Thriftiness is back

Somebody told me last week that Kirstie Allsopp’s new Homemade Home programme on Channel 4 is provoking rudeness in the press. Posh though she is, she’s showing how to refurbish a once-derelict house with buys from antique and junk dealers, reclamation yards and by supporting British crafts people. Thriftiness is back – even Old Etonian David Cameron says so. But why should it be accompanied by world-weariness?

It’s said that Kirstie and Phil Spencer have influenced the way we buy houses and have encouraged us to want more and better than we could afford in the boom years and that this programme is an attempt to redress the balance, but I’m not so sure.

Has no-one told these sceptics that there is a real pleasure and joy in making things oneself? How sad for them if they’ve they never found gratification in designing and knitting a jumper or sewing cushions. Finding and painting junk-shop chairs is far more satisfying than shopping in an out-of-town retail park and buying a job lot of furnishings on a credit card. Commissioning an item, no matter how small and inexpensive or buying a craftsman-made pot, gives you the honour of supporting a local small business or individual producer and that’s before you add into the equation the little thrill you’ll experience every time you look at it.

I visited Aston Pottery recently and met Jane and Stephen Baughan – a couple who are passionate about maintaining traditional skills and their enthusiasm is infectious. In the past, when researching magazine and newspaper features, I’ve been fascinated to meet boat builders, blacksmiths and silversmiths, guitar makers, furniture restorers and china conservators. I’ll never be able to learn their skills myself, nor would I want to, any more than they would enjoy writing, but it’s about time we realised that far more valuable to the economy than the increasing price of bricks and mortar is the worth of the work of an artisan.


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