Leeds is a city blessed with independents, and Our Handmade Collective, which celebrates its first birthday this June, is one of the most intriguing.
Our Handmade Collective showcases the work of fifty five hand-crafters, creating a treasure trove of beautiful things that could easily find a place in your home. This is gift shopping heaven, with everything from mugs and toiletries to cushions, aprons and toys – and it has real feel-good factor, because you know your money is going to people who are forging their own way in the world.
It’s funny how technological developments seem to have brought on a new love for handmade pieces. They have a personal touch, a uniqueness that you can’t find in high street stores – and that’s something Our Handmade Collective knows all about. Their entire business has been built on the skilled craftsmanship of locals, who plough love, passion and genuine talent into every piece they make – and indeed, every piece that is sold in the Leeds store.
You won’t find many shops like this in Leeds, or indeed the UK, which just means we’re all the more lucky to have them – especially as their first year in business hasn’t been the easiest. Founders Claire Riley and Natalie Entwistle initially set up shop in the Handpicked Hall, which opened up in 2013, promising independents a space in which they could thrive.
“We chose the Grand Arcade in the first place because that’s where Handpicked Hall were setting up,” Riley told us. “the opportunity came up and we thought it was too good to miss out on.” And indeed, it was an exciting proposition for the independents, offering the both security and low rents – for many of the independents who opened within, including Our Handmade Collective, it was the push they needed to take the jump and make their dreams a reality.
“The beauty of Handpicked Hall was that it gave a start-up to new and independent businesses with minimal fees and minimal risk, and that’s what we were attracted to.” Riley told us, “It’s very hard to try and start up a business during the recession and current climate, it’s so hard.”
But the security Handpicked Hall had promised didn’t last long, as it soon closed its doors, leaving the budding businesses within with a big decision to make – close or take the nail biting risk of opening up in their own unit, in the Grand Arcade.
It wasn’t as difficult a decision as you might think. “It was a huge shock when Handpicked Hall announced they were closing, but within a few days we had no panic in signing up.” Riley told us, “We were here to stay, and we could see the regeneration, and we wanted to be part of that.”
They’d already seen great success as part of Handpicked Hall, and with many of their fellow independents opening up in Grand Arcade, they were in good company. In a way, the arcade itself has taken on the role that Handpicked Hall tried to accomplish before it, and now, Our Handmade Collective is thriving.
That’s not to say it has been easy, in fact, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster for the two founders, “It’s been a little bit mad to say the least, a little bit stressful in moving to our own new unit, but it’s working really well and we’re really pleased with it.”
With all that in mind, it’s all the more impressive that they’ve made it to their first birthday, which they’ll be celebrating from 14th-15th June 2014. As you can imagine, it will be a unique affair and one that’s inline with their handmade roots, as Riley was happy to explain, “We have workshops and demonstrations running throughout the weekend; we’ve got prizes and raffles which will all go towards the clock fund, and a couple of other competitions, giveaways, tasters of the chocolates and various other things. We’ll also have the music going on outside with the help of Casa Columbiana, and anything else we can think of towards then.”
It’s going to be an exciting weekend, both for them, their regulars and the new shoppers who visit every day – because Our Handmade Collective is quickly becoming one of the city’s favourite independent stores, as people spread the word about the unique, handmade pieces you can find inside.
It’s something Riley is immensely grateful for, “We have returning customers from Handpicked Hall, and we operate on word of mouth, it all adds up.” So it’s hardly surprising that their customer base is growing, especially as Grand Arcade forges its way as a new independent hub, “More people are coming in every day, and that’s new faces every day, people come in and say they hadn’t heard of us before or they didn’t know where the arcade was or that they have tried in the past to find us and couldn’t.”
And honestly, we’re more than happy to help them spread the word, because little gems like Our Handmade Collective, are what make Leeds so special.
Our Handmade Collective, Grand Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6PG.