Deck the tree with handmade heirlooms
Not long now before we're getting the Christmas tree baubles out of storage and beginning the picky task of untangling the fairy lights, only to discover half of them don't work. Then comes the joy of sorting out the little painted figures, Santas on skis and battered, sparkly stars we've had for years. Yet every year the tree needs something fresh and new.
Maybe with so many fine craft makers around this could be your chance to have some fun, and give your tree real style, by starting a collection of handmade unusual decorations to hang from those pine branches.
Louisa Carter and her husband, Peter, started buying handmade silver decorations for their daughter, Lois, in 2003. "We thought it would be a good way to mark her first Christmas with something special that would last," says Louisa. "Both of us are in the jewellery trade, and were aware that designers were beginning to make them.
"We also thought that as long as we could afford to do it — and at £60 to £100 we currently can — it had the potential to become a rather nice collection of designers' work that might become something valuable for Lois to treasure, becoming something she will then be able to use in the future and pass on to her children as heirlooms. It's now become a family tradition."
It is one that Lois, now nine, really enjoys. "I look forward to getting a new decoration every year," she says. "I try to remember the Christmas I got each one. They are special to me because I know they are all handmade."
Silver is certainly a metal that lends a Christmas tree lots of sparkle. However, there are plenty of makers creating interesting, affordable, handmade decorations that will become heirlooms using less expensive materials.
Handmade decorations: our pick of the best
Many silversmiths create Christmas tree decorations, which offer clients the chance to own a piece of contemporary designer silver at an affordable price. This year 50 maker members from Contemporary British Silversmiths and the Association for Contemporary Jewellery have collaborated to create an exhibition at The Goldsmiths' Centre, Britton Street, EC1. Pieces are available via acj.org.uk and contemporarybritishsilversmiths.org. The show runs from December 4 until January 4, but some decorations will be on sale direct from the centre on December 11, from 4pm to 8.30pm. At other times, cards with the site addresses and Q-codes for easy access will be available to take away from the exhibition.
Many of the makers rework traditional themes in a contemporary way, from Kirsty Eaglesfield's snowflakes in silver and gold gilt, £75, to "scribble" stars by Christine Kaltoft, £45.
There are spirals by Rauni Higson, £145, and Martin Pugh, £80; festive engraved bows by Mary Ann Simons, £65; Christmas trees by Stefan Tooke, £80; crystals by Clive Burr, £90; frame balls by Frances Julie Whitelaw, £55; and decorated discs by Rebecca de Quin, £150, and Kathryn Hinton, £120.
Other silversmiths are selling their decorations via the Goldsmiths' Company (thegoldsmiths.co.uk) and include Vicki Ambery-Smith's unusual silver Gothic church window decorations, £65 and £78, snowflakes by Shona Marsh, £75, and Justin Richardson, £45; sleighs by Nicola Appleby, £45; holly leaves by Hannah Felicity Dunne, £80; and robins in silver and shagreen by James Dougall, £120.
Other makers sell direct. Louise Loder has silver angels made to order with Swarovski crystals or antique Indian glass heads. Her hanging angels are from £100, with treetop angels from £140 (louiselodersilver.co.uk). Christopher Perry makes a series of four "River Christmas Puddings", each decorated with sections of the river Thames as it winds its way from Kew to the Isle of Dogs. Each is hand-chased and gold-leafed and comes in its own distinct location box, £65. Perry will design and make a pudding of your own section of river for £15 extra. He also produces a series of silver silhouette robins, £90 each (christopher-perry.co.uk; 0114 270 0340; 07870 651501).
Geometric, crystal structure aluminium and silk one-off architectural decorations by Elizabeth Bone are £50 (elizabethbone.co.uk). Mini tree decorations of trees or angels, intricately etched in stainless steel, each attached to a greetings card, are £6.50 and £6.95, by Aimee Furnival (another-studio.com/shop), and Rachel Galley's silver-plated lattice snow globes are £115 each (rachelgalley.com).
Simple graphic snowflakes, £9, and tangled web baubles, £20, are from Timea Sido (boutique.timeasido.co.uk). A set of two droplets, £14, comes from seekandadore.com and modernist white embossed snowflakes by Reiko Kaneko, from £6.50, or with animal faces, £17.50, are available at reikokaneko.co.uk
A selection of ceramic hand-painted balls by Adam Few are from £12 (miratis.com).Personalised-initial Christmas baubles in porcelain and gold lustre are from £9, plus mini bauble sets in porcelain and gold lustre, £34, from Jo Heckett (joheckett.com).
Animal-themed decorations include ceramic reindeer by Shan Annabelle Valla, £12 each ,or £30 for three (shanvalla.co.uk), and a set of four hilarious porcelain penguins from Sarah J Miller, available in gold, black/gold or blue/silver, are £16 each, while her silver or gold camels are £12 each (iamsjm.co.uk).
Laser-cut clear Perspex stars and snowflakes, where both the cut-out and the frame are decorations, by Elizabeth Bone and Andy Bardill, are £6 for one pair, or £15 for a set of three pairs, one each of star, round flake and square flake (elizabethbone.co.uk).
A fluorescent orange laser-cut and hand-finished treetopping acrylic Angel of the North is £15 from Susan Bradley (susanbradley.co.uk)
A terrific range of gloriously coloured, hand-blown glass balls in a variety of designs by glass blower Peter Layton and his team are from £40. If you want to splash out, ornamented Red Glacier baubles with silverwork, by Howard Fenn, are £225, or for lower budgets, handmade glass baubles by Adam Aaaronson are £15 (miratis.com).