This weekend, I had the pleasure of doing some shopping. In a place where every single item I bought was directly from the person who had crafted it.
The yarn was spun and dyed by the lady who gladly chatted to me about it, and told me of the reason for the shading in the colours. Some medieval-appropriate scissors were made by the local fellow who was pleased to find someone to tell his story (from office-worker to craftsman). The gorgeous stoneware cup replaced a much-loved one smashed in our recent kitchen accident. But there were also candles hanging from strings, felt or wool hats and leather boots, beautiful linen cloth woven by a smiling Italian chap; even armour hammered by the smith standing proud before his wares.
This was a Living History Fayre, of course, not a supermarket. Such events are dates to be marked in the diary, as traders come together to sell to a particular market – in this case, mostly reenactors and history fans, but also a fair few pagans and simply interested locals.
It was lovely to see the sheer pleasure on everyone’s faces as us ‘muggles’ (ie dressed in 21st-century style) rubbed shoulders with World War 2 soldiers, 14th-century damsels and Tudor ladies. My lack of head-covering was remarked upon – and with my long, unbound red hair, I was merrily accused of being a witch! (Perhaps politer than the alternative…)
This isn’t silly, or escapist. This is people following their passion to learn about their ancestors, their land, the history that is part of us all – and then sharing that with others. Children were running about freely, with one lad being given an impromptu lesson with a sword, others playing proper dress-up with the adults!
And to have a bag of wares that is entirely unique, hand-crafted, each with its story, touched me on a level that simply wandering around a mall will never evoke. We might have easy access to goods from all over the world and all levels of technology, but it’s important to remember what real trade feels like, real relationship between the crafter and the user. I’ll certainly remember that every time those items are used.
I’ll certainly be saving my modern pennies for the next one…