Land Tales pop up shop, I’ve been thinking about the art of gifting. What makes a good gift? How do you choose something with care and thought?

Whether you’re searching online or in person, there’s a huge amount of choice these days. But that doesn't necessarily make things easier. How do you narrow the options down without getting overwhelmed or settling for “that’ll do”?

With this in mind, I thought I'd share a few ideas here on the Journal. These are all highly subjective, as everyone's approach to gift giving is different. It depends on your budget, the headspace you have available to think about it, the circumstances of the person you’re buying for, and lots of other factors.

I’ve tailored these thoughts to the kind of things you can find at Land Tales, but hopefully some will be relevant at various price points, whether you’ve got £5, £50 or £500 to spend.

And if you’re popping into the first Land Tales Pop Up Shop, which runs from 16-19 November 2023 at Host of Leyton, or you’d like to leave a note here in the comments, I’d love to know your thoughts on what makes a good gift.

Think about the person
OK, this one's probably fairly obvious, but it’s always a good idea to start by thinking about the person.

Try to imagine being in their shoes and think about what they might like. What do you know about their taste and their personal style? Picture their home, for example – is it filled with bright colour and pattern, or calming and neutral tones? Do they fill the surfaces with collected things, or prefer a clutter-free, pared-back space?

What do they like, what do they enjoy doing? If they love to cook, perhaps they'll appreciate a special ingredient for the kitchen, or something that'll elevate the experience of cooking, such as a hand carved wooden spoon.

Are they a keen gardener? A special box for storing seeds, some new gardening gloves, or a restorative hand cream might be appreciated.

Or might they prefer an experience rather than an object? A restaurant voucher, activity, or tickets for a show can signify just as much thought as an object or physical item, if chosen with care and with the person’s interests and preferences in mind.

Sustainable skincare gifts from Dook and Neighbourhood Botanicals

Make it a treat
A present is an opportunity to give someone something they'll love, but that they might feel a bit guilty, or simply unable, to buy for themselves.

When life is busy and demanding, or when money is tight, the act of treating yourself rarely rises to the top of the to-do list.

So perhaps it's that chocolate bar that's just a bit more special than the supermarket option, or a handmade ceramic bowl that’s a step above the everyday.

Or, a fail-safe option, an amazing smelling soap that momentarily transports you to a spa every time you wash your hands.

Buy less and buy better
The concept of buying fewer things, but making them the highest quality you can comfortably afford, sums up the way I hope people will shop at Land Tales, whether for themselves or for others.

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to buy in this way, but if you can afford it, then things that have been made with care and with high quality materials (and that sit outside of current trends) are likely to be treasured for much longer.

Things that have been made well also tend to look good even as they weather and age with use. Sadly, the opposite is often true of things made cheaply (I’m thinking of various “brass effect” utensils I bought in a hurry a couple of years ago that are peeling and need to be replaced).

How does this apply to gift giving? Well, gifts can often be a danger zone for waste – it's tempting to grab the nearest shiny thing when you’re buying for others, so it’s good to look for quality over quantity, and really think about whether it’s something that the recipient is going to appreciate and get good use from.

If your budget is £30, for example, might one beautifully made thing be a better investment, and more likely to be treasured for longer, than two or three small things?

I was given a stoneware mug for Christmas last year, which was made in a small pottery studio. It's the mug I display proudly on my kitchen shelf and use every day, because it’s both beautifully made and a pleasure to use.

Handmade ceramics made in Edinburgh by ceramic artist Celia Wood

And on that note, make it sustainable
I'd argue that “buying better” means buying something that’s been made in a way that cares for both planet and people.

Again, this is a luxury not everyone can afford, but, if you’re able to, you could have a look for brands that make things in an ethical and transparent way.

Are they upfront about how and where they source their materials and ingredients? Do they proudly share stories about where the products have been made, who by, and in what conditions? What materials have they used to package their goods?

It doesn’t need to be something brand new, either. If you spot something in a charity shop or at a vintage sale, and you know the person will love it, then that’s something to consider too.

Finally, add a little finishing touch
Is there a little accompaniment that could top off the gift? If you’re giving a mug, how about adding a box of tea or hot chocolate? If you’ve found a handmade bud vase, could you pop in a few flowers or sprigs of herbs?

And then of course, there’s the card, the wrapping paper, the little flourishes. I’m a fan of a beautifully patterned wrapping paper, although there’s something to be said for simple brown kraft paper – and old magazines if you have them lying round are fun too.

Anyway, on the subject of wrapping things up, I’ve waffled on for a lot longer than planned so I’ll stop now!

I’d love to know what you think makes a good gift. You’re welcome to leave a comment here, and if you’re coming down to the Land Tales pop up shop I’m always thrilled to chat about gifts!

Hannah x

Land Tales Pop Up 1: Modern goods and gifts made in the British Isles
16-19 November 2023
Host of Leyton, 658 High Road Leyton, London E10 6JP

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Save the Date: A Winter Pop Up Shop
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Land Tales winter pop up Host of Leyton
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