The local collective of artists and designers will be bringing the first taste of the holiday season to the 601 this Saturday.
This article is sponsored by Made in Fife.
You know that winter in St Andrews is fast-approaching when it begins to get dark in the middle of the afternoon, the lights on the three streets seem even more festive than usual, holiday decorations and baubles begin to adorn storefronts, and you find yourself craving a hot chocolate from your favourite café after a tutorial. Indeed, we’ve officially reached the time of 4pm sunsets, North Sea storms, and days when your fingers can never quite get warm again. Moreover, we’ve reached the point of the semester when essays are rapidly piling up and the prospect of revision is beginning to make everyone feel faintly queasy. It’s fair to say, therefore, that a little festive spirit is needed to get us through the perils of deadline season and safely to the winter break.
A brand-new event coming to St Andrews for the first time that is sure to ring in the spirit of the holidays is the Made in Fife Christmas Fair, happening at the Student Union this Saturday 12 November from 11am to 5pm. With a poster that promises ‘unique, unusual, handcrafted gifts’, the Christmas Fair will not only be an opportunity to bring together town and gown, but also introduce St Andrews students from across the world to the vibrant arts and crafts scene of Fife.
Made in Fife is a group of Fife-based artists, designers, and makers who exhibit their works and attend fairs across the county, including the Fife Show, the Pittenweem Art Festival, and the Largo Arts Week. Each of the Made in Fife events additionally provides opportunities for guests to display their wares alongside the members of the group. The organisation’s website (www.madeinfife.co.uk) shows the work of thirteen member artists, each one boasting a different talent. The pictures on display provide several little windows into the world of Made in Fife, from picturesque designs in glass to hand-painted items of furniture, colourful jewellery pieces to sketches of Fife's beautiful coastal towns. In a variety of mediums – paintbrush, pen, wood, yarn, and more – the Made in Fife artists and makers each create one-of-a-kind pieces that truly show off not only their skill and craft, but also their own individual backgrounds and passions that have brought them together in the group.
As the organisation’s Treasurer, Margo Addison-Scott, tells me, however, this is the first time that the group has come to St Andrews in the twenty five years that Made in Fife has been established. A resident of Cupar for over twenty years, Margo only recently discovered that the St Andrews Student Union hosts events for groups from outside the town, such as the widely popular Vintage Fairs and Record Fairs. Made in Fife liaised with the Union’s Design and Marketing team in order to arrange the logistics of bringing the Christmas Fair to St Andrews, and Margo expressed her sincere gratitude on behalf of the group for their support.
Christmas Fairs and Markets are a beloved tradition wherever you find people who celebrate the holiday. They bring to mind carolling, gingerbread, mulled wine, and artisan’s stalls full of ornaments, cards, and crafts. From the immense festival in Edinburgh just an hour’s travel away, to my own beloved Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District, events like these are full of warmth and nostalgia, and perfect opportunities to buy unique handmade gifts.
I spoke with a group of St Andrews students about whether Christmas Markets are something that they continue to be interested in. “I think that in an age dominated by Black Friday, where Jeff Bezos owns everything the light touches, it’s really valuable to have an opportunity to shop sustainably and support the local economy”, one student told me.
“There’s always something for everyone, and I love trying to find some weird and wonderful gifts for my friends and family”, said another.
The Made in Fife Christmas Fair certainly capitalises on the latter, and will be providing a wide range of sustainable, locally-made arts and crafts for attendees to add to their holiday shopping lists. A smaller scale event which offers the perfect opportunity to have that magical first taste of Christmas!
Margo says that attendees can look forward to “a whole range of amazing goodies on offer” and “a very strong Christmas theme throughout”, with festive glitter, tinsel, and bling adorning not only the crafts on sale but the stalls themselves as well. She encourages attendees to speak with the stallholders at the Fair about the crafts that they have put on display, as each of the Made in Fife members and guest artists are extremely passionate about their work, and eager to share that passion with prospective buyers. “What you see on each stall is often the result of many years of hard work in developing their skills, and we are sure you will see gifts you have never seen before”, she proudly told me.
“It would be wrong to pick out any particular stalls – all are amazing, and I hope that your readers will take a look at them all”, she added.
I asked Margo about the different kinds of arts and crafts that will be on offer for attendees to peruse, and she described a vivid array of handmade products at a variety of price points that truly embody the maxim of ‘something for everyone’. For the fashion-forward St Andrews crowd, you can find beautiful jewellery in silver and cold-pressed clay, as well as hand-crafted leather bags that will enhance the best of your outfits. For those looking for wearable and cosy accessories, look no further than the selection of shawls, pashminas, and pom-pom beanies. If you’re searching for the perfect addition to complete a winter night in, there are quilts and candles that will be ideal for your evening by the fireplace – real, electric, or projected. The Made in Fife artists will also be bringing artworks and seasonal cards that will be perfect to send to friends and family.
St Andrews is a town that’s well known for its international student community hailing from upwards of 140 nationalities. Brought together in our affectionately named ‘Bubble’, we have the opportunity to engage with a variety of Scottish traditions and travel across the country when we have the time. The Made in Fife Christmas Market is the perfect opportunity for students to explore the arts and culture scene of Fife in the familiar comforts of the Student Union. In our interview, Margo perfectly encapsulated the importance of sharing local craftsmanship with the St Andrews community.
“I think there is a fair chance that most of your students will never have come across Made in Fife before, but I hope they will find something that will remind them of their time in St Andrews, maybe a drawing of the Old Course, a little bit of tartan, or a hat they might wear to keep out the cold of a Scottish winter, or something simply labelled, ‘Made in Fife’. I am quite sure that their families and friends back home, wherever that might be, will be delighted to find a little bit of Fife under their Christmas tree on Christmas Day”.
This Saturday, the doors of the Student Union will be thrown wide open to the students and town residents alike. Margo told me how she is eagerly anticipating greeting the fair’s first customers and is hopeful that the event will be a stellar success.
“It’s always a relief to me, as an organiser, to see all of the stalls set up, covered in tinsel, and maybe with carols playing in the background. When the first potential customers walk through the door, and hopefully say ‘Wow’! I look forward to chatting to St Andrews University students, and also the people of St Andrews, who take time to pop in to visit our Christmas Fair.”
The tagline for the Fair is ‘Christmas Starts Here’, and from my discussion with Margo, the holiday spirit will be incredibly palpable throughout the whole event. One thing she made clear was that “there’s absolutely no ‘bah humbug’ allowed!”. If you’re looking for a sign to start your holiday shopping — seriously, from experience, it’s never, ever too early — or you would just like to give a well-deserved present to yourself as motivation during deadline season, the Made in Fife Christmas Fair is indeed the perfect place to start the holidays.
Illustration: Sarah Knight