Best of British
How do our products compare with the best in the world?
2012 was a big year for Britain. We hosted the 2012 Olympics which put us under the world’s spotlight for a while and invited scrutiny of everything British. Our atheletes stunned us with their performance but what about our British products? It seems like a good time to take stock of our British garden products and homewares. Is the standard of design and manufacture world class? And are these products on trend? However well made something is, if a product is battling against the tide of current fashion then it is unlikely to succeed.
A prominent trend for 2012 was heritage. The Queen’s diamond jubilee stirred up interest in what is great about Britain’s past and reminded us of the value of time honoured skills. Sussex trugs are a case in point. They are hand crafted from locally coppiced chestnut and willow and are revered by gardeners the world over. Nowhere else in the world makes such beautiful garden trugs. Similarly besom brooms that are handmade in the UK from local silver birch and hazel are the brush of choice for the green keepers that tend the world’s best golf courses. These are very high quality craft products that knock cheap imitations made elsewhere into a cocked hat.
Another theme for 2012 was sustainability. Products like Sussex trugs and besom brooms score highly here as they are both made from locally coppiced timber. But there are also British products which look to address the issue of sustainability by providing insect habitats. Leaving an area of your garden to run wild helps insects as does planting nectar rich flowers, but some British designers went one stage further by creating products which nourish and protect insects, mimicking habitats of the wild. Jamie Hutchinson launched the bee station which is an innovative ceramic food store and shelter for tired bumblebees, which these days have fewer hedgerows in which to find refuge. And Gavin Christman designed the bee brick which makes it easy to include space for solitary bees in your walls. Both are very well made, stylish products which offer a new way to help the environment.
Vintage style has also been an important trend of recent years, with Cath Kidston and Orla Kiely leading the charge. Products that successfully reference classic post-war designs and make them relevant to today are the winners The folk striped tray does just that. It draws on the spirograph patterns of the 1970s with a design that is both nostalgic and modern. The stooble too is decorated with a pattern of tessellating shapes that would not have looked out of place in a Heals catalogue of the 1960s and yet looks very much at home now.
These British homewares and garden products are winners. Thankfully our athletes are too.