The perfect antidote to a big shopping centre like Westfield, the small alternative market at Merton Abbey Mills in SW19 was, untill 1970, the printing works for famous London department store Liberty’s but is partly named after the mediaeval Merton Priory one of the most important monastries of its time. Restored and opened in 1989 it has nearly half a million visitors a year with many shops open during the week as well as 10am to 5pm at the weekend. Situated on the river Wandle, the grounds are beautiful and on a sunny day as it was yesterday you can sit, meditatively watching the water wheel go round as the sun flickers through the weeping willow on the other side of the river.
I hadn’t been for a while but was pleased to find that there is a really exciting range of arts and crafts in both the shops and outdoor stalls. For your own piece of nature, these distressed leaf metal pendant necklaces would make a fantastic talking point at the lovely Tiffany Moore’s stall, Kool Kaftans. True to name she also does gorgeous silk kaftans with pretty designs.
The Craft Connection Gallery is a co-operative of 20 different artists and crafts people which has been open for over fifteen years. You can find everything from a rainbow coloured sock monkey to the most fun piece I saw: a Heinz baked beans sculpture with mini skulls in ‘tomato sauce’ by Skulls! Skulls! Skulls!. Human beans on toast anyone? Perhaps not, unless you’ve been stranded by the volcanic ash no fly zone and are feeling particularly cannabalistic. Ththththth…
For the Gaga fans amongst you and I’m not talking radio…, get yourselves to Funky Finger’s stall. It takes the lovely Darren a whole four days to make his hand decoupaged shoes but it’s worth the effort. He makes funky (of course) woolen jewellery too.
There’s also something for the home too with these cleverly designed Chinese food bowls that have holes to rest your chop sticks in. They’re hand made by the lovely Stephen Llewellyn who has a pottery at The Wheelhouse on the grounds. He and his wife Claire (also lovely) are actively involved in the work of Wandle Herritage and keep the section of the river next to The Wheelhouse free of all sorts of detritus including the odd safe! If you fancy a go at throwing your own pot, they do lessons too.
It was really great to meet the people behind the business; it makes the shopping experience so much more personal when you can have a chat about the designs and find out how the pieces were made and with live jazz playing under the bandstand in the afternoon, what better way to shop! Nice.
© Sabina Lucia 2010