“YOU know the trouble with Christmas shopping?” asks Chloe Reith. “You just end up buying more or less the same presents from the same shops every year.
“There’s no variety on the high street. It’s bland, mass-marketed stuff you could buy anywhere from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth. That’s not how it should be, is it?”
She has, she thinks, something of a solution.
For right now, Chloe is standing behind a counter in Sheffield’s newest pop-up shop; a place which, this Christmas, demands you forget Fargate and instead shop South Yorkshire.
Here, stocked on temporary shelves and storage berths in a small Trafalgar Street space, is the work of some of the city’s most inspired creative types, clothes-makers and artists.
There are T-shirts and sweaters, bags and mugs, ceramics and wallets, belts and books. And they all have one thing in common: they’re Made In Sheffield.
City clothes company Hantu Collective (“putting imagination on your sleeve”), designers Article Works (catchphrase: Rotherham is the new Berlin) and internationally-famous Broomhill-based artist Paul Morrison are among the names whose stuff is for sale.
Much of it is unavailable anywhere else offline.
“We’re particularly proud of this box of 11 art prints we have,” says Chloe. “Each one is an original by a Sheffield artist. It’s an amazing one-off collection you’ll never be able to buy anywhere else. It’s £100 but worth every penny.”
She looks round at the jewellery, sketchbooks and Christmas cards. “I think people would be surprised by what’s being produced on a small scale in their own city,” she notes.
The only potential pitfall? The shop is hardly on the main drag.
It has been set up by staff at S1 Artspace studio and gallery complex in the large reception area of their Trafalgar Street building. The idea is that commission from some sales will go towards funding the upkeep of the space, which is home to 11 artists and one of the city’s finest gallery areas.
It’s also hoped it may attract more people to the gallery who will then come back throughout the year.
“We are a bit away from where shoppers would mainly walk,” admits Chloe, studio coordinator with S1. “And you have to walk up some stairs when you first come in which means it’s not immediately obvious we’re here.
“But it’s our job to convince people it’s worth coming. And it is. There’s some great gifts to be had.”
To that end, there will also be a pop-up cafe - run by Tamper coffee shop, based in Westfield Terrace - each Saturday, and a series of late night openings with film screenings.
And they’ll keep going into January too - just to mop up any sales shoppers.
“S1 has been going 17 years,” says Chloe. “And we’ve had a lot of recognition in the art world but a lot of people in the city still don’t know we’re here. We hope this helps us open up more as we go forward. We think Sheffield should be proud of us.”
Opening times of the S1 Artspace General Store can be viewed at www.s1artspace.org