We went to Great Dixter Christmas Fair ten days ago and had the most wonderful time. It was glorious to be out, seeing new things and meeting new people In Real Life. (Among the new things we saw was this extremely beautiful stencilled wall.) It made us realise how much solitude has changed us. Fish that live in caves over time lose their eyes and all their colour because those things are useless in the perpetual darkness. Like them we were in danger of becoming rather sad, drab, solitary creatures. We exercised our atrophying social muscles just in time and are longing to exercise them again. So we are busily preparing for our studio sale which will take place next week. Dear friends – please come along.


Unitarian Church Hall, Cambridge CB1 1JW

Tuesday 14 December,  12 noon until 6 pm

The setting for our winter open studio is not as romantic or atmospheric as Great Dixter, but we feel rather fondly about the Unitarian Church Hall in the centre of Cambridge. It is a church hall of the old type, with a high vaulted ceiling, a little stage for putting on amateur dramatics, a kitchen full of very utilitarian crockery and giant tea urns, and a not-unpleasant smell compounded of rich tea biscuits, medicated soap and ancient ballet shoes. In short, the sort of building that all communities need at their centre and which we are lucky enough to have the use of next Tuesday for our annual rummage sale. The picture below is actually of the church — the hall is just behind it — but the weather portrayed is fairly accurate. There has been no snow here in Cambridge yet, though many other parts of the country have had it — but what a dark, wet, cold, miserable winter we are experiencing so far. All the more need for light, colour, warmth and human company.

We have an enormous pile, a really vast great heap of possible treasures to sell after the pandemic put paid to last year’s winter clear-out. There is two years-worth of accumulated seconds, slightly damaged stock, things that accidentally got printed in the wrong colour, samples, mistakes, ends-of-lines, fabric remnants and things from long ago that we forgot we had and have just found at the back of a high shelf. It all needs to go in order to make space for new things. If a box labelled ‘everything in here 50p’ is your idea of a good time then this is the event for you.

To all those who have asked if we could somehow make this event available online, we sincerely apologise. We just can’t think of a way. Our motive, apart from having fun, really is to clear the decks as swiftly as possible but without consigning anything to landfill. Some of the items are strange and/or damaged in unique ways and only an IRL encounter between that object and its future owner reveals its previously obscure potential. Notebooks that had their labels stuck on upside down, anyone? A letter tray that seems to have been lightly nibbled on one corner? A piece of fabric with a mysterious scorch mark right in the middle but perfectly good edges? All have potential that can be apprehended instantly in person but which would be difficult and laborious to describe and photograph. But to our farther-flung customers — we are really sorry!

We’ll be serving mulled wine, home-made mince pies and (an innovation) very tiny warm cheese scones. We’re jabbed, we’re boosted, we will all have taken a lateral flow test that morning and our two younger helpers, like every other 16 year-old in the country, have both recovered from covid in the past month and are as immune as a person can well be. (It’s this experience that has strengthened our confidence in the lateral flow tests. After months of dutiful twice-weekly testing it was rather thrilling to see at last the blasting positive signal that came up in moments. A bit like finally winning something on a scratch card. What nifty little gadgets they turn out to be.) We’ll be abiding by government guidelines and more importantly than that, we’ll keep the windows open.  If you are feeling cautious, consider coming a bit later in the day. The opening rush usually disperses by about two in the afternoon, allowing you to browse in peace, mince pie (or scone) in hand.

Finally, a housekeeping notice about buying from our online shop. The mad panic of last year has not been replicated and so far we’re in good heart, busily packing orders, still in stock with most things and well supplied with cardboard boxes. Christmas cards that sold out last month have been reprinted. A big consignment of the floppy vintage-style ribbon skeins which had been held up for months in consignment depots in various distant lands have suddenly and blessedly appeared. A small new batch of the Christmas Printing Block Sets has arrived just in the nick of time so these are once again available, though going fast. And we realise we have never drawn your attention to our delicate patterned paper-covered birch stars, a ready-made decorative star alternative for those of you who find the origami ones a bit challenging. They sold out so fast that I never had a chance to mention them, but are now back in stock. If you have been disappointed in your attempts to order any of these things, do check back now.

At the moment we plan to go on taking orders until noon on December 21st and we think we should be able to get all those packed and out the door for pre-Christmas UK delivery by the time we close for the holidays on December 23rd. Nevertheless, rumours are reaching us of distant ructions in the Royal Mail, van shortages and whatnot, presaging who knows what doom? So this date may be brought forward if shipping begins to be less reliable. Unexpected challenges still seem to be the order of the day: please don’t leave ordering until the last minute!