Published On: 31 March 2020560 words2.8 min read

A friend of mine posted an idea on Facebook the other day that may initially seem a bit off the wall, but stay with me here: it’s the perfect time to start your Christmas shopping.

I know, I know it’s the last thing on any sane person’s mind in a normal March. But let’s be honest, nothing is sane right now and this March is not normal.

Her argument is thus: small businesses are really struggling right now. Like, really struggling. If the airline’s need a bailout just imagine what the pandemic experience is like for a self-employed creative type.

She counts herself amongst those fortunate enough to be in a fairly stable place despite the madness. And suggested that those who find themselves placed similarly might like to spend some of their newly reclaimed spare time supporting their favourite local businesses, their preferred artists and artisans, and discovering new ones.

I think it’s a great idea. It doesn’t need to be a huge purchase, or a lot of purchases, or even any purchase at all. You could just share a link for a shop you think your friends would enjoy. Or put together a wish list on Pinterest of beautiful pieces. All of it helps. And all of it gives a little nudge of confidence and support, which can really mean a world of difference.

So here’s a couple resources for discovering new businesses and artists.

Isle20 – this is a new website, just put together a couple of weeks ago, which showcases businesses on the Scottish islands that are trading online during the pandemic. It’s a brilliant idea and very quickly growing to encompass all areas of arts, crafts, goods and services. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed virtual island hopping and seeing what my fellow island-dwellers are up to and producing.

Mull and Iona Shop – a similar idea to Isle20, but dedicated exclusively to the makers on Iona and Mull. For obvious reasons, I’m partial to this one.

Just a Card – this campaign runs the on the premise that a lot of small shops would still be open if all the people that came in to browse had bought ‘just a card’. It’s not necessarily about cards, but it is about supporting independent, local producers in small (or large) ways. Their website doesn’t offer listings, but if you follow them on social media or keep an eye on their #justacard hashtag you’ll be sure to discover lots of clever crafters.

QEST – it would be remiss of me to not highlight the stunning work of my Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust peers. Not all of them have shops per se, but many do and it is not time mis-spent discovering scores of incredibly talented individuals on the way. The directory lists all alumni, and categorises us into discipline if you’re after something specific. Have a look!

Pictured up top: how I’ve been spending my apocalypse. I love learning new (to me) book structures, so I’m taking this opportunity to work my way through some that have been particularly intriguing me for a while now. This one was an islamic binding with sewn chevron endbands. And then because I was so enamoured with it, I made it a wee suede lined slip case, too. Because why not?