Uni life and life beyond brings with it some of the finer challenges of adulthood. While figuring out taxes may not yet come anywhere near the pressure of having to make it to 9am lectures, the challenge of having to turn a house into a home within a tight budget is an itch that stays with many of us as we move from our childhood room at our parents’ house… to our first dorm room to the next student-flat to a shared house with friends and so forth. All student residences would surely look the same if it weren’t for walls lit up with fairy lights draped around art prints, miniature planters clustered on shelves with pillar candles and bookends, and the colourful throws and letter-art cushions that turn a drab living space into an inviting comfort zone.
Having recently moved out of my student residence into a small private flat with a friend, I am constantly on the lookout for cheap and chic ways to brighten up our space. I have made my rounds of the Poster & Art Print Sale and Plant Sale and LUU Night Market (events that happen every year at the university), made the obligatory trip to IKEA (as much for their inexpensive photo frames as for the Swedish meatballs, let’s be honest here), and filled up the house with a smorgasbord of scents (rose blossom in the hallway, pumpkin spice in the kitchen, vanilla in the closet).
Naturally, I jumped at the prospect of visiting the Craft & Flea market when it came to Leeds last weekend. While the city hosts its fair share of flea markets, vintage sales, and pop-up events through the year, Craft & Flea has been organising makers’ markets across a number of cities in the UK, such as Nottingham, Oxford, Bristol, Cardiff, and Hull, and seems to have a nose for sniffing out the best of local designers and independent artisans with quality stuff that range from the trendy to the quirky. With handcrafted jewellery and homemade food options also being on sale for the day, I wasn’t about to miss this one.
The Leeds Craft & Flea was held at the Church next to Laidlaw, a striking venue that otherwise hosts some great student parties (every new student in Leeds ever: “wait, the party is at a church?!”). It was a chilly but sunny day, with the occasional splash of rain, and a fairly large and mixed crowd of visitors had turned up for the ticketed event on the last Sunday of the month. There were designers, producers, illustrators, bakers, artisans, independent sellers from across Yorkshire, from Leeds and York and Doncaster and Sheffield and so on, with two dozen stalls vending the usual suspects – homeware, accessories, art and crafts, jewellery, stationary, collectibles, sweet treats – and some unusual ones.
I made a couple of quick rounds while I waited for my friend, and then went back to talk to the vendors that had caught my eye. From dinosaur ear studs and hand typography plates to reusable makeup wipes and ruby chocolate, there was more stuff that I wanted to buy than I could afford (which is usually the case). But here are some of my favourite vendors from the market, who I fully intend to stalk on social media henceforth, for my Christmas shopping at the very least.
Anja Uhren (@anjauhren) from Germany studied illustration before she visited Sheffield and fell in love with the city enough to move there and start her freelance illustration business three years ago. I loved her carefree feminine renditions of the zodiac signs and the bespoke sketches of people and pets that she does from actual photographs on request. But the star attraction of her creativeware is undoubtedly what she refers to as ‘gift books’, soft-bound (with twine) A5-sized zines of hand-illustrated moments, stories, anecdotes, quotes, sketches and renderings of themes like ‘home’ or ‘encounters’ or ‘fairies’ collected over time from people and places. The girl next to me picked up the ‘What is Home’ zine as I debated between a Sagittarius illustration and some chocolate shortbread tarts I had spied earlier at the other end of the market. I asked her what else she had bought. “Well, just this so far… and uh – cake! Does that count?”
Talking of cake, the Secret Cake Club from Sheffield (fb.me/NickysSecretCakeClub) was at Leeds Craft & Flea and they can have a bit of my soul in exchange for their rich carrot cake. Why is this blessed cake club a secret, first of all? And second, can I please have some more of your Instagram-worthy lemon meringue, Nicky?
But my most favourite vendor at the market was hands-down one that I have never seen the likes of before. The odd-but-catchy named PoKaty ArtWork (@pokatyartwork) is run by a husband-wife duo from Castleford, one of whom (Kate, who I missed the chance to talk to) creates handmade taxidermy and entomology frames with ethically sourced material. Basically, these are beautiful art pieces made with dried natural specimen like butterflies and bird wings and flowers, framed in wood against natural or vintage backgrounds. The butterflies come from a butterfly farm once they are naturally deceased, one of the shop-owners informed me as he held up his favourite piece for me to see; a bright blue morpho butterfly in a hand-painted frame (I was slightly overwhelmed and forgot to take more photos). Priced around £30 at the lowest and the rest well upwards, these were sadly not for my temporary Hyde Park flat, but someday I am coming back for my critter in a frame!
As is Craft & Flea to Leeds, from what I hear. Etsy-esque products from local makers at affordable prices up for grabs at a historical venue where I live? They can have my limited shelf space any day!