Handmade Christmas gifts with all the trimmings

https://za.lush.com/products/christmas-giftsRemember the times you spent stencilling snowflakes on the back of cereal boxes, sprinkling glitter on homemade Christmas cards and drawing clumsy snow scenes for your mum? Chances are, she still brings out that painting of the wonky reindeer you did aged eight. Embarrassing. And yet, when it comes to Christmas, handmade is as much a part of the magic as snowball fights, stockings and a loaded dinner table.

Handmade is also at the heart of Lush. So, when it comes to the most wonderful time of the year we really do want to knock your socks off. We get our hands dirty collaging, painting, inking and sticking – all the messy, magical bits you used to love as a child – in a bid to make gifts that have stories as well as style.

Handmade on your behalf

“Customers have an abundance of ways to gift with us,” explains Father Christmas’ second in command, creative director Suzie Hackney. “Everything is special. Whatever you choose, a lot of thought has gone into each item and you can also make your own. We don’t want someone’s budget to be a barrier when it comes to gifting. It never should be.”

Large or small, each gift is carefully thought out and crafted, from the handmade treats nestled inside, to the final tie of the ribbon. And yet, perfection is never the aim. “Because so much of the design is created in an organic way”, Suzie continues, “through workshops and collages and collaboration, it has an essence you can’t really put your finger on. If you tinker too much, you could ruin it. When Jamie our designer originally mocked up Take hat Party she painted all the individual shapes, cut them out and placed them on the cone. It took her hours and actually we loved that homemade feel and kept the texture of the coloured lines. Each gift should feel organic and you should want to touch them. They’re never perfect but they’re never meant to be. The design stops in the place that feels right.”


The art of collaboration

When it comes to getting messy in the name of art, lead gift designer Emma Caswell has more game than a reception teacher dipped in glitter. Part of her job this year was to get the designers feeling as creative as possible by organising workshops and skill-sharing events. External collaborators also brought their expertise and ideas to gift designs and relaxed craft classes.

Emma explains: “We’ve had a hugely collaborative Christmas. I like working with external talent as well as internal because I enjoy seeing their creativity. It’s great to have some variation in design too, as everyone has their own style.”

Each collaborator brings their own expertise, style and sense of fun to projects, and none more so than Arthouse Unlimited: a collective of artists living with complex epilepsy and learning disabilities who have been creating signature cheeky designs for Lush for years. This year they spent a day at the factory making their own monster bath bombs to take home and also discussed ideas for a Christmas Knot Wrap. Emma explains: We briefed them on a Christmas Critters Knot Wrap design because they are so great at doing characters and there’s so much detail in their work. They worked on about 45 different insects and critters and it’s turned into this really fun and playful design.”

It’s a true representation of the artists,” adds project manager Simon Allen, “they are full of character and awesome to hang around with.”

Another craft initiative, Fresh Talent, have also lent their skills to a Christmas Knot Wrap this year. Based in Poole, Dorset and composed of a group of adult artists aged 20 to 70 with learning difficulties, they’ve created a beautiful and expansive Winter Wonderland Knot Wrap. “We gave them the brief of ‘traditional Christmas’, says Emma, “woodland forests with lots of different creatures because it played to their strengths - some of them loved drawing rabbits or birds and others loved doing trees. We then spent quite a few weeks working with them while they drew their designs, cut them out and submitted them for printmaking. We put them together and they’ve made a really beautiful Knot Wrap. Each artist has something featured on it.”

Other artists have run workshops for the internal designers to prompt further inspiration. Emma recalls: “Sarah Bagshaw, who designed the Fireworks gift, came in and held a big surface-pattern workshop with the whole team and she brought in loads of different ‘found’ objects like cotton buds and pieces of polystyrene and hair rollers and we had a fun day creating loads of different textures and patterns, some of which were used in the finished designs.

Dreamscape was influenced by collage and that same surface-pattern workshop. We cut and pasted the patterns into a design that felt very fantastical, and used foiling on the mountains to give a subtle impression of snow. Once you’ve opened the gift you can use the lid as a canvas on your wall. We like to make sure that our gifts are reusable in the best ways possible.”

Wow, the most spectacular hat box yet, was certainly a group endeavour. “Every year it takes us quite a long time to work up a design for Wow because it’s such a massive gift,” says Emma. “In the past we’ve had quite a few people working on their own individual designs for this gift. This year we thought it would be fun to get all the designers together, set out some inspiration pieces and a colour palette and we allowed people an hour and a half to work up a panel. There were eight of us in total and we all did a panel each. Mine is the one with lots of Christmas trees and stars! It’s a really collaborative piece.”

Not just for Christmas

We’d love to say that we make beautiful presents by hand just for the joy of it, but we must confess it’s not entirely without motive. It’s our hope that by paying so much attention to every aspect from box to bath, the lucky recipient has extra incentive to keep the boxes, reuse the wrapping paper or upcycle the ribbons. We’re not manufacturing throwaway fillers but keepsakes that we hope your mum will treasure as much as that wonky reindeer.  

As well as using recycled materials, the gift designers are constantly scratching their heads about ways to make sure Lush gifts live longer than your Christmas tree. “We think a lot about multi-uses,” says Suzie. “What’s the longevity of the gift? Star Gazing has holes punched into the lid so you can use the torch on your phone to shine out the constellations. You can imagine lying in the bath looking at the stars or in bed at night time - it feels special.”

With Christmas 2018 fast approaching, incredibly it will soon be time to start thinking about next year’s festive selection boxes. Is it possible to be Christmassed out? According to Suzie, no. She explains: “It never gets boring. We only have about four months off Christmas every year but once you see the range in the shop again in September it’s exciting - you wonder what people are going to like. And then you have more learnings for next time.”

And Emma simply can’t get enough of Christmas. “The first day the gifts come out, we’ll go and see them at the shops,” she says. “It’s nice seeing people’s reactions. Santa’s going to have lots of Lush gifts in his sleigh this year.”

Take your pick of this year's limited edition gifts here


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