Today I’d like to share a couple of my purchases from the Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, which I visited over the weekend in Manchester city centre. The Craft Fair showcased the work of over 140 of the most innovative and influential designers from the UK and beyond – in the words of the event programme, “this event is about finding something you love and buying it direct from the person who made it”.

The majority of the stalls seemed to be selling jewellery. Now, I’m not a jewellery girl at all. I wear a watch that my Grandma gave me on my 18th birthday, the lovely silver bangle that Andre gave to me a few years ago, and my engagement and wedding rings. And that’s all – I never wear any other jewellery.

(As a short aside - my bangle and rings were all made on commission by the Divinity Studio in the wonderful Manchester Craft Centre. If you haven’t been to the Manchester Craft Centre, go there immediately, if not sooner. If you leave right now, you should make it there just before closing. It’s such a lovely shopping experience – in fact, I think I’ll probably do a separate post on it in the near future.

However, there were still plenty of stalls selling interior textiles, fashion accessories, ceramics, glass, silver, wood, furniture and paper items to keep me very happy. The first things I saw that I really, really loved were these amazing vases by Olivia Lowe:

Stunning, no? Stunningly expensive too. We moved on, regretfully.

But were swiftly perked up by the sight of Hannah Nunn’s gorgeous lights, which were glowing softly around the corner:

Hannah was inspired to design these lovely lamps when one day she took one of the paper cut greetings card that were her first foray into design, held it up to the light, and admired the beautiful silhouettes that it created:

After many months of sketching, cutting and sticking, she created her first lamp. Originally she cut the lamps by hand, but now uses specialist laser cutting technology:

After walking round the entire Craft Fair about six times, we found ourselves drawn back to Hannah’s stall, and settled on a gorgeous allium design (one of my favourite flowers – in fact I have just ordered a whole load of allium bulbs to plant in the garden this autumn – more details coming in a future post this week!).

We brought it home (stopping mid-way at Wagamama’s to fortify ourselves after all that craft with some ramen soup) and after moving around the house, settled it in place on the mirrored chest of drawers in the bedroom, where it seems very happy:

What is particularly special about this lamp is that it’s equally lovely when the light isn’t turned on – it looks as if it is made out of porcelain:

You can check Hannah’s website here, her Etsy shop here, and her blog here.

The next designer I fell upon in delight is Virginia Graham:

Virginia makes eclectic quirky vintage-style ceramics – her eclectic pieces combine nostalgia, playfulness, and humour, and are decorated using slip painting enamel transfer printing, and metallic lustre.

How fabulous are these teapots and cups?

However, I didn’t buy a teapot because as much as I loved them, I already have a Wedgewood tea-set that belonged to my Grandma, and a Heals tea-set that was a wedding present from my Grandpa – and I only like to buy things for the Nest that I know I will use, rather than leave on a shelf, or in a cupboard. So instead, I looked at her range of vases:

And this is what I bought:

I can’t wait to head down to my favourite flower shop this weekend, Living Flowers, and buy a single perfect rose to put in my new vase:

You can read more about Virginia’s work by checking out her website.

I really love buying unique pieces like this lamp, and this vase. It’s not something I do every day, which I think just makes it extra special when I do. I also feel inspired by my parents, who have a tradition of giving one another gorgeous vases, or lovely bowls, or beautiful pictures, on special occasions such as birthdays.

I know that you can buy mass-produced items for a lot less that look pretty similar, and most of the time I do – the majority of my accessories are from Heals, or Habitat, or even Tesco. But I do love the fact that Andre and I are gradually filling our Nest with one-off, unique pieces that have a story behind them, that we can remember where and when we bought them, and why we chose them.

Having said that, I also love all our Tesco vases – at the time, they were an armful of cheap ‘filler’ vases that we bought when we first moved in to decorate the shelves in the living room. Now, they have become the vases that we bought together when we first moved into our little Nest – their history makes them special.

So what do you think - did you visit the Craft Fair? What did you think of it? Did you buy anything special? Do you prefer buying a few one-off pieces gradually over time – or creating an instant effect that way we did with our Tesco vases? Do you like collecting lots of the same thing, or do you prefer to have just one or two versions of each item?

I’ll be back tomorrow with some more adventures from the Nest – catch you later!