Illustration by Rebecca Strickson
On the evening of 8th December, close to 50 people of all ages came together for something resembling a drop-in DIY craft party – the Crafternoon Tea Club Christmas Spesh with Etsy!
Taking place at Etsy’s Bevenden Street headquarters (aka The Trampery, or the Christmas Grotto), it was a chance to mingle, drink, dance and be merry, and learn a thing or two about sustainable gift-giving over the holiday period. Everyone attending was asked to bring along gifts they no longer wanted or needed, including homemade items, which could be repackaged and distributed to those who could make use of or enjoy them. A selection of ready-made gifts were to hand for those less organised, and incredibly, everything was free – I’m not sure it would have been possible to make this a more friendly, accessible event.
At the start of the night, Crafternoon Tea Club co-founder Beccy McCray explained a bit about the concept. Using the wonderful materials laid out on a table at the centre of the room, we were to wrap our gifts up using all the creativity we could muster. Once decorated, our presents would require a tag with a ‘gift story’ to explain where they came from. Then, they were to go under the Christmas tree, ready for re-distribution at the evening’s end.
The centre table was a place of crafty glee, and it was hard not to rifle through the glorious French magazines, colourful yarns and sparkly ribbons available. I spied retro jewellery, secondhand books and delicious preserves in the gifting mix, and was so impressed at the artistic techniques on display, including weaving, collage and some intricate hole-punching.
Strangers discussed their approaches to gift-wrapping, the Gaggle DJs played some festive tunes, and the wine and mince pies only added to the happy atmosphere. In a year of so much social and environmental upheaval, this gathering seemed to refute any notion of antisocialism taking its grip, or a consumerist society which ignores its environmental impact. Instead, we discussed just how much landfill space we occupy, why it is that we insist on buying all-new presents each year, and how we might use existing materials to recreate beautiful gifts with a conscience.
Crafternoon Tea Club was informally started by Beccy McCray and Hannah Elbourne as a bit of post-break-up art therapy in 2001, and began more officially in 2007. Since then it’s grown rapidly, first in parks and pubs, and now spreading to larger spaces. The Club is run by a collective of close to a dozen craft-lovers who work across different industries. They’ve previously held similar events at venues such as the Barbican and the National Theatre, and this was their fourth this year.
Beccy told me, ‘We wanted to get away from having workshops and just have a party: a positive, inclusive event.’ They’ve certainly achieved this and more – a spring event is close on the horizon, and there are murmurs of overseas happenings in Brazil and Japan. Watch this crafty space!
Crafternoon tea club. All photography by Caitlin Sinclair.
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