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  1. Mella Journal - December 2020

    Well…..we’ve just about made it to the end of the worst year ever. Well done! It’s not been an easy year for anyone. I’d love to say a HUGE BIG thank you to everyone who has supported Mella Handmade Soap this year and I hope you continue to follow the Mella journey next year too. I have some grand plans and hopefully enough energy to see them through.

    I know I seem to go on and on about it but the #shopsmall and #shoplocal message seems to have really struck a cord with people and the support that small business has received has been AMAZING! Some of you may know that I work in a local shop as well as running my own business and that I had hoped to start working for myself full time this year but Covid had other ideas. Working in the community and feeling genuinely helpful, as people felt that they couldn’t leave their homes and needed their shopping done and delivered has been one of the highlights of this horrible year. The local shops of Unst – H. Henderson, Skibhoul Stores and The Final Checkout really stepped up, as did a mini army of volunteers who helped pack shopping and delivered boxes all over the island. The posties and Jim who delivers the parcels all did a fantastic job too. It’s been a real community effort that we have seen reach a new level.

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    Hard at work at H. Henderson in Unst - Also known as Ethel's!

    So this month I’d like to highlight a few more local heroes who have adapted and changed their businesses to really serve their communities.

    The Pittenweem Hub, Fife

    The Pittenweem Hub is a pharmacy, post office and shop which serves the lovely little town of Pittenweem in the East Neuk of Fife.  They have offered home deliveries, provided a vital pharmacy and advice service, had a brilliant list of what stock was available listed on the door…..remember that time when we couldn’t find sanitizer, thermometers and toilet roll? We seem to have found ourselves in the same situation....crazy times indeed. They have such cheerful staff and kept everyone topped up with bread milk and if you needed it, wine and gin.

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    The one-stop-shop for all your needs in Pittenweem, a real community asset.

    Hammerton Store, Aberdeen

    Susan and her team at Hammerton Store are massive supporters of Scottish produce, crafts and gifts. She mobilised her team and adapted Hammerton Store to cope with every bump in the road and change in government in guidelines, including an extra Aberdeen lockdown just as everyone else was enjoying a little bit of normality in the summer. Each day they serve up delicious lunchtime treats and just now a hamper wrapping service for perfect Christmas gift is in full swing…….makes me wish I had the Hammerton Store on my doorstep……lucky folks of Aberdeen!

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    Hammerton Store on Great Western Road, Aberdeen.

    Kitschnbake, Newport-on-Tay, Fife

    If the daily scones on the wall post on Instagram doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will! MJ, Charmaine and the Kitschnbake team have really adapted to the covid conventions. As the space for eating inside is too small they have changed that area into a gorgeous shop, showcasing the best in Scottish craft and design, including a range of candles made by Mella especially for them! I bought some lovely cards when I visited there in August…..and the scones, so delicious…..you’ll never want a boring old plain scone again!

    Amy Britton Accessories, Stirling

    Amy really has adapted and changed her business to cope with what the pandemic has thrown at us. She has a range of stunning Harris tweed purses, bags, glasses cases and more and in the middle of everything designed and made some exclusive products for Mella Handmade Soap using some stunning Shetland Tweed woven on the island of Yell. Not only that she quickly looked at how she could change her business to start producing face coverings as it became pretty clear that they would soon become a part of our lives. She is now making masks to add to her own range, for my business as well as Emma Ball and Sandra Vick, plus others.

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     Not doing a great job of modelling an Emma Ball face mask at Amy's studio in Stirling.

    Teagreen Online Marketplace

    One of the best markets I was able to attend last year was organised by Teagreen Events at The Bowhouse just outside St Monans in Fife. It was such a fantastic day with so many beautiful things to buy, delicious food and drink to share over Christmas. The thought of not being able to go again this year was pretty sad but Joanne MacFadyen who organises the craft markets did THE most fantastic job of putting the whole thing online. I was a bit sceptical at first, I mean how can an online event ever replace the real thing? Well, in truth it can’t but Joanne’s efforts were so impressive and I took part in three online events, each better than the one before! She managed to create a market atmosphere online….how did she do that?! She put together makers and designers from all over the country who offered a wonderful range of handmade products and gifts. I have discovered lots of new makers just by taking part and did much of my Christmas shopping at the online market too. So just like the real thing…..I spent lots of money on my fellow stall holders tables and have got lots of gifts, some of which may or may not be for me!

    Unst Leisure Centre, Baltasound

    When Swimming pools and fitness centres were forced to close that had a massive impact for so many people. Our leisure centre here in Unst is not just a place for taking exercise it’s meeting place and social hub for all ages. Faye Cox put many of the fitness classes online and kept everyone active and motivated. Her positive and enthusiastic nature kept everyone going and now the centre is open again it’s welcoming new people and people who may have gotten out of the way of going to the leisure centre back as we have all realised how important exercise and social interaction is to our physical and mental wellbeing.

    There are so many other small businesses I could mention, everyone has made the biggest effort. Hopefully 2021 will bring us some better times and that everyone will remember what their local shops and business have done to help their communities.

    **I wrote this last week before the latest announcements from the UK and Scottish governments and I wondered if I should have re-written the whole thing. Now many of these places are forced to close for three weeks and perhaps longer. This year really is the year that keeps on giving us more bad stuff to deal with. But as the image below says…..Life is Tough but so ARE you!**

     

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    Gorgeous card designed and made by Juniper Press of Aberdeen. Available on my website with a soap and candle of your choice.

    I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting my business this year, for reading my blog, liking my social media posts, it all means so much.

    THANK YOU!

    Have a Merry Christmas and here's to a better 2021,

    Mel x

  2. Mella Journal

    November 2020

    I’m writing this on a wild and windy night, I have been at the day job and now I’m home in front of the fire with a Mella candle on the go (quality control – obviously). I should be doing a couple of hours in the workshop but quite honestly I don’t know if I’d get around there, yes it’s that wild! I have been really busy and SO grateful for all the online orders I have received so far. I was really worried that business was going to be slow this Christmas but I have been pleasantly surprised. I haven't had as many wholesale orders this year as I would have hoped but that’s totally understandable. For a while there I thought there would be none! I really feel for the areas of Scotland going into level four restictions and for the other parts of the UK who are also in their second lockdown. So, I am beyond thankful!

    I’m still having a few supply problems. While I try to source as many of my materials from Scotland and the UK as I can, I guess these companies rely on sourcing things internationally and there continues to be lots of delays in the system.

    Tea Green Market Place

    Next weekend Mella Handmade Soap will be taking part in the second of this year’s Tea Green Winter Markets. Last month was amazing and I was delighted with all the orders and shares and comments on social media. There was a real buzz on the Tea Green Marketplace Facebook group page, it was almost like being at the real thing! So please join us if you can on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th November here’s the link below. There's also a 15% discount code for all Mella sales over the weekend with code: TEAGREEN

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/teagreenmarketplace

    There are so many talented designers and makers there, it’s the perfect place to find Christmas gifts while shopping small. So, with that in mind I thought I would make a few suggestions for Christmas gifts that your friends and family will love and will spread a little Christmas cheer to some small businesses.

    Mella Shop Small Christmas Gift Guide

    Soap Dishes and Ceramics 

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    Clod and Pebble is based in Ayrshire and also taking part in the Tea Green Market. Chris has a stunning collection of mugs, plates, dishes and wooden utensils. They are gorgeous, beautifully made and really special but at the same time are affordable. The soaps dishes are the perfect partner for a Mella Soap too! I now have three of these dishes, excessive? I don't think so.

    https://www.clodandpebble.com

     Cosy Nights

    There was snow on the ground yesterday so I think we are now officially in hot water bottle season. For cold winter nights these hot water bottles with merino wool covers are so cosy. I have one and LOVE it.

    https://www.weewoollies.co.uk/hot-water-bottle-grey-coral-yellow-stripe

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    Scandi Christmas for the Hygge Vibe

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    I love Christmas lights and decorations and I'm quite excited about getting the decorations up a little earlier this year to cheer things up. I bought this gorgeous little tree from a really lovely Scandinvian shop in Edinburgh called Spektakular. I have three felted plant pots from there too. Lovely! They have an online shop but if you're in Edinburgh you'll find them in Bruntsfield.

    https://www.spektakular.co.uk/

    The Perfect GnT

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     I first discovered Granite North Gin at The Balgove Larder Christmas Night Market last year, whose brilliant idea was it to put my stall next to some gin? Well, of course I bought a bottle and it was delicious. It’s available at The Balgove Larder in St Andrews and Hammerton Store in Aberdeen, amongst other places, but these two are particular favourites of mine.

    Granite North Gin is also available online.

     https://www.granitenorthgin.com/

     

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    It's Never Just a Card

    During lockdown I wrote lots of cards to friends and family and I bought a pack of greetings cards complete with a book of first class stamps from the amazing Bonkers in St Andrews. Lots of brilliant gifts and stationery. Normally I’m in Fife at a few markets at this time of year and always get some lovely cards here. 

    https://www.bonkers.uk.com/

    Eating Out

    Restaurants are really struggling and now that Fife is in Tier 3 many small restaurants have had to make the tough decision to close their doors as having to close at 6pm and only offering a lunch service with no alcohol sales just isn’t an option. One of my favourites is The Dory in Pittenweem.

    They are offering gift vouchers for any amount you wish, so you can buy dinner now and enjoy it when things get back to some sort of normal. I would make a recommendation but I can't, it's all so delicious! Well, the Cumbrae oysters are amazing. I am a terrible decision maker in a restaurant. I was there for dinner in the summer and the hygiene protcols that were in place were great and it felt like a very safe experience.

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    https://www.thedory.co.uk/

     Knitwear

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    Fraser Knitwear in Shetland makes lovely lambswool and cashmere scarves and wraps. I have two and wear them all the time…….in fact I’m thinking it might be time for another. Beautifully made contemporary Fair Isle designs plus Joan is just amazing and when you buy from a one-woman business that’s something extra special, in my opinion!

    https://www.fraserknitwear.com/

     A Special Gift from Unst

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    A business local to me is Glansin Glass in Uyeasound, Unst. Cheryl Jamieson makes beautiful fused glass products, pendants, glasses, coasters, hangers, bowls and driftwood glass art. Cheryl was due to open her new workshop and visitor centre earlier this year but Covid put a stop to that. The building is just about complete and hopefully she will be welcoming customers and workshop participants soon.

    https://www.glansinglass.co.uk/

     

    Caputuring Perfect Moments

    Some of you may have noticed that I have been sharing some new photographs of my products. I contacted Susan Molly in the summer to ask her if she would take some photos of my soaps, candles and new tweed accessories after seeing her photographs on Instagram. I just love what she's captured. She does family photo shoots, weddings and special occasions. Her work is so natural and authentic, really beautiful and imaginative.

    We have teamed up and Susan is offering a beautifully wrapped gift box with a voucher for a one-hour photography session with a Mella Christmas Candle and Mella website discount code. The voucher is valid for a photoshoot in Shetland in 2021, so you have plenty of time to plan how you'd like to use it. Capturing moments and memories really is a gift, especially in this crazy and busy world we're living in. Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it! Love a Ferris quote. Those of you who know, will know!

    Check out her Instagram profile

    https://www.instagram.com/whatsusanseesphotography/

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    It's A Wrap

    Finally, once you have the perfect gift it has to be wrapped and I have found this amazing eco giftwrap set from Cascayde. They also have face masks and other lovely things including cosmetic bags and wall maps (perfect for planning about our post-corona escape) and much more. Carly and Greg are my trade stand neighbours at the Scottish Trade Fair in January. Sadly, it won't be happening next year, such a shame it always feels like a little Glasgow getaway! I love mooching around Finnieston and a dinner at Mother India is a must. The butter chicken.....oh wow.

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    There are so many more brilliant little businesses out there that I could mention and we’re all competing against the likes of Amazon which just isn’t possible. Shopping small and shopping local means that money spent is kept in communities, usually invested back into other local businesses, keeping people in local employment, keeping our high streets viable and vibrant and not just helping the likes of Jeff Bezos buy another super yacht or pay for an expensive divorce.

    I know you are reading this on my website and I have my online shop here all stocked up but many of the small independent shops I supply have had to move everything online or at the very least up their online game. I will try and update the stockists page on the website and if you feel like spreading the shop local love, please check them out.

    Living Lerwick have recently made a lovely little promotional film with Kieba Film to highlight how shopping local really means so much more.

    https://youtu.be/alo1XYu8IBc

    Times are tough for people this year and spending money on luxuries may not be possible but even if you buy just a card, or share a social media post you’re AMAZING!

     Well, thank you for reading my second Mella Journal entry.

    Take care, stay safe and keep washing those hands.

    Mel