By Bernie Bell
Pics by Catherine Wells
Many people in Orkney need to have more than one source of income, and, for many of these people, this takes the form of ‘making’ or art-work, which they then can sell through local shops, at the local craft-fairs, or….. on-line. Being on-line matters more and more these days.
Since the shops, and, in effect, the islands, have been closed due to coronavirus, this has made a huge hole in their income for many folk. I’m not sure how many ‘makers’ would qualify for financial help from the Government, if that isn’t their main source of income, and they don’t actually have a shop? At the present time, some craft-workers have hundreds of pounds worth of their work, sitting in shops which were, or still are, closed – and that work, cost time and materials to make.
I was aware of this situation, but it really came home to me, when I noticed that our stock of greeting cards is getting low. We’re both from large families – and we also tend to send cards whenever the opportunity arises – because we like to!
Normally, we get cards when we’re out and about – The Orkney Brewery has good ones, as does the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery. But, we haven’t been out and about for some months, and I realised that our stock of cards was disappearing fast.
This coincided with an email from someone I know, Catherine Wells, who lives in Birsay, and who usually makes a living providing holistic therapies https://www.orkney.com/listings/forest-bank-therapies , providing craft workshops https://www.orkney.com/listings/arts-a-flutter-craft-workshops and making greetings cards, coasters, felted objects etc. which she can sell through her Facebook page, and the Orkney shops, when they are open!
The therapy sessions and workshops became impossible during lock-down, and Catherine has needed to turn more and more to on-line trading for her art and craft work.
This very much hi-lighted the situation for me – someone I know, struggling, due to the present situation. And that’s what prompted me to write this – if you’re looking for gifts, or cards, or whatever, please consider ordering on-line from small-scale makers, rather than big companies. I usually try to encourage folk to use local shops, but, when the shops aren’t open ……on-line……is …. a life-line!
Some shops are now allowed to open, but, in places like Orkney, the problem could be that there aren’t the visitors this year. The visitors do buy a lot of what the makers, make, and provide much of the income for the small shops. I wonder if some shops will find it hard to decide if it will be worth opening, to get what might be a very small income, and thereby lose financial aid from the Government? It could be a risky business, to try.
Meanwhile folk who supply the shops will still have no local outlet for what they produce.
So, having noticed that our bag of cards is nearly empty, I asked Catherine to send us some of hers…..
Money is going to be tight, all round, but – people look to beauty, and whimsy, to lift their spirits in hard times. I honestly believe that, and I believe that Catherine’s work will raise a smile. Catherine’s cards and other work, can be viewed on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Artist/Arts-a-Flutter-693134430783036/.
The cards are made from recycled books, and are completely original. What me & Mike buy, won’t keep Catherine going for long! But if other people order things – it all helps. She also sells her work at the historic Birsay Kirk https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/westmainland/stmagnuschurch/index.html on Thursdays when the post office is there 2-4pm, and, in return, gives a donation to the Kirk…everyone’s a winner!
And I don’t just mean in Orkney – wherever you are, see what is available on-line from your local, individual makers and shops. What you’ll find, is likely to be a lot more interesting, and individual, than, for example, a card from Moonpig.com! Nothing against Moonpig.com – they will have been very useful for folk, during lock-down, but – small is beautiful!
Maybe have a look, on-line, for other craftspeople and makers and help to fill the gap for them, until ‘normal’ business resumes – or should I say ‘new normal.’
And, if you can’t get to a Post Office, you can order stamps on-line, which means that you will be able to post your gifts/cards as well.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.