I've avoided the LSE Library like the plague for the majority of my degree and wrongly assumed I'd feel the same sort of aversion to all libraries. However I couldn't be more wrong as over the course of several months of dissertation research I've come to love the British Library with a passion. It's one of the most beautiful buildings in London, and has made me fall in love with reading and studying once more (shame it's come at the end of my degree and not at the start…).
I'm always rushing in and out of the library and so when I saw a row of stalls as part of the British Library's Christmas Market along the side of the Piazza yesterday I was annoyed I didn't have time to stop and take a real look.
I was feeling particularly festive this morning so wrapped up warm and popped back to have a proper nosy around all the stalls. I ended up taking lots of photos and coming away with most of my Christmas shopping sorted. Not bad for 1st December!
[Feeling festive with my favourite Lancôme lipstick and Jack Wills scarf]
This isn't your average Christmas Market. There are no stalls with tacky engraved wood mugs, rubbish snow globes and those weird animal hat things with the built in gloves. There's no annoying Christmas music on repeat and the faint smell of mulled wine. This is a Christmas Market with a difference.
The stalls are like the quirky pop-ups you find in Selfridges, each one a treasure trove of unique designs and all conveniently lined up in a row. This is the place to come if you're looking for a different gift that will make you stand out on Christmas Day. I guarantee the hardest part about coming here though will be stopping yourself from keeping everything you buy and remembering it's for someone else!
I was incredibly snap-happy with my phone this morning, so here's some of the highlights from my favourite stalls.
ECO-ANTIQUE TEACUP CANDLES
Is there anything cuter than a candle in a tea cup? No.
If you like tea and you like candles then this is the perfect Christmas gift.
These beautifully crafted candles are made using 100% pure soy wax with organic essential oils and honestly smell amazing. There's also the opportunity to have them refilled, making them not only utterly beautiful but eco-friendly too. They only use vintage and antique china for the cups, and let's be honest, there's nothing more British than a cup and saucer! Plus, they're super appropriate for Christmas as no festive season is complete without candles…
I had my eye on this selection but had to walk away before I caved and bought the lot!
You can find more information about these Eco-Antique Teacup Candles on the website here.
COLE OF LONDON
I'd definitely seen these designs before and absolutely loved them and was so pleased to come across them again today. My inner history and literature nerd adores them, and there's nothing I love more than simple monochrome design with a pop of colour.
Whether you're a fan of Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, Jane Austen or Isaac Newton there's definitely going to be a historical figure for you. The designs are on mugs, tea towels, aprons, coasters and prints, so there's no excuse not to have one of these in your home!
Personally, the mugs are my favourite.
They're so clever and would make a lovely addition to any kitchen. I snapped up 4 for Christmas presents, but whether they'll find their way to their intended recipients and don't end up hidden in my cupboards instead is another matter entirely...
You can find more information about Cole of London on the website here.
TUSCH & EGON LTD
There's always that one person that's a nightmare to buy for. You can spend months mulling over what to get them but every year you end up resorting to something boring and generic. That's where German company Tusch und Egon comes in: if you can't find something unusual and brilliant here then you never will.
Just as I thought I'd seen everything on the stall something else amazing jumped out.
From meerkats to rude garden gnomes to Star Wars and everything in-between, this stall had everything! I loved all the bold colours and endless pop culture references.
I can't lie: I really, really want a gold garden gnome!
There's lots more online, so check them out here.
THE ENGLISH TEE SHOP
I tweeted about this company yesterday as on my quick walk around I utterly fell in love with the designs. I love a good quote, so for me these designs are completely wonderful.
Common bonkers English phrases and their definitions are printed on tote bags, jumpers, t-shirts mugs, cushions, you name it.
I simply adore these; I'm just struggling to pick a phrase and a product as I want to buy them all!
Check out more designs on their website here.
I tried to walk past this stall but couldn't resist going inside. As you can probably tell from the rest of this post I adore simple designs with a pop of colour, and when I saw this selection of iPhone cases and prints I had to take a closer look.
As much as I love the designs it's the history behind the company I admire more. The artist - Nathalie Trytell (1979-2011) - was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 2 at a young age. Despite becoming severely disabled by her late 20s she still went on to receive a degree in art form the Massachusetts College of Art & Design, specialising in printmaking. Her family have ensured that her beautiful designs receive the recognition they deserve by carrying on her work in her memory.
A portion of all the proceeds go to The Neuro Foundation, a UK charity which helps to raise awareness of Neurofibromatosis.
Not only are these deigns amazing, but it's also a worthy cause. The iPhone cases in particular would make an excellent stocking filler, so check out further designs on the website here.
I'm a big fan of greetings cards and love the art of letter writing, hence I'm always on the look out for unique cards for birthdays, anniversaries and just for the sake of sending post. The hand drawn illustrations on the cards, mugs and notepads on the Blank Inside stall immediately pulled me in and I had to physically stop myself from buying one of everything.
You can find more information here.
I love Christmas markets when they're done well, and for me this one was one of the best. Although untraditional and worlds away from the likes of Winter Wonderland, for the first time ever I managed to come away with decent gifts and a list of companies I'll definitely be looking at again in the future. With classy and quirky stalls you're guaranteed to find something for everyone and leave with serious gift inspiration. It's opened my eyes to companies I'd never heard of before and who I've now bookmarked for up-coming birthdays. I know for a fact I'm no longer going to be stuck wandering round John Lewis for hours trying to find the perfect present - I now have hundreds of options at my fingertips.
The British Library Christmas Market is only on for a week so I suggest you make your way there pretty sharpish if you want to make the most of the stalls on offer! It's open 10-6 every day till Friday, and I'd definitely recommend a visit.
And if you're really keen, you can pop and see the Magna Carta once you've finished shopping... (which is totally what I did and don't regret it a bit!)