Instead of lusting after the achingly cool independent stores that are popping up all over town, I have been a little bored of the desperate-to-be-young-and-interesting vibe. I've been keen for a more organic approach to shopping and lately, desirous of goods my grandparents would buy on the merit of craftsmenship and quality.
For a home-like touch, visit Handmade Boutique in The Great Western Arcade. It is simply darling. The boutique is made up of crafts and hand-made goods from nineteen local designers and craftsmen from around the Midlands.
The designer furthest from the Midlands hails from Stoke on Trent, which is only 20 miles from Birmingham city centre. They really take local craft as a literal term, which is refreshing because local is a term used loosely for goods produced within a 50 mile radius.
They sell mostly gifts - teddies and toys, in soft and woven fabrics; home wares; photo frames, cushions, wardrobes, and small chests of drawers; and decorative pieces for the home (trinkets, teacups filled with candle wax, wind chimes, pretty jugs, and jars). When you think that everything in store is hand made it makes my heart sing. Each individual item has been turned into something aesthetically pleasing for the particular buyer.
Customised and personalised stationery fills a wicker basket at the front of the store. If you're into kitsch, you'll love their stuff. Tea cosies, adorable pin cushions, and other knitted gifts for babies, and children fill up the store.
They don't just sell stuff that might make women jump for joy. Amongst the few handbags, childrens clothing, and teapot candles are cards for men, and teddy bears of various sizes by another local designer.
The more neutral gifts include handmade soaps by Black Acres Soap Pantry, who makes moisturising, cleansing, and refreshing soaps. Each bar is made up of natural ingredients, some of which contain vanilla beans, lemon pieces, and peppermint.
Black Acres also supply Handmade Boutique with sea salts, bath bombs, and lip balms. Natural sponges are on sale too, so you can enjoy a truly organic shower/bath.
Handmade boutique, instead of being brand new and shiny (even though it all is), has a 'pre-loved' quality about it. I guess each piece, carved by hand like the white-washed dresser in the window, has been 'pre-loved', by the designer. Or maybe I'm just a little bit romantic for my own good.
The store isn't huge, but there's space to mill around when it gets busy on the weekend. The general manager is a bright and chatty mature lady who knows all about the history of every single item.
This particular store is the second of the hand-made boutique branch. Their flagship store is in Solihull, but realising the city centre is where they needed to be, they've opened shop in the middle of town. Three months down the line, business has been good, and Handmade Boutqiue are supplying those in the city with the most gorgeous hand-made goods.
Either way, for individual pieces for the home, or as a gift for a friend who likes cleverly-crafted things like pretty pin cushions, and Birmingham-bred beauty products, pop in and see what takes your fancy.