Think about the things you own. Your watch. Your earrings. That shirt or skirt or coat you’re wearing. Are they yours? Sure, they belong to you, but that isn’t quite what I mean.
Unique, original, individual and personal are words you’ll see plastered across billboards and TV ads eleventy hundred times a day (it’s true, I worked it out with maths) – in relation to products slapped together a thousand miles away in identikit batches of millions. Finding true uniqueness – a one-off gift or keepsake that exists absolutely nowhere else – is pretty hard on the modern High Street. But not impossible: enter stage left, Shiny Creations.
An umbrella brand name for the creations of Island-based former Fine Art student Helen Michelle Baggett, Shiny’s turns out such an exotic collection of trifles and treasures it’s hard to classify. ‘Jewellery business’ doesn’t quite cover it, though all manner of intricate trinketry graces the shelves of Helen’s pitch in Newport’s Isle of Wight Traders – from TARDIS earrings to Quidditch-themed necklaces strung with Bludgers and Quaffles, all handmade to order.
She can also create cute cartoonifications of your family or friends – couldn’t get the whole gang together for that reunion? Send Helen some photos and she’ll weave them into the seamless tableau you always wanted, drawn and coloured in her own adorably quirky style.
This is Shiny’s real selling point. Though Helen could fill a catalogue with her own gift designs, the bulk of her business is commission-based: if you’ve got an idea for a picture, a print, a wristband, a necklace, a ring – anything, really – she’ll design and make it. It’s the kind of fresh thinking Island-based enterprises need to engage in, to take advantage of the space vacated by the lengthening list of corporate behemoths struck down in the Great Recession. Shiny’s choice of home reflects this approach perfectly – the aforementioned Isle of Wight Traders in Holyrood street, Newport.
Recessions ask questions of us. At first, a numberless frenzy of them: how did this happen? Who’s responsible? Who’s going to pay for it? Could we have done something to stop it? But once those chill winds settle in, start claiming livelihoods, closing doors and quietly whittling at the size of our aspirations, it all simmers down to the one that actually matters. What are you going to do about this?
Payday lenders and betting shops are one answer – vampires and vultures descending to roost in the town’s deserted spaces, snaring the vulnerable and desperate, springing up everywhere as the downturn drags on. The unacceptable face of capitalism.
But going to local traders is a better answer. Isle of Wight Traders, for example, is collaboratively managed by the fourteen businesses who divide its floorspace between them – they each pay a small rental fee, give up one day a week to man the shop floor, and in return receive a pitch or shelf from which to sell their goods. It’s both simple and dazzlingly inspired. So what if you can’t make rent on a shop, all on your own? With fourteen like-minded souls to spread the cost and risk, starting a small business can be viable for anyone.
So think about it. Next time there’s a birthday, wedding, anniversary – anything, really- and you need something a little different, pop into a local business like Shiny Creations before you hit up Amazon. Not only will you find some truly unique gifts, but you’ll be doing something important, too – bringing a bright future for Island enterprise a step closer to reality.