Planning your Christmas shopping trip? Olive & Myrtle is the ethical homeware, jewellery and gift shop in Bellingham that has HLN’s seal of approval…
We caught up with founder Emily Adam to discover how over a decade of trading and travelling has given her a commitment to helping artisan makers and their families across the globe.
Having risen from the ashes of Lockdown 1.0, after owner Emily’s 11-year journey of creativity, travel, trade and adventure, Olive & Myrtle is the new homeware, jewellery and gift shop with a rich history.
And that’s not only in terms of Emily’s story as a business owner, either. Many of the products Olive & Myrtle stock are sustainably sourced; are fair trade and each has its own story to tell. From Indian furniture and artisan jewellery to bars from Yorkshire chocolatiers, felt decorations handcrafted in the Himalayas to bowls hand-turned on our doorstep here in the North East, any item you find on the shelves of this Aladdin’s cave is guaranteed to help support the life and work of a designer-maker and their families.
And Emily’s endeavours to bring local craftsmanship to the fore aren’t going unnoticed. A seasoned trader herself, her work has led to her being featured in Vogue, trading at Glastonbury Festival and jetting off on a stock-buying mission to India.
But it seems the self-described ‘adventure of a lifetime’ isn’t over just yet. Thanks to a serendipitous offer of renting a shop she once peered through the windows of in her beloved hometown of Bellingham, Emily used lockdown to re-establish Olive & Myrtle in the brand’s very own bricks-and-mortar premises, a dream realised, with lots of exciting plans for the future too.
All this, just in time to welcome back real-life Christmas shoppers. We spoke to Emily about what she’ll be lining the shelves with this yuletide, how buying from Olive & Myrtle can really make a difference and why we should all be heading to Bellingham for our festive shopping trip…Shop Now
What’s Olive & Myrtle all about?
‘Olive’ represents peace and ‘Myrtle’ good luck. Together, Olive & Myrtle is a brand that’s not only new, but has a history; it stands alone, yet is held up by the creative ideas and experiences that have helped it to exist as it is today.
It’s a brand full of passion, that recognises the importance of people, creativity, our world and our dreams. It’s arty and quirky but has class; it’s unusual and a bit mysterious, yet appeals to so many. It’s a business that’s still unfolding and is, therefore, undefinable as just one thing in this moment.
You’re passionate about supporting local and international artisans. Can you give us an example of how us buying one of your products can benefit an artisan, their family and their wider community?
The shop offers both locally handmade and fair trade-registered home décor, jewellery and gifts. A customer buying anything from one of our local stockists is supporting a small, local business and is guaranteed to be created with care. The benefits of visiting our shop is that you can view our full collections, which are always changing. A large percentage of our stock is fair trade and sales of these products directly supports artisans and their families in so many ways – providing a good living wage, helping with education and health care, creating equality in the workplace and being able to use sustainable materials.
Three of our main suppliers have been trading with third world countries for over 30 years now and their charitable work helping artisans and their families with food and water supplies during India and Nepal’s lockdowns has been incredible. We’re honoured to play a part in these companies’ successes as they’re helping to change the world.
We’ve been told Olive & Myrtle is an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of gifts and hidden treasures. How do you decide what type of products you stock?
Many people who visit the shop tend to comment on what a beautiful shop we have, how lovely the products are and how unusual it is. It’s very humbling receiving so many compliments. I certainly have a keen eye for quality craftsmanship and I love to curate a pleasing display.
My experience of setting up in a different way at each and every event I trade at and experimenting with new stock ideas over the years has led me to take on the role as curator, always choosing items that I love. I’d find no joy in unpacking, displaying and selling items that I have no positive connection to. So many items in our shop tell a story: where it came from, how it’s been made, who had made it and why it was chosen.
Lockdown living has encouraged us all to be more tech-savvy and, for many of us, that has meant doing our shopping online. What would you say to encourage our readers back through the doors of Olive & Myrtle in person?
The surge in online shopping last year helped me keep going while the shop was closed and I’m so grateful to have had a successful year of online sales, despite so many setbacks. I created Olive & Myrtle’s online shop over the November closure last year and, although we’re gradually building up the online shop, customers will be able to find so much more when visiting the shop itself. A lot of our local stockists’ art and woodwork creations are one-of-a-kind and are only to be found in-store. A lot of our fair trade ranges are also only available in-store, although some are also available on my Wild Flower Trading website too.
Our team consists of myself, Sophia and my Mum, who loves to help with posting orders and pricing stock. When coming for a visit, you’ll find at least one of us there to give you a warm welcome! There’s nothing quite like visiting a bricks-and-mortar shop for that much-needed experience of face-to-face human contact, a friendly chat and the chance to see, feel and smell a product before you buy – you just don’t get that online!
And why should our readers head to Bellingham for their Christmas shopping?
We have a vibrant town, full of friendly little businesses including cafés and restaurants, a bakery, a bookshop (which also sells crafts and Christmas gifts), another gift shop with a lovely collection of handmade skincare, homeware, and presents for children, and even the Post Office shop offers cards and gifts. There’s a new market on the last Saturday of the month at the Town Hall too, which features stalls selling cheese, bread, arts and crafts. You’ll find something you want in each shop!
Bellingham is the perfect place for a day out or a weekend break. We’re not far from Kielder and the shop is a five-minute walk away from the beginning of the Hareshaw Linn waterfall walk. So you’re spoilt for choice!
3 Shellcroft, Front Street, Bellingham NE48 2AU