Autumn and Spring Fairs are always packed to the roof with amazing new products from the world's most creative people. Whether you're looking at paintings or greetings cards, toys or household gadgets, there's nowhere better to find the cutting edge of modern design.
As I walk round, I mark off in my show guide the names of companies that particularly catch my eye, then when I get home I see if they have a website so that I can learn more about their business. Not all of them do, and some won't let you get past the home page without a trade log-in. I find this a bit short sighted, as I don't see the harm in allowing your best work to be seen by anyone who's interested, as long as you have sufficient copyright protection in place. Great design should be celebrated, not hidden away!
So in that spirit of celebration, I wanted to show you some of my highlights from Autumn Fair 2009. Manufacturers' websites are linked to as much as possible, otherwise please consult the "Find Suppliers" tab at http://www.autumnfair.com/
All copyrights are acknowledged and respected.
No obvious new trends in the greetings card market this year. Recently there have been a lot of cards with the hand-made look, but these days that seems to have died down a little. Now there is literally something for everybody, whether you want traditional styles, humorous, cute, rude, artistic, celebrity branded, eco-friendly or covered in glitter.
Holy Mackerel caught my eye for their unique blend of comedy and food:
Egg-White Wedding greetings card by Claire Grove, £1.99
What's Yellow and Dangerous? greetings card by Claire Grove, £1.99
Nicebergs greetings card by Minimiam, £1.99
Homes and Gardens
I've worn out a few bird tables over the years and I can tell you that very few of them are that well designed. They can look very smart when they're new but normally they're a pain to keep clean. So when I saw this by ATP Gifts retailing through Sugarbowl Gifts, I didn't think it was very practical (or even that the birds would be too attracted to it) but I did think it was a very stylish garden ornament.
Filigree Wire Bird Feeder, £13.99, Sugarbowl Gifts - sold out until March!
Sugarbowl also retail a range of garden-themed gifts by one of my favourite comic artists, the pun king Simon Drew:
Fruit And Nuts of History tea towel by Simon Drew for Sugarbowl Gifts, £4.99
When most people buy a mirror, they just get one in a bog standard rectangular plastic or wooden frame. There's much more to them than that, though. A good designer mirror can be a dramatic focal point and instantly brighten up a room which doesn't get much natural light. Here are just a couple of the magnificent examples from this year's displays:
Swirl Mirror by West Decor
Metal Framed Star Mirror 110x92cm by McGowan Rutherford
Windhorse Trading Ltd displayed some of the biggest windchimes and mobiles I've ever seen, including this 65 cm tall beauty:
Butterflies & Hearts pink paper mobile by Windhorse Trading Ltd
Marvell's Ltd have this lively range of metal and wire wall art:
Fleet Of Boats
I'm a big fan of Banksy, he's anarchic, hilariously funny and also a technically excellent artist. Various companies have now licensed his work for books, postcards, T shirts and mugs. Panorama London have reproduced some of them as canvases, so you can have your own Banksy on your walls.
Pollard Street by Banksy, 13 x 17" canvas, £50.00 RRP
Jewellery and Fashion Accessories
This is normally a section of the show I just walk through to get to somewhere else, as I'm not particularly interested in jewellery. A couple of things did catch my eye though.
Sequins are definitely "in" this season and Suzie Blue have a large selection of various bags and purses absolutely smothered in the things.
Sequin Barrel Bags by Suzie Blue
I also noticed a few stalls specialising in cufflinks. They puzzle me a bit, not having a man in my life. Do men really wear them any more? If they do, would they wear novelty ones like these by Onyx-Art?
I do like them, I think they're cute and funny, but I just don't understand what sort of man would wear them and on what occasion. If you have any insights into the subject, please feel free to let me know!
Toys and Gifts
With Christmas less than three months away (aaargh!) here are some unusual and stylish gift ideas, starting with some of the gorgeous smelly girly stuff on offer (Autumn Fair is as much a treat for the nose as it is for the eyes).
6 assorted egg shaped bath fizzers by Bath Bubble and Beyond packaged in real egg boxes:
The same company also produce a range of soap cakes, which your retailer will sell by the slice. Please resist the temptation to eat them!
Lemon & Lime Soap Cake, 12" diameter, by Bath Bubble and Beyond
Adorable little cupcake lipglosses from Natural Products (UK) Ltd:
Naughty But Nice lip glosses, Natural Products (UK) Ltd
Next, something for the boys (whether or not they've chosen to grow up!) The cleverly-named DIYnosaur Lamps by Moedik which, as the name suggests, come in kit form to create a fully working table lamp. Various beasties available.
DIYnosaur lamp kits by Moedik
Syot exhibited a stunning range of retro pedal cars for the little kids. I can't imagine they're cheap but, if you're looking for something special, these would really get the neighbours' heads turning.
Pink Princess pedal car for 3-6 year olds by Syot
Siam Selection had this range of cute, and sometimes cheeky, novelty oven gloves:
Oven gloves from Siam Selection
The Write Gift have a very inventive alternative to greetings cards, a range of soft toys which are designed to be written on. They're perfect for the last day at work, get well soon, best wishes and any other occasion when you would normally club together with friends, family or colleagues to buy a keepsake for someone. They would certainly treasure this for much longer than a card.
Munin Monkey from The Write Gift.
I can't let this section go without name-checking one of my favourite mugs! I'm sure all dog owners will recognise the sentiment on this one by Repeat Repeat, available picturing a few different breeds. Cat lovers can choose from similar designs celebrating the annoyingly endearing habits of their own pet-of-choice.
Daschund mug, £7.95, by Repeat Repeat
Last but by no means least, if you're a fan of The Apprentice you'll have seen this product in the 2009 series. Sir Alan might not have been impressed but here are some satisfied customers in action. Yes, it's the Cardboard Cat Playhouse from Suck UK!
In the third and final part of my Autumn Fair review, I'll be looking at some of the top trends I noticed at the show. Check back soon for that!